Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

CCTV 'spy cars' will be banned

CCTV 'spy cars' are to be banned
CCTV 'spy cars' are to be banned

The use of CCTV "spy cars" to catch people who park illegally is to be banned, the Government announced, marking a victory for drivers and shoppers.

The move will rein in "greedy councils" who use the method of fining as a "cash cow", and bring to an end the "plague" of tickets being issued by post.

Parking wardens will instead have to fix tickets directly to windscreens, making it illegal for councils to issue penalties to drivers using just the CCTV spy cars currently used for on-street parking enforcement.

Councils will still be able to use the CCTV to issue postal tickets for any offences that occur on critical routes, such as those near schools and bus lanes, bus stops and on "red routes".

There has been a marked increase in the use of CCTV to enforce parking regulations since it was introduced under Labour in 2004, and nine million parking fines are now handed out by local authorities in England every year, raking in £1.3 billion in 2010.

The ban is being introduced to rein in "over-zealous parking enforcement practices", which the Government says has forced people to shop in out-of-town centres or online, and give motorists and local shops a "fairer deal".

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "CCTV spy cars can be seen lurking on every street raking in cash for greedy councils and breaking the rules that clearly state that fines should not be used to generate profit for town halls.

"Over-zealous parking enforcement and unreasonable stealth fines by post undermine the high street, push up the cost of living and cost local authorities more in the long term.

"Today the Government is taking urgently needed action to ban this clear abuse of CCTV, which should be used to catch criminals, and not as a cash cow."

The ban follows a three-month consultation.

Other measures being introduced include trialling a 25% discount for motorists who lose an appeal against a parking ticket and no longer fining drivers parking near broken meters if there is no other way to pay.

Residents and businesses will have the right to demand a review of parking in their area, including the use of yellow lines and charges, and parking guidance will be reformed so it is less "heavy-handed" with motorists to stop over-aggression from bailiffs.

Councils will also be forced to publish how income from parking charges is used, and the cost of penalty notices will be frozen for the remainder of this parliament.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "These measures will deliver a fairer deal for motorists, ensuring that parking enforcement is proportionate, that schoolchildren are protected and buses can move freely, and that key routes are kept clear."

Emma Carr, acting director of Big Brother Watch, said: "Making the use of CCTV cars illegal is a clear step towards bringing proportionality and rational decision making back to the traffic enforcement process.

"CCTV should only ever be used in exceptional circumstances and when all other options have been exhausted. Yet, for too many councils CCTV cars have become a means of boosting their revenue, with millions of pounds in arbitrary fines being handed to drivers across the country.

"The communities that have been subjected to the over-zealous use of CCTV cars will wholeheartedly welcome the Government's decision to make them illegal."

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