June 20 2013 Latest news:
By JOSH WARWICK
Friday, October 12, 2012
MORE than £120,000 is owed to hard-up Ipswich Borough Council in unpaid parking fines, it emerged today.
The backlog of unpaid parking fine revenue has rocketed over the past five years:
The staggering level of debt, revealed following an Ipswich Star Freedom of Information request, has rocketed in the last five years – from just £1,849.99 in 2008 to £123,955.50 today.
According to the council, fines go unpaid in more than 20 per cent of cases where a penalty charge notice is issued.
In October 2005 parking enforcement was decriminalised, giving Ipswich Borough Council the power to enforce restrictions within the borough.
In the financial year which ended in 2011, nearly £400,000 was collected in paid fines.
AS revealed in The Star earlier this year, parking fines issued in just three Ipswich streets raised at least £42,000.
Fonnereau Road amassed a staggering 823 fines in 12 months, while disgruntled motorists in Old Foundry Road were hit with 493 tickets.
Third on the parking ticket black list was Princes Street with 378 fines in 2011.
Using the smallest possible fine of £25 as a yardstick, the borough council – which has responsibility for ensuring parking laws are enforced – would have raked in £42,350 from the trio of streets, although the actual total is likely to be much higher.
The money raised in fines is retained by the council to help fund its street parking enforcement officers. Any surplus raised is handed to the county council to invest in transport projects.
But a spokesman for the borough said there had not yet been any year when the street enforcement department had made a surplus.
If motorists fail to pay their ticket – issued for transgressions including overstays at car parks or having no parking ticket – the £25 fine rises to £50 after 14 days.
However, parking on double yellow lines or where a vehicle is deemed to be dangerous carries a £35 penalty which rises to £70.
Council officials say they are clamping down on the spiralling numbers of outstanding cases through the use of bailiffs.
But Robert Oxley, campaign manager of campaign group the TaxPayers’ Alliance, labelled the level of outstanding fines as unfair.
“While some drivers struggle with over-zealous parking inspectors it is unfair that so many tickets go unpaid,” he said.
“If wardens are handing out tickets which are never enforced then they need to examine whether they should have been given in the first place.
“Parking tickets should be there to prevent improper or dangerous parking but if persistent offenders are getting away with flouting the rules then many will see tickets as a stealth tax designed to catch ordinary motorists out when they accidentally get it wrong.”
Councillor Philip Smart, transport portfolio holder, pictured, said the problem of unpaid parking fines was one which was not unique to Ipswich.
“This is an issue nationally,” he said.
“The easiest thing for the council would be to not carry out any enforcement. But we don’t want people to think they can park where they like and get away with it.”
In August, The Star reported on how car parking charges were to be introduced in Fonnereau Road to boost the borough’s parking receipts.
Speaking at the time, Mr Smart said the decision had been made because the borough’s account with the county council for enforcement of on-street parking was in deficit.
An Ipswich Borough Council spokesman said the authority recovered nearly 80 per cent of penalty charge notices (PCN) issued.
“That collection rate will improve further as bailiffs secure payment from penalties that remain unpaid after the statutory appeal periods have been exhausted,” the spokesman added. “Unpaid penalties continue to be collected some years after a PCN was issued.
“Towns with large numbers of parked cars are likely to have larger amounts of outstanding fines, even though the vast majority of motorists park responsibly.
“The easiest way to reduce the value of outstanding fines is not to enforce parking restrictions at all but this would be unfair and we are determined to take a firm line with illegal parking.”