London councils wallowing in traffic fines cash
Published 17 January 2010
Anyone living in London would have seen the ubiquitous traffic wardens walking up and down streets like hyenas, waiting to pounce on a car that has illegally parked beside the curb or been parked past the maximum time allowed. In fact, many councils have now employed full time traffic wardens per street, whose only duty is to patrol a specific street to catch out traffic offenders.
Many of the London councils enacted these no-parking zones over the past decade, claiming that such measures will reduce traffic congestion and encourage people to be greener by using public transport or by walking or cycling. However, it is widely thought that one of the main reasons behind parking fines was also to raise valuable tax money for councils’ coffers.
The award for the worst borough in London to park your car goes to Harrow. On just one particular street, Station Road, close to 29,000 parking penalties were issued in a year. This equates to about 80 drivers being fined a day just on that one street.
Southampton Row in the council of Bloomsbury came in second, with almost 23,000 parking penalties issued in the past 12 months, and Chiswick High Road in the borough of Chiswick came in third place with 18,668 motorists fined.
While Station Road in Harrow claims the notorious award for the most number of parking fines in a year, its average fine amount per traffic violation is half that of those in the borough of Bloomsbury, and thus Southampton Row takes the award as the road in London that raked in the most amount of money from parking violations. The Evening Standard estimated that it potentially made up to £1.7m a year.
Apart from the three roads mentioned above, other roads that were cash cows for councils and made more than £1m a year in fines included Atlantic Road in Brixton, and Ripple Road in Barking, and Queensway in Westminster.
Many parking campaigners have accused councils of deliberately making signage confusing and “tricking” car drivers to entrap them with fines. On Southampton Row, fines have been used for wide range of traffic violations, including making an illegal U-turn, parking illegally (i.e. on a red line), and driving in the bus lane. Many of these offences were captured using cameras, and parking campaigners have been urging drivers who have been caught to review the photo evidence more carefully as many fines were based on flimsy evidence and could be overturned in court. In fact, there have been cases of photo evidence being manipulated by traffic wardens. Luckily, many of the wronged drivers went to court and successfully appealed against the fine and managed to get the violation removed.
So what do you do if you get a traffic offence fine?
First off is not to panic. There is a chance that there was a mistake on the part of the council, so check to see if the photo evidence is correct and if you remember parking/driving down that road on that day and time.
Second, make sure you deal with it as a top priority. There is a limited timeframe in which you can lodge a dispute or appeal to the fine. Also, if you do admit that it was your error, you should pay up as soon as possible as the fine doubles if you do not pay it within 14 days of receipt. In Chiswick for example the average fine is £60, so if you delay paying you could be out of pocket another £60.