Croydon Council charged more than £45,000 in driving penalties from its camera car in a single location near the Purley Way in just four months this summer.
With such high returns, it is no wonder that the council appears so attached to the use of these bounty hunter spy cars, despite Tory ministers having ordered an end to the use of these cars as “a cash cow” over parking offences.
Inside Croydon has reported before on this particular favourite location for the spy car – outside the ambulance station on Waddon Way, the cut-through between Brighton Road and the Purley Way. More often than not, to position its camera to capture evidence of drivers committing offences, the spy car driver has to park illegally themselves, on a double yellow line.
On occasions, the spy car has been observed parking in such a way on a narrow thoroughfare as to cause traffic hold-ups, almost as if to goad impatient drivers into committing an offence.
It is 16 months since Eric Pickles, then the local government minister, announced that the practice of snapping parking offences through CCTV and slapping a 60 quid fine on the driver was to cease: fines could only be raised if an enforcement officer actually placed a penalty notice form on the offending vehicle.
“CCTV spy cars can be seen lurking on every street raking in cash for greedy councils and breaking the rules that clearly state that fines should not be used to generate profit for town halls,” Pickles said in July last year, before he was knighted and re-shuffled out of the department.
“Over-zealous parking enforcement and unreasonable stealth fines by post undermine the high street, push up the cost of living and cost local authorities more in the long-term. The government is taking urgently needed action to ban this clear abuse of CCTV, which should be used to catch criminals, and not as a cash cow.”
But here in Croydon, now under a Labour-run Town Hall, that “cash cow” is still being milked by the council, which is clearly using its spy car to snap motoring, rather than parking, offences. And very lucratively, too.
Acccording to a Freedom of Information request, specifically asking for information about the use of the spy car on Waddon Way by the ambulance station from June to September 2015, the council admitted that it had issued 765 penalty charge notices – averaging nearly 50 per week – on that single stretch of road “for offence code 37J (give way compliance)”.
The council’s FoI team then disappointed the questioner somewhat: “We do not have information on how many of these PCNs were issued when the CCTV car was parked on double yellow lines,” they wrote, “although the vehicle is permitted to park on restrictions when carrying out statutory duties.”
The full horror of how much cash the council is “raking in”, as Big Eric would have put it, across the whole of the borough through its spy cars won’t be known for another 12 months: the council’s “accounts are due to be published during October 2016, once the auditing process has been completed”.
In the meantime, if you happen to be driving along Waddon Way, you might want to save yourself £60 – or more – by taking extra care at the give way markings at the junctions.
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