The Local Government Association have said they're losing out on 'millions' of pounds worth of unpaid parking fines as foreign cars do not have to be registered in the UK for their first six months. Some councils are owed hundreds of thousands and are kicking up a fuss.
However, what exactly have they lost? The cost of the ticket itself, which is what, 10p? Less? They haven't lost millions because they never had those millions in the first place. What this story is telling us is that local councils factor in parking fines as a form of income and are pretty irritated that some people aren't paying them. Nowhere do they want to dissuade people from parking illegally, they just need that money to pay for all the bureaucracy that keeps local councils running as inefficiently as always.
According to the RAC Foundation, in 2011/2012, local councils made a £565m profit on parking fines and yet what...they want more? I'm not saying that local councils use these fines for office Christmas parties but still, parking fines are supposedly a deterrent, not an profit-making scheme.
'Reckless and inconsiderate parking by non-UK registered vehicles puts other drivers and pedestrians at risk,' says Peter Box of the Local Government Association and yes, I'm sure they are. But they're also probably not parking recklessly and inconsiderately just because they think they can get away with it. I find it difficult to believe that they come over here and think, 'hey, screw the car park, I'll just park on the pavement because I'm only here for a week.' The majority of cars you see parked recklessly will be British I bet, because they're the majority of cars in this country. So if parking fines haven't deterred them from parking like idiots, why would they deter foreigners?
Parking fines are an income that requires very little spending and are vastly disproportionate to the amount of money illegally parking actually costs the council. Therefore, they will always be profitable. Obviously we can't have people parking wherever they please and so parking fines work within reason; they make inconvenient, dangerous and inconsiderate parking significantly less likely than if there was no deterrent at all.
Nevertheless, people are inherently chancers and so there will always be those who choose to ignore the rules and park somewhere they shouldn't for whatever reason, usually personal convenience. This predictable behavior makes councils wealthy and provides them with what is essentially free money.
Box went on to say that the millions of pounds owed could be going towards fixing roads, filling potholes and other things like bus services. Yes, it could be going to making badger tunnels and getting tied-together-trainers off telegraph wires too but the point is, that money was never there in the first place. If councils need money to fill in potholes then they can't just sit around and hope that lots of French will come over on holiday and park poorly - that's not a particularly proactive income stream.
What makes this story even more ridiculous is the way in which British drivers are fined in other EU countries, i.e. they're not any more than foreign cars are fined over here. Why? Because the UK opted out of a 2013 EU directive that allowed Member States to quickly and easily share driver details enabling them to issue fines to EU cars. Why did they opt out? Because it would cost more to take part in than they would receive in fines.
And so, although other EU countries can technically fine British drivers, it's a lot of hassle and yet we expect to fine foreign EU cars here? Why, because it's one rule for us and one rule for the rest of the EU? There's a surprise.
So perhaps the Department for Transport and the Local Government Association should stop yakking on about trying to 'tackle' this and attempting to 'tackle' that and do something just about as useful, like giving road-crossing lessons to deer.