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'Spy cars' ban was widely opposed

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The extent of opposition to government plans to ban councils from using CCTV to enforce parking restrictions has been revealed after it was announced that ministers would continue to pursue the policy. Even some motoring groups regard it as a “retrograde” step.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles announced last week that councils would be banned from using so-called “spy cars” except in a limited number of circumstances.

These include “critical routes such as schools, bus lanes, bus stops and red routes where public transport must be kept moving for safety reasons,” a statement from the Department for Communities & Local Government said.

Announcing the move, Mr Pickles said “spy cars can be seen lurking on every street raking in cash for greedy councils and breaking the rules that clearly state that fines should not be used to generate profit for town halls”.

However, a document summarising responses to a consultation on the measure showed it lacked support even from groups that might be expected to welcome it.

Motoring groups had “mixed views” about the ban, the report said, with some believing it would be “a retrograde step”. Others called instead for a compromise in which councils could continue to use CCTV but would have to produce annual parking reports about “the reasons, practices and impact of CCTV enforcement in their areas”.

Although some businesses supported a ban “because of its abuse by local authorities”, others opposed it, arguing there were cases where CCTV was “used appropriately and offers an economic means of enforcing parking restrictions”.

Other organisations – including councils, disability groups, cycling groups, schools, transport groups and bus operators – opposed the ban. Disabled groups argued CCTV was “vital” to improving road safety and cycling groups said it was an “important tool in the reduction of rogue parking”.

Despite this opposition, the report said, “the government intends to press on and take action to see a ban on the use of CCTV cameras to enforce [against] parking contraventions in the vast majority of cases”.

The consultation report said 62% of respondents believed local authority parking enforcement was “applied fairly and reasonably” in their area. When responses from councils were excluded, the figure was 50%.

Asked about the opposition to the proposals, local government minister Brandon Lewis said: “The government was very clear from the outset that parking policy needed to change, in order to support local shops and stop drivers being treated as a cash cow.

“It is no surprise that many vested interests – from CCTV operators to some councils – wanted to cling to the status quo.

“The consultation process considered the technical views and arguments carefully, and refined the measures accordingly.”

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Funny how having taken funding away from councils ministers dream up ways of making them lose income or spend more.
    So councils will lose 'spy cars' (Google vehicles not covered) but will gain 'jobs worth snoopers' to enforce parking controls on foot and as dispatched by CCTV cameras. Piffles is no stranger gallery politics.

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  • "CCTV spy cars can be seen lurking on every street raking in cash for greedy councils" Quote attributed to Eric Pickles in CLG press release.

    Talk about exaggeration!

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  • As always, there needs to be balance and common sense.

    Most people would agree that fines are appropriate for those who abuse the system, who block roads, drive without insurance and speed excessively.

    Conversly, a £60 charge for being 2 minutes over your parking ticket time appears unreasonable.

    I reserve my thoughts on Spy Cars, as we dont use them locally, but I do think that Councils should be allowed to enforce clear and deliberate traffic and parking infringements.

    Income should be ringfenced to making improvements on traffic and parking improvements.

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