Apcoa: Parking ticket company paid £2 commission by Gloucestershire County Council for each penalty charge notice

Exclusive: Critics say fixed 'admin fee' is an incentive for contractor to issue more tickets

Mark Leftly
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 24 October 2015 21:48
Apcoa describes itself as the “UK’s leading provider of tailored parking solutions”, and works in more than 150 locations across the UK
Apcoa describes itself as the “UK’s leading provider of tailored parking solutions”, and works in more than 150 locations across the UK

Apcoa, a German company that issues parking tickets for local authorities, has been accused of being “incentivised” to fine motorists under its contractual arrangements with one of the country’s biggest councils.

A contract between Apcoa and Gloucestershire County Council, released under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that Apcoa is paid “a fixed sum” of £2 for each penalty charge notice (PCN) that is “closed and fully paid”. Apcoa denies this is an incentive and says the fee covers administration costs.

Campaigners and MPs are now demanding to know if this payment structure is applied elsewhere and with other contractors to the public sector. Apcoa, which describes itself as the “UK’s leading provider of tailored parking solutions”, works in more than 150 locations across the country, providing security and issuing tickets for councils and businesses.

It is understood that Apcoa’s other contracts have different payment systems tailored to the needs of the contract. But campaigners branded the deal as “scandalous”.

Peter Ashford, director at the National Motorists Action Group, said he was “shocked to discover that Gloucester could involve themselves in the issuing of bonuses for parking enforcement performance”. Mr Ashford pointed to a House of Commons transport select committee report last year which argued that “incentive schemes in parking enforcement contracts are utterly misguided”.

Barrie Segal, author of the e-book Barry Segal’s Quick Guide To Fight Your Parking Ticket, added: “This is outrageous – it encourages the contractor to issue tickets and reinforces the motorist’s view that tickets are all about money.”

Nigel Wise, who was involved in the FoI request and who hit the headlines in 2011 for successfully appealing against a fine because Richmond Council’s mobile surveillance unit was not properly licensed, said: “This is totally wrong. There are key performance indicators in that contract which should suffice [for Apcoa].”

The shadow transport minister, Daniel Zeichner, said: “In my book, good parking control should be about encouraging motorists to park responsibly in the first place rather than simply waiting for them to do something wrong and then swooping down on them. We need to know whether this kind of thing is going on elsewhere.”

Apcoa started issuing tickets, dealing with related queries and managing appeals for Gloucestershire in 2013. Last year, The Independent on Sunday revealed that the Traffic Penalty Tribunal had ruled that Apcoa should not have been allowed to handle objections against PCNs and awarded 13 motorists their parking fines and costs.

A spokeswoman for Apcoa said: “As a business, Apcoa is not incentivised in any way to meet quotas for the issuing of penalty charge notices, nor are any of our employees. The fee we receive from Gloucestershire County Council is an agreed charge for the national customer service centre to administer the payment of a PCN and it is only when a PCN is fully paid that Apcoa receives any part of this payment.

“It is payable only when a fine is paid by a motorist and is not payable on the issuing of a penalty notice. If a motorist believes they have been unfairly issued a ticket, there is a rigorous processes through which to appeal penalty notices.”

Jim Daniels, the parking manager for Gloucestershire County Council, added: “We do not incentivise Apcoa to issue parking tickets. The £2 payment is an admin fee to cover the cost of administration staff, stationery, postage and banking fees when collecting and processing payments on behalf of the council.

“This is far cheaper than the cost to the council of doing this admin work itself, which is better value for council tax payers and means more money can be spent on providing frontline services for vulnerable people.”

The contract emerges as one infuriated motorist, Barry Beavis, is waiting for a Supreme Court judgment over an £85 fine incurred two years ago. He accepts that he overstayed his allotted two hours of free parking at the Riverside Retail Park in Chelmsford, but argues that the fine was excessive and unfair.

The Court of Appeal has already dismissed his challenge, arguing that the amount was not “extravagant or unconscionable”, prompting Mr Beavis to take the dispute to the highest court in the land.

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