Council relying on fines to curb town centre parking chaos

Parking has been a major problem since police wardens stopped roaming the streets
Parking has been a major problem since police wardens stopped roaming the streets

It was a shocking statement which highlighted the tough financial times we find ourselves in.

At a meeting of Falkirk Council’s executive committee on Tuesday, director of development services Rhona Geisler admitted she hoped motorists would continue to park illegally in the Falkirk area so the local authority could make more money.

Now that Police Scotland has withdrawn its traffic warden service, the council has agreed to pursue a Decriminalised Parking Enforcement (DPE) designation order and police the streets themselves.

The council settled on a model which favoured reassigning part of the current off-street enforcement resource to on-street enforcement, hiring another two members of staff in the process.

Mrs Geisler said: “If we don’t have the DPE in place we leave it to Police Scotland to enforce and we are not sure they have the resources to do this effectively, or would make it one of their priorities.

“By doing this we can take control of indiscriminate parking within our area. There is always a risk people behave themselves and we don’t get any income from this.

“In the past Police Scotland did employ the traffic wardens and they paid for them. All of income from the fines went to the government and then went back to the police. All of the income from the DPE will come to the council.

“We are relying on people transgressing and the money will come into the council to fund the wardens. We will need to get the money from the fines which are set by the government.

“There is a lot that needs to change and we will do it on a piecemeal basis, focusing on Falkirk Town Centre first. We don’t want to go down the ‘blue meanie’ approach with people going out with the aim of getting x number of offenders. We would be opposed to that.

“We don’t anticipate we will make a huge amount of money out of this, but we do anticipate we can do this.”

The current level of fines is £30 for initial illegal parking, going up to £60 and then £90 for late payments.

Mrs Geisler, said: “We have prepared a five-year business model with a view to consider what we need to do if we move forward with this proposal. The majority of the cost will come from lines and signs.

“Some of the signs we are using are out of date and this is an opportunity for us to have a clear out of that. If we are going to be collecting our own parking fines we have to have new equipment in place and it’s going to cost us around £700,000.

“We would get some kind of a return on this investment within two years, but it would take 20 years to get a full return. We have a degree of confidence we can make this work in financial terms and in practical terms.

“There are authorities who will not decriminalise parking, but if we do nothing it will remain the responsibility of Police Scotland and we have to have an expectation the arrangements that are on the ground at the moment will probably prevail.”

Council leader Craig Martin, committee convener, said: “It’s certainly not a money earner for the council and it will take us some time to get the money back.”

Councillor Tom Coleman said: “I certainly hope we do indeed get a modest income from it. Human beings being what they are, they will park illegally.”

Parking problems

The decision by Police Scotland to do away with its traffic warden service led to a rise in illegal parking in the Falkirk area.

That fact was discussed by members of Falkirk Council’s executive committee on Tuesday, with Manor Street in Falkirk town centre and Station Road in Polmont being identified as a particular concern.

Councillor Craig R Martin said: “The police said they were not going to enforce the law so it has been forced upon us to enforce the law for them. There has been a massive increase in illegal parking in the town centre as a result of the police not enforcing this law.

“So here comes the council to save the day. We will train up staff who currently deal with our car parks to deal with on street parking. And it will create two new jobs so that is good news.”

Police Scotland gave notice in February it would be terminating the traffic warden service in the Falkirk area at the end of March.

However, it provided reassurance of its commitment to continue to support the council in the period before the implementation of any decriminalised parking regime.

Until the council’s proposed Decriminalised Parking Enforcement designation order comes into force, on-street parking regulations will remain criminal offences and, as such, any enforcement will be the responsibility of Police Scotland.

Councillor David Alexander said: “The breach of on street parking is a criminal offence and it falls on the police to enforce that. While they will continue to enforce that, in terms of overall policing, it is far down the line of police priorities.”

Councillor Linda Gow added: “It’s an abdication on the police carrying out their duties, so we have to do it. If we still had a local police force then we wouldn’t have to do this.

“The police are not being properly funded and have to make cutbacks, so we don’t have choice.”