Could Solent Road generate more parking fines?

Camden generates the third biggest surplus from parking fines in the country, according to a report from the RAC. But should one street in West Hampstead actually be generating more revenue for Camden?

According to the RAC, Camden’s surplus is £25 million (a shadow of Westminster’s £41.6 million). Camden’s own annual parking report from September 2012 gives a surplus figure of £24.3 million. Despite falling revenues from parking fines, expenditure has dropped even more dramatically as the borough has “continued the drive to implement efficiencies”, thus the surplus has grown substantially.

Source: Camden’s 2012 annual parking report

Source: Camden’s 2012 annual parking report

The surplus has to be reinvested in transport (this is a legal requirement), and just over 50% of Camden’s surplus went into discounted travel for older and disabled people last year – entirely funding the borough’s contribution to these London-wide schemes. The money can also be spent on “off-street parking” and “transport planning costs”, but neither category has received any money from the surplus in the past three years.

Source: Camden’s 2012 annual parking report

It’s clear then that it’s in councils’ interest to maximise the surplus to help fund other transport services. Motorists would no doubt wish this to be done entirely by reducing costs rather than increasing fines. However, all residents would surely expect that, as Camden’s finance chief Theo Blackwell put it, “The parking system must be based on fairness.” Interesting then to consider the case of Solent Road.

Yesterday, there was a Twitter debate about the taxi cabs, allegedly from Direct Car Services on Mill Lane, which park on Solent while they wait for jobs.

Solent Road (photo via @mustardcoleman1)

Local tweeter Nicky Coleman wrote “More cab drivers stopping residents parking on Solent Rd. Every day is the same. They block the crossroads on Solent/Glenbrook so you can’t cross. It’s a nightmare when I’m crossing with the buggy.”

Fellow local resident Jen added, “They block the double yellow lines too, making it hard to see when you’re turning out of Solent Rd.”

Another tweeter suggested that the taxis had the same right to park there as anyone else, but the problem is that this is residents parking as you can see clearly in the photo above, and their behaviour suggests that these cars do not have permits. Nicky Coleman again, “They all park up and sit in one cab chatting, and run when and if a warden shows up.”

They scarper only if a warden shows up on foot, it would seem. This morning, still on the crusade, Nicky tweeted “Traffic warden on a moped drove down Solent Road past four cabs parked up.”

It’s not unheard of for traffic wardens to be susceptible to bribes, as happened in Westminster last year. One would hope that Camden’s parking enforcement contractor has suitably stringent measures to make sure that couldn’t happen here.

Obviously, if the cars drive off when a warden shows up then it’s hard for Camden to enforce the parking restrictions although CCTV enforcement is used in some parts of the borough. There is certainly no evidence I can find that taxis are exempt from parking restrictions, with the exception of physically dropping off and picking up passengers. You can read Camden’s parking enforcement rules here [pdf].

There is also such a thing as “Dispensation to Wait”, aimed at tradespeople and that allows them to park in permit bays or on single yellow lines where restrictions allow. This costs £30 a day.

It’s worth pointing out that Camden is moving to electronic permits, so cars can be legally parked without any displayed permit in the windscreen. Be careful therefore of jumping to conclusions. Nevertheless, it would be good to get reassurance that traffic wardens, or enforcement officers as they’re now called, are actively checking minicabs when they come across them parked in permit bays, and enforcing the rule that parking on double yellow lines is never permitted.

Perhaps a tiny sliver of that £25 million surplus could go back into making sure that everyone who parks illegally pays the appropriate fine. The upshot might be an even larger surplus to spend on improving transport locally next year.

Direct Car Services has yet to respond to my request for comment.

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  • Anonymous

    I’ve never understood why the council should get to keep any money it makes from parking fines – it just encourages the council to make parking fines more likely. Some clever ways they can (and do) do this:

    * Suspend parking bays where residents are parking with valid permits, with limited warning, so they are caught because they have not checked the sign that morning or have committed the sin of going on holiday. I’ve had a car town for this – £250+ cost.

    * Make their back office e-systems not work. For example, changing the registration on a permit when you replace a car does not seem to happen when you fill out the forms because of “backlog”. This also happened to me; a helpful guy at the council helped sort this out; but that should never have been necessary.

    * Make parking spaces too narrow on busy streets so people park with a wheel on the curb. And then give cars a ticket for that.

    * Bad/confusing signage.

