Parking attendants 'actively competing' to raise money from fines, says DUP
Over-zealous car parking attendants are competing to raise as much money as possible from fines, the DUP has claimed.
Hefty charges of up to £90 represent a cash cow for the Infrastructure Department and should be cut to encourage shoppers into town centres, unionists said.
But reducing fines would only encourage bad parking which puts vulnerable pedestrians at risk, the Alliance Party insisted.
DUP North Down MLA Alex Easton said: "Over-zealous car parking attendants are actively competing to raise as much revenue as possible as an alternative source of income to the Department.
"This in my view is wrong and sends out the wrong message to local businesses.
"Action is required urgently to reduce the burden of fines, to increase flexibility, to encourage shoppers into our town centres and for Transport Northern Ireland to decide to listen for a change."
Parking tickets carry a £90 fine but are halved if the driver pays within 14 days.
Around £4.5 million was collected by the Infrastructure Department last year, an Assembly question revealed previously. Most people paid £45.
DUP South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford said: "The Lisburn Road has become something of a golden goose for the red coats."
Declan McCrossan, SDLP MLA for West Tyrone, concurred the situation was similar in towns like Omagh and Strabane, saying: "One was almost handing them out like raffle tickets."
Kellie Armstrong, who represents the Alliance Party in Strangford, said badly parked motorists blocked footpaths and forced the vulnerable onto the roads, adding: " Bad parking is the fault of a driver who does not care - who takes risks."
She said poor parking could create havoc, blocking bus lanes and making mothers with children in buggies go onto the road.
"The fine needs to be enough of a deterrent to stop people from parking badly in the first place. Reducing the fine will reduce the deterrent," she said.
The Assembly called on Minister for Infrastructure Chris Hazzard to investigate the reduction of mandatory car parking fines and look at options to review on-street car parking fees and times.
Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) chief executive Glyn Roberts said: "It is absolutely vital that we make significant changes to car parking charges and fines to support the growth of our town centres and high streets."
NIIRTA has called on the minister to devolve on-street car parking to the 11 councils, giving them a greater role in shaping town centres and high streets.
Mr Roberts added: "This will be a central part of our submission to the review.
"This review should also include a fairer way to enforce Belfast bus lanes regulations, ensuring a yellow card system is introduced for first-time offenders."