Online quiz on parking charges ‘is inciting law breaking’

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

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The body which represents town halls is “actively encouraging” them to break the law through
an online tool to suggest raising parking fees to tackle budget shortfalls, a Minister has said.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has demanded the Local Government Association (LGA) removes the tool, You Choose, which invites voters to identify how town halls should raise
cash.

Electors are asked whether councils should fill gaps in their budget by pushing up the cost of parking and issuing more fines.

Mr Pickles warned that the law was “very clear” that councils cannot use parking charges and fines as a form of taxation.

“I am very concerned that the Local Government Association is actively encouraging councils to break the law, as well as exposing councils to potential legal action,” he said.

“This threatens to undermine public trust in local government.

“The LGA should remove this tool immediately. I believe such stealthy activity reinforces the need for a clampdown on dodgy parking practices by over-zealous council officers.

“This Government will stand up for hard-working families and local shops against town hall parking bullies.”

It has emerged that some councils are racking up huge surpluses from their parking-charge activities, according to figures from the RAC Foundation.

In 2011/12, English councils had a total current account surplus of £565m from their on-street and off-street parking operations.

This is a £54m increase on the £511m surplus in 2010/11, said the foundation.

An LGA spokesman has said that councils were “fully aware” of the rules regarding parking revenue.

You Choose was designed to “allow the public to see in simple terms some of the difficult decisions council are having to make to balance local budgets”, he said.

Leeds Council found itself last week having to issue a statement saying parking tickets issued to lorries parked outside the city’s new arena in preparation for its first concert would not be imposed.

Comment: Page 16.

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