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BIG DEBATE: Should ‘robot’ cameras stop issuing parking fines to motorists?

PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 June 2014

Local authority camera surveillance on parked cars in east London

Local authority camera surveillance on parked cars in east London

Archant

The government wants to ban cameras being used to issue parking fines—which has driven the parking industry to fury. Car-owners say cameras are ‘robots’ simply used to milk cash from the motoring public. Motoring organisations accuse private companies and even local authorities of sometimes acting illegally. Hundreds of drivers in east London, for example, were fined illegally by Newham Council using 12 CCTV cameras that were not certified for parking enforcement. The authority had to refund £350,000 earlier this year. That hasn’t stopped the parking industry lobbying to stop the ban on cameras to control parking.

Kelvin Reynolds [left] favours CCTV for parking tickets... and Brian Gregory, againstKelvin Reynolds [left] favours CCTV for parking tickets... and Brian Gregory, against

Kelvin Reynolds, from the British Parking Association, inists the Government has got it wrong:

We were surprised at Government proposals to ban CCTV and number-plate recognition technology in civil parking enforcement as part of an amendment to the Deregulation Bill.

This is at odds with a speech by Transport Minister Robert Goodwill at the national Parking industry’s Parkex show at Olympia on June 10.

He stressed how essential it is for the public to have confidence that CCTV should be used to promote safety and tackle congestion and recognised there was a case to retain camera enforcement around schools, in bus lanes, at bus stops, and on red-routes. The minister recognised CCTV has its uses and agree that better regulation is needed.

" The approach is heavy-handed by a government seeking to deregulate"

Kelvin Reynolds

But the government has sprung this amendment on everyone with little notice and without publishing either an analysis of the consultation responses or the Government view.

The proposed approach is heavy-handed by a government which is seeking to deregulate. Ironically, it is using the Deregulation Bill to impose further regulation on local government.

We have made an offer to work with government in an open letter to define and codify use of cameras through Statutory and Operational Guidance.

The Government committed to “further regulation of CCTV” — but didn’t commit to ban it.

"Cameras are are just robots or electronic highwaymen used to control human activity"

Brian Gregory

Instead, it appointed a Camera Surveillance Commissioner who has produced a Code of Practice which could be used for an effective guidance about where and when CCTV can be used for parking. The Government must show a commitment to the exemptions identified by the minister, but must also understand that CCTV may be appropriate in other situations.

I understand the desire for better regulation, but we will be working to make sure CCTV and other camera enforcement technology are not compromised or lost because of this hasty proposal.

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But Brian Gregory, from the Alliance of British Drivers reprenting car-owners, fears ‘robot’ cameras are just squeezing cash from the motoring public and don’t solve congestion:

Camera technology is being abused by local authorities and private companies in regulating parking who also have a history of skimping on making clear road markings and enforcing illegal parking regimes.

The thing that assists them to intensify those operations is camera technology, which only increases the power of organisations already out of control and without adequate regulations.

The Ombudsman for complaints is a toothless tiger in the pocket of the parking industry, because fines from parking far outstrip revenue from speed enforcement cameras.

Until there’s a fully-independent Ombudsman with powers to control the abuse of CCTV and ANPR, we don’t have any confidence in camera technology used to control parking.

We are reassured that the government may be stepping back from the brink on this, until an appropriate regulator exists and such abuse is finally stopped.

There is no common sense or human contact when cameras and number-plate recognition technology are used to issue parking tickets—they are just robots or electronic highwayman used to control human activity.

Sometimes there are special circumstances in cases where road configurations are confusing, often deliberately, so drivers will err and commit offences unintentionally.

Local authorities have been shown to be enforcing illegal parking regimes. We are up against a problem of substantial money-earning activity. Once it becomes a massive revenue earner, then scruples, ethics and honesty go out the window for the expediency of earning cash.

Speed cameras became a cash earner at one stage and the Government had to step in to justify their use.

It is time the government stepped in now and put these parking regimes under proper control.

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