British motorists now pay £1bn a year in parking tickets and fines

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As parking costs soar to new highs - motorists now pay more than £1bn a year in tickets and fines - the enforcement agencies are seeking new ways to operate in the face of increasing public hostility.

As parking costs soar to new highs - motorists now pay more than £1bn a year in tickets and fines - the enforcement agencies are seeking new ways to operate in the face of increasing public hostility.

Figures obtained by The Independent on Sunday reveal that local authorities and private firms last year saw their takings rise by 13 per cent. Paul Watters, of the AA Motoring Trust, said he expected further rises. "This is hitting motorists in their pockets," he said. "It is nothing more than a tax."

Local authorities were empowered to contract out enforcement of parking regulations to private firms in 1994. Since then, 120 councils have done just that and five companies have emerged with the bulk of the contracts. The largest, NCP, holds 30.

"There is a perception that we are just out to raise revenue," said Tim Cowen, an NCP spokesman. "It's just wrong. Enforcement is about keeping the streets clear and the traffic flowing."

The agencies have been damaged by revelations that some parking attendants have been working on commission. Companies say no such payments are offered now.

Kevin Delaney, head of transport at the RAC Foundation, said the target culture was at the root of much of motorists' frustration. "Once drivers have wised up to the new regulations, parking attendants have to look harder for irregularities," he said. "Local authorities need to decide whether it is about compliance or revenue raising."

Parking attendants are reporting rising numbers of attacks, not just from irate motorists but from passers-by. A recent survey of London boroughs revealed that three parking attendants in the capital are violently attacked every day.

Keith Banbury, of the British Parking Association (BPA) - the body representing companies and councils - confirms that attacks are rising. "People need to understand they are doing a difficult job. Don't shoot the messenger: they didn't make the rules."

The BPA has commissioned a report by the former chief constable of Lincolnshire, Richard Childs, to investigate the way parking enforcement operates.

"People seem to think it is unfair and we are out to get everybody's money," said Mr Banbury. "We need to look at why this is and what we can do to provide what the public perceive is a fairer system."

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