Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

How traffic wardens are trigger happy with parking tickets

We reveal the trigger happy traffic wardens who are ‘almost ruthless’ in handing out penalty notices...and the growing numbers of drivers who are taking them on and winning

A traffic warden pictured on Linenhall Street in Belfast City Centre

Almost 60% of motorists who challenged traffic wardens over parking ticket fines have won their cases, it has been revealed.

Critics say the figures show the parking system is “not working” and should be overhauled.

A Stormont Minister said the shock statistic shows traffic wardens are becoming “almost ruthless” in handing out fines. Health Minister Edwin Poots warned “overzealous” wardens are harming trade in town and city centres.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy disclosed nearly six out of 10 appeals against parking decisions are being upheld.

In an Assembly answer yesterday, Mr Kennedy said around 13% of drivers launch appeals against traffic wardens’ decisions. Of that total, around 59% are successful.

The full figures were provided by officials in the department’s roads service parking enforcement unit.

Mr Poots said he had seen a deluge of complaints to his office and warned Mr Kennedy wardens are giving people “very little leeway”.

“Towns and cities right across Northern Ireland are struggling at the minute and people coming in to shop are facing big fines,” he said. “It is done almost ruthlessly and very little leeway is given which is demonstrated by how many appeals are being upheld.”

But Ulster Unionist Mr Kennedy argued the breakdown is proof that the fines and appeals system works.

“Many appeals have been successful and this clearly demonstrates the impartial assessment by my department and ultimately the independent adjudicator, managed by the Northern Ireland Court Service,” he said.

But the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said the figures show the fines system must be overhauled.

Chief executive Glyn Roberts said it hoped to meet Mr Kennedy in the future and would also be going to the Stormont committee which monitors the roads department.

“The overall system does need to be looked at,” he said. “At the moment there are different regimes in different towns. For the last six months we have been hearing from traders in many towns that traffic wardens seem to be on a ‘get tough’ policy.

“In particular, they do not seem to be adhering to the 10-minute grace period, the time normally allowed after a ticket has run out, and I would say that is the basis on which a lot of these appeals are being allowed,” he said.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the figures show a clear fault in the system for issuing parking fines with costly implications for taxpayers, consumers and businesses.

Roger Pollen, FSB Head of External Affairs, said: “There is a clear need to ensure the service provider has a thorough understanding of the regulations and applies them properly.”

”There is a clear need for the department to ensure the service provider has a thorough understanding of the regulations and applies them properly.”

Background

Traffic wardens here last year handed out 32,042 fines for cars parked on yellow lines. The next largest category was 15,771 for vehicles parked on-street for longer than permitted. A further 6,264 notices were issued on vehicles parked in disabled parking spaces without a valid Blue Badge. Another 4,449 fines were for vehicles parked in loading spaces.

Poots urges roads minister to rethink huge 50% increase in parking fines

Executive ministers are also on a collision course over the decision to bump up parking fines to £90.

Roads chief Danny Kennedy has been urged to rethink the 50% increase by Health Minister Edwin Poots.

The DUP minister argued that current policy is already harming trade in town and city centres. He said one example was more elderly drivers who were fined for being parked a few inches over the white lines.

“I am totally opposed to the £90 fee and if the issue is money they could actually be doing with less people carrying this out.”

But Mr Poots conceded: “It has been successful to some degree, preventing people from all-day parking, for example. The initial concept, particularly in relation to on-street parking, was to ensure that there was a good flow of traffic and secondly a turnover of vehicles — the first has been successful and the second part has been partially successful.

“However, one aspect is clearly not working and that is the access that people have to local business and that is down to the overzealous enforcement that takes place.

“Indeed, over the course of the last number of years, our office has regularly been contacted by both traders and members of the public who have had bad experiences.”

Mr Kennedy responded: “The introduction of more flexibility by traffic attendants would lead to questions over the application of leniency, and whether one person was treated more harshly than another. The current appeals process provides a fairer system and gives drivers the opportunity to challenge the penalty if they believe it has been wrongly issued.

“On-street parking restrictions were introduced in Lisburn, following consultation with Lisburn City Council and Lisburn City Centre management in 2008. Enforcement of the restrictions facilitates local businesses while discouraging all-day parkers.

“The benefits of on-street parking provide vital traffic management improvements and the turnover of spaces enhances the attractiveness of town and city centres. Enforcement is also an effective method of discouraging illegal parking.

“There is a range of parking in Lisburn, including on-street parking and off-street parking.”

Background

In just over three weeks maximum parking ticket fines are to increase to £90. Roads Minister Danny Kennedy (right) argues the 50% hike from the current £60 rate will cut down on illegal parking. Fine motorists are, however, eligible for a 50% discount if they pay up within 14 days. Twenty-five further car parks which are currently free are introducing charges.

Reverse May Day motorists fines, says UUP man

By Claire McNeilly

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy has been urged to reverse fines handed out to motorists on May Day.

Belfast councillor Jim Rodgers was speaking after disgruntled drivers complained parking attendants had been over-zealous.

Drivers got caught out after leaving their vehicles in restricted areas on Monday as 20,000 runners took to the streets for the Belfast Marathon.

But while so-called ‘red coats’ don’t work on some bank holidays — including Christmas and New Year — no exemptions apply to May Day.

Former Lord Mayor Mr Rodgers said Mr Kennedy should instruct NSL, the firm that employs traffic wardens, to scotch Monday’s fines.

“The vast majority of people thought traffic attendants were off and they were caught totally unawares,” said Mr Rodgers.

“Whenever they returned to their vehicles in the heart of the city they were shocked to find they had received tickets. I think it’s absolutely disgraceful, and this needs to be clarified in the future because hundreds of people were caught out by this.

“I’m going to ask the minister to have a long, hard look at this and to overrule fines for people who were ticketed on Monday.”

Traffic attendants work for NSL, which is employed by the Department for Regional Development’s Roads Service to provide on-the-ground enforcement.

Mr Rodgers said “total confusion” led to so many unwittingly parking illegally in the city centre by not using ticket machines.

“There should be a notice on the machines to indicate how many days a year they are operational because it’s not at all clear for the ordinary consumer at present,” he added. “It’s absolutely appalling that on a day with record numbers coming to the city for the marathon, many then found tickets on their windscreens.”

The DRD said 26 traffic attendants patrol the greater Belfast area throughout the year.

“All the usual parking restrictions and car parking charges apply on May Day bank holiday,” said a spokeswoman.

She added: “If anyone thinks it’s not fair or wants to challenge a ticket, there’s an appeals process.”

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