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Updated: Government ban could spell the end for Wirral Council's spy car
WIRRAL Council's "spy car" could be among those taken off the roads under new proposals revealed today.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said town halls are breaking the law by using parking enforcement powers as a "cash cow".
All local authorities in England could be banned from using CCTV cameras and spy cars to impose parking fines on motorists under the new proposals.
In 2009 the Globe launched a campaign to get justice for Wirral motorists caught on camera by the spy car.
Our revelations that parking tickets had been issued even though no signs had been set up warning drivers they were being filmed made headlines in almost every single national newspaper at the time.
The campaign centred around New Brighton off-licence owner Rachel Johnson, who first told the Globe how she successfully had three tickets overturned.
When Wirral Council turned down her appeals against the tickets, Rachel went to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal and won a landmark legal ruling.
The result was that spy car operators across the country were forced to set up warning notices when filming - and thousands of fines were scrapped.
Mr Pickles told ITV's Daybreak that councils using parking to supplement their income were acting "outside the law" and should prioritise tackling people who are "negligent or inconsiderate in terms of parking or causing dangers to others".
He said: "We are worried that what is happening in local authorities is they are using parking fines as a kind of a cash cow from motorists. The legislation is very clear, you cannot do so.
"The legislation originally on CCTV was really about ensuring it was about stopping crime, not using it as a way just to pick out motorists to make that extra few bob."
A Government consultation paper will suggest amending legislation underpinning the Traffic Management Act 2004 to outlaw the practice.
Councillor Harry Smith, Wirral cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: “Parking enforcement plays an important part in road safety, and particularly for school children and the elderly.
"The CCTV car is primarily used to tackle dangerous or disruptive parking, for instance outside schools.
"The highly visible enforcement activity should act as a deterrent to motorists who park dangerously.
“The Government granted Wirral and many other authorities permission to use camera cars, so the council does so on the basis of that decision.
"Wirral does not operate any fixed CCTV parking enforcement, and any surplus is used to fund local traffic or highway improvements.”
Mr Pickles said the Government was also looking at increasing the "grace" period for motorists to get back to their vehicle before being fined from five minutes to 15 minutes.
He criticised councils, saying that rather than using parking enforcement to raise money they should look to make similar cost savings to those made by the Government since the 2010 election.
"We mustn't fall into the trap, into believing that it is either whacking great parking fines or services deteriorating," he added.
"We should be on the side of ensuring the public have a fair deal and we should ensure people can go and park reasonably, not find themselves in a situation (where) they are worried all the time if they are a few minutes late they are going to have a whacking great fine."
RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: " The issue is not so much about how parking policy is enforced but what the policy is being used to achieve.
"English councils make a surplus of over £500m each year from parking and the suspicion remains that arbitrary rules are imposed to help maximise revenue rather than prevent congestion.
"Nobody wants a parking free for all, but they do want reasonable charges and fairness, whatever method is used to achieve it."
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