    The transport initiatives the parking money is being spent on are examples of welfare spending that should come out of council tax that everyone pays to stop the perverse incentive of the council fining their own residents (customers?!).

    While parking enforcement is clearly necessary to prevent abuse – Camden have clearly decided that this is a big cash cow they can tap into. Any surplus they make on parking tickets should be invested directly in improving parking or returned to central government in the same way that speeding fines are.

  • A mincab who is on the road all day really can’t be expected to keep paying to park somewhere whilst waiting for the next fare which might be anything up to an hour at quiet times or might only be 5 minutes as the alternative could be that mincabs will drive around in a circle or drive back to base and then return cuasing extra pollution. Black cabs have spaces marked out for them in central London and something similar really should be done for minicabs so that they don’t all congregate in one place annoying residents. Why do we keep looking for the wrong solution in England? the existence of black cabs and minicabs helps many people avoid owning a car and so we should make life easier for shared use vehicles of all kinds.

    • I think that’s a very fair point. Allocating more authorised spaces would be great. While new developments in Camden are “car free”, the council recognises that car club spaces are a good thing, and can be included. Adding minicab slots would also be good, although whether that should be free for the minicab firms is up for debate. However, in the meantime, preventing residents from parking, blocking crossings and generally dodging wardens is not behaviour that should be tolerated. At a minimum, the cabs should be legally parked, and if that means the taxi firm has to pay a separate day rate to use resident permit bays – perhaps to cover multiple vehicles – then that’s the cost of doing business. It must be immensely frustrating if you come back to your street to park in one of the residents bays and find a taxi cab parked illegally in the only one left available, especially when, as you say, it could be there for an hour or more.

  • Anonymous

    It may have changed in recent times but previously another problem I came across is that the council wouldn’t take into account the business type when issuing business/residents permits. I was previously told when applying that a hairdressers/greengrocers for example may be eligible for the same number of permits as another business that requires local parking to operate. You couldn’t simply buy more (which I doubt these businesses would have an issue doing vs the cost and hassle of dodging wardens etc) and the number available was very limited.
    Purely speculating that this is a factor here and clearly the number of permits available to anyone has to be limited to an extent but I wonder if a more common sense approach is needed generally by the council when deciding which type of businesses get how many permits to alleviate situations like this.

  • Anonymous

    It's not just the minicabs on Mill Lane that clog up the road 24/7, the same happens on Blackburn Road with the drivers from West End Lane Cars.

    • Has that still been an issue since the development of the student block? I know the cars used to park right at the end of the road there, which although on yellow lines didn't actually block any traffic as it was a dead end.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, it’s still an issue I’m afraid. In fact, I think it’s more of an issue now as they used to park out of the way at the bottom of Blackburn Road but now they can’t because of the construction work. Not only do they park on the double yellow lines, they also park in the residents parking permit bays, the pay & display bays and the motorcycle bay.

      I personally don’t mind that they park for free but what bothers me is the way they take up valuable parking spaces, which makes it harder for residents to find a parking space and for people to visit local businesses.

  • Anonymous

    The cab drivers using Blackburn Road as their personal waiting road also have a very annoying habit of honking horns at each other in the early hours of the morning.

    West End Lane Cars should do something about that before the Council have to get involved.

  • Des

    Oh come on, everybody knows that the parking wardens can be bribed and it’s going on all over Camden and Brent. Only last year, half of the wardens were found to be illegal immigrants. Outside Kilburn Tube station, on Christchurch Avenue, is a garage run by East Europeans. There are always at least three cars parked on the double yellow lines waiting to be seen to. On Mill Lane, opposite the Alliance pub on Hillfield Road a white transit van is parked all day on double yellow lines. It belongs to a shopkeeper on Mill Lane. This goes on all over the borough. These vehicles are never given a ticket.

  • Anonymous

    I notice the pie chart shows that a good portion of the parking fines income goes to Freedom Passes
    Interesting to know that as a disabled driver still working part time a decade after retirement age; sheer necessity, I am paying for free travel for perfecttly fit 60 somethings.
    Some of the fines I get are very dubious and revoked on contesting,others I think would be quashed on appeal

  • Anonymous

    Capital City motorcycles parks their bikes on the sidewalk, on double lines, in parking bays and even at what i think is a residential garage at #1B ulysses Rd,in car bays.

    Is all of this legal?

    Not to say FG residents enjoyed having a motorcycle shop in this area but this issue is particularly troubling to an increasing number of them.