The car parking authority in East Lindsey has been accused of ‘oppressing’ legitimate customers with an unfair fining system to help it raise more than £1 million a year.
Aggrieved motorist Richard Enderby claims East Lindsey District Council’s parking policy is geared towards generating fines rather than offering an efficient service.
“They have made the system deliberately difficult for motorists so they can raise more in fines,” he said.
“There’s no attempt to make them user friendly, there’s no discretion over fines and it’s almost impossible to appeal a decision - genuine car park users are getting a bad deal.”
After his wife was fined because her ticket had blown from view, Mr Enderby sought the views of other car park users and heard numerous accounts of overzealous fining.
He then submitted a Freedom of Information request to compare the profits made by each of Lincolnshire’s various authorities through car parking.
Whereas South Holland and West Lindsey district councils operate at a loss, Mr Enderby learned that ELDC makes £1.3 million from car parking - the most of any in Lincolnshire.
While he fully supports fining motorists who have attempted to avoid paying, Mr Enderby fears the heavy handed approach will deter visitors and harm businesses.
“My family will use supermarkets in Skegness where parking is dealt with differently but has no faith or confidence in visiting the town centre car parks,” he said.
He believes better signposting, adhesive strips on tickets and more user friendly machines would spare legitimate users from falling foul of unfair fines.
He also believes the appeal system needs addressing as not one of those lodged in Skegness over the past year had been approved.
ELDC’s portfolio holder for the environment, Coun Steve Newton, has attributed the large revenue on East Lindsey’s higher than average number of car parks.
He has also explained that much of the ‘profit’ is actually spent on essential items such as CCTV, lighting and toilet facilities.
“We are not over zealous with our parking enforcement – although we issued 1,463 excess charge notices to car park users in 12/13, the car parks were used by around 2,000,000 motorists – representing less than 0.1 per cent receiving an excess charge,” he said
“Those people who legitimately pay to use the car parks expect to see that we are dealing appropriately with those who flout the rules and attempt to park for free.”
Coun Newton added: “All council-run car parks offer a range of parking tariffs to suit drivers’ needs including a free hour at some car parks as well as hourly and daily rates. “East Lindsey’s car parking charges are very competitive when compared to other areas and remain very good value for money.”
Nationally, the government has warned councils against using their car parks as a ‘cash cow’, after the RAC’s study revealed the extent of the surplus they had received.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said: “This £635 million municipal parking profit shows why we need to review and rein in unfair town hall parking rules.
“This Government has scrapped the last administration’s Whitehall rules which told councils to hike up parking charges and adopt aggressive parking enforcement.
“But councils aren’t listening, and local shops and hard-working families are suffering as a result.
“The law is clear that parking is not a tax or cash cow for town hall officers.”