As it stands, the District Council does not have the power to issue parking tickets for illegal on-street car parking – this responsibility still rests with the Police; the District Council can only take enforcement action in the Council owned car parks.
Policing priorities have changed over the years, and whilst the Police do carry out parking enforcement activity, they are unable to treat it as a priority.
Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) is a process for enforcing on street parking offences as non-criminal offences – instead of parking being enforced by the Police, the County Council does it instead. Often, a County Council will ask District Councils to do it on their behalf.
The emphasis with CPE is to try to reach 100% compliance through enforcement of the rules – but with 100% compliance no parking tickets are issued and no income is received to pay for running the system, but of course the system still has to be paid for!
CPE is incredibly bureaucratic (aka expensive) and it is no coincidence that Councils that have taken on this enforcement role find themselves having to charge for car parking in their off street car parks in order to pay for it; Councils cannot increase Council Tax to pay for running CPE. CPE also comes with huge up front costs – Fenland District Council are estimating around £400k.
CPE is a massive sledgehammer to crack a small nut, albeit a very annoying nut!
Once CPE is in place, it is irreversible – the Council takes on the job of on street car parking enforcement forever. When the costs of running the system increase the Council cannot increase the cost of the parking tickets because these are set by central Government, so the only way they can try to cover the cost of running the system is to either decrease the amount of enforcement activity they undertake (meaning less tickets are issued and people begin parking illegally again) or increase the car parking charges in their off street car parks. CPE is tantamount to writing a blank cheque!
East Cambs District Council provides free parking in its city and town centre car parks – this is a promise Conservatives made in both the 2015 and 2019 local elections. The free parking policy is incredibly popular – we know from our last district wide survey that 90% of respondents want the free parking to stay and we are committed to keeping it in place.
Bringing in CPE to deal with the relatively small numbers of people that park illegally is incompatible with free parking in our car parks.
The Lib Dems in East Cambs want to bring in CPE, but even the Lib Dem Chair of the County Council Highways Committee knows that this will lead to charging in the Council’s off-street car parks. Here is Lib Dem Cllr Alex Beckett on Twitter:
So, what is being done instead? A new Police role with Police powers
The District Council approached the Police last year about this issue and discussed the idea of using a little known piece of legislation, Section 38 of the Police and Crime Act 2017. S38 allows the Police to bestow Police legal powers onto civilians working in a voluntary capacity.
Superintendent James Sutherland of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary has been working on development of a new role – Road Safety Police Volunteer – that will not only be able to carry out car parking enforcement but will also have a wider remit for road safety including speeding.
Road Safety Police Volunteers are akin to those working as Special Constables which have a long and successful history in the UK, including in Cambridgeshire. They will be uniformed, including with body armour and headwear and will carry body cameras and Police radios and have access to unmarked Police vehicles.
As well as capturing evidence of speeding and car parking abuse that will lead to fines, the role will also include an education remit – talking to motorists at the school gates for example.
Road Safety Police Volunteers, unlike Community Speedwatch volunteers, will have the necessary latest generation equipment that will lead to fines for speeding.
You can watch the compelling and passionate presentation by Superintendent James Sutherland to the Council meeting in October 2022 here https://youtu.be/ckROctZlum0?t=1340 which outlines the proposal for the new role.
Using S38 is a proportionate response to the relatively small number of people that abuse car parking laws in various hotspots in East Cambs. The new Road Safety Police Volunteers will have a wider, very important role, in dealing with road safety and speeding as well as illegal and dangerous parking and we will be able to keep free parking in our town and city centre car parks – there is still a way to go before this can happen, but we think it is a great way to go!