Cowboy parking firms were able to rake in huge amount in fines this year… despite Covid-related fall in traffic, new figures reveal
Ruthless parking firms are on track to rake in near record amounts in fines this year despite a fall in traffic due to the pandemic.
And while a crackdown on ‘cowboy’ operators has been promised, the lack of any action yet is highlighted by the fact that the number of companies issuing tickets has soared.
New figures reveal 1.95 million motorists were hit with parking fines in the first three months of the 2021/22 financial year. This compares with 497,678 in the first quarter of last year (2020-21) when Covid restrictions were at their height.
If this year’s increase continues for the next three quarters, it will come close to the record high of 8.4million tickets issued in 2019/20, with 2.1million in the first quarter.
The figures mean that with fines capped at £100, private firms issued demands for up to £840million in 2019/20 and £195million in the first three months of this financial year.
Analysis by the RAC Foundation also found the number of parking firms has grown by two-thirds in the past five years (File image)
Analysis by the RAC Foundation also found the number of parking firms has grown by two-thirds in the past five years.
Nearly 159 companies accessed car ownership records from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency so they could issue penalties – up from 97 in 2016.
It comes despite traffic levels plummeting earlier this year with the third lockdown.
RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said the DVLA’s figures ‘cast doubt’ on industry claims that firms’ margins are ‘hanging by a hair’s breadth’.
He added: ‘If that’s the case, how come more and more appear to be joining the industry already on track this year to issue a near record level of demands for parking charges?’
Under proposed new laws, there will be a Government-sanctioned code of practice for the industry, a single appeals service and a system of charges and penalties that would be more in line with those levied by councils, but the legislation is awaiting ministerial sign-off.
The more stringent regulations aim to clamp down on the ruthless practices of some private firms, which run thousands of car parks at hospitals, shopping centres, motorway services and train stations.
Jack Cousens, of the AA, said: ‘What is incredible about these figures is that they coincide with a collapse in traffic during the pandemic. Even now, car traffic is still down around 10 per cent compared with pre-Covid levels.
The Daily Mail has repeatedly highlighted the bumper profits of many firms (File image)
‘Sadly the activities of some private parking companies mean drivers are so sceptical and nervous when they receive a parking charge notice that many just pay it as soon as possible to avoid any hassle even if they did nothing wrong.’
He added the proposed new rules did not go far enough and should include measures to ‘identify cash-cow car parks’.
The Daily Mail has repeatedly highlighted the bumper profits of many firms.
In 2019 we revealed how pre-tax profits at the country’s biggest parking firm, ParkingEye, more than doubled from £6.58million in 2016 to £13.59million in 2019.
Its sites include major hospitals and other NHS premises.
Last week the firm’s boss Philip Boynes claimed the ‘average profit of a car parking operator was about 2.1 per cent’. Astonishingly, he joined calls for the £100 cap to be increased.