A consultation with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has resulted in a mandatory Code of Practice for private parking companies which forms part of the wider Enforcement Framework. The aim of the new Code is to give greater clarity and transparency on the enforcement of parking fines with a view to creating a unified parking system across the UK.
A tiered system which mirrors that of Local Authorities will be introduced, in which more serious breaches will be liable to a higher fine, while minor breaches will attract a comparatively lower fine. Parking charges will therefore be on a sliding scale of £50 to £70 in areas outside of London, and £80 to £130 in London. Additionally, private parking companies will be required to give a 50% discount for early payment, in line with the current Local Authority system. However, the discounted penalty must be higher than any original tariff in order to continue acting as a deterrent against breaching parking rules.
An example of a serious breach attracting a higher fine would be to park in a way which risks harm or detriment to others, such as blocking an ambulance bay. On the other hand, entering the wrong vehicle registration number would be classed as a minor breach and would therefore give rise to a lower fine. The Government has confirmed a new parking charges cap of £100 in areas where parking is restricted to specific groups, such a permit holders or staff.
The Code of Practice will require parking companies to sign up to an Appeals Charter to ensure proportionality and transparency with regard to appealing parking fines. The Appeals Charter will outline the process on how to deal with appeals on the grounds of innocent error or mitigating circumstances, including breakdowns, failure to display a permit, or an error while keying in a registration number.
The new Code of Practice is anticipated to be implemented at the beginning of summer 2021, with a transition period to allow time for parking operators to adapt to the new system. The appeals service provider will be appointed before the end of 2021, marking the end of the transition period, and signalling that all parking operators must comply with the Code of Practice. The appeals service will go live 6 months later.
The timing of the beginning of the transition period coincides with the Government’s road map for opening up the country following lockdown, which is no accident. The idea is that lower parking fines in certain areas will encourage people to return to the country’s high streets, shop at small businesses and support local communities, with the hope that this will help to alleviate the economic damage caused by the pandemic.