Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Parking Fines

As a backbench Councillor, and resident, I have written in detail about the Council CCTV cars and my case that our Conservative administration is being over zealous when it comes to raising money from parking fines.

Several months ago I read with concern a report that highlighted that Kent and Medway were the second highest issuer of PCNs in the country. From this I placed a members item into Medway Council to review the source of fines and for this to be reported.

The above figures highlight the level of operation under which are Conservative Council operate and a number of things stand out:

i) Overall PCN issuance in real terms
ii) The revenue from the CCTV cars has decreased over a five year operation 
iii) The revenue from fines at bus stations has increased over a five year operation 

I have since requested further information on this:

i) Overal PCN issuance in real terms

The number of total PCNs issued by Medway Council has increased dramatically over the last five years. From approximate 47,500 issued in 2008/2009 to some 61,500 in 2012/13. That is an increase of 30% on figures from 2008/2009. 

ii) CCTV Cars

The Conservative administration has been spinning to the media that there is significant demand for the vehicles and that they primarily operate outside schools. Yet when challenged on this the number of requests was below 500 and the majority were institutional requests and not those made by residents. When probed further on the number of tickets issued outside schools officers could not supply details; despite the fact the administration used this as justification for the cars in the first place.

The cars operate 7 days a week for 52 weeks a year or 365 days. Schools operate for 35 weeks a year for 5 days a week and closing and opening times last for two hours a day.  You can see immediately how the Tory spin falls apart; it was most interesting given media briefing that officers could not provide month P&L statistics. I will wait and see...

Officers have been tasked with coming back with a monthly revenue breakdown and the proper stats on those fined near schools. If evidence does not exist than it is very odd the administration portfolio holders are briefing it to the media blindly; but then Tory portfolio holders barely questioning lines is not uncommon.

The profitability of the car is also falling. Given the costs of the car over its period of operation were some £620,000 this can be broken down into annual costs of either £124,000 per annum (5 years) or £103,000 per annum (6 years) based on averaging out costs from Council Press statements. The car made a profit of £134,000 last year not taking into account costs; at best this car is now close to break even. 

It is for this reason I have called on the cars to be scrapped; they are a massive reputation liability and they do immense damage to the PR of the Council. If they are not operating outside schools as is claimed they serve little purpose with the damage to the Council as a clear result. 

iii) Bus Lane Fines

Almost converse to the fall in fines from the CCTV car has come the rise in fines from bus lanes

The massive increase has ostensibly come from the Chatham 'Dynamic' bus facility that was botched from inception to completion by the Conservatives and that cost the taxpayers millions of pounds to build; and whose costs have never truly been totally pinned down.

Residents will remember the CCTV cars operated outside of the bus station until the media uncovered this.

The Council has made recent attempts to change the lay-out at the bus station but it is clear from these figures that huge sums of cash have been raised from this source. 

I will continue to work on this but from these figures it is clear huge sums of cash have been raised as a result of the Chatham Bus Station either directly or indirectly from CCTV car fines, or indeed now fixed fines. 

Given this bus station has been an unmitigated disaster its legacy isnt just the over budget capital spend but also its sting on residents.

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