Drivers get away with parking illegally
THOUSANDS of people in Norfolk are flouting parking laws unpunished after the number of traffic wardens was cut by more than half. Wardens are handing out almost 50pc fewer parking tickets than in previous years - from 8,400 five years ago to 4,157 in the year to date - as Norfolk police prepare to hand over responsibility for parking enforcement to County Hall.
THOUSANDS of people in Norfolk are flouting parking laws unpunished after the number of traffic wardens was cut by more than half.
Wardens are handing out almost 50pc fewer parking tickets than in previous years - from 8,400 five years ago to 4,157 in the year to date - as Norfolk police prepare to hand over responsibility for parking enforcement to County Hall.
The figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that, during the same period, the number of wardens employed by the police has fallen from 34 to 14 for the entire county, including seasonal workers employed only in the summer. In Yarmouth, just two part-timers cover the entire borough and are unable to carry out regular patrols.
Critics said the figures proved not enough had been done in recent years to keep the county's streets unclogged.
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Norfolk police refused to comment but the force's annual budget for parking enforcement has been slashed from �750,000 in 2004-05 to just �147,000 this year.
Labour county councillor Irene MacDonald is among those who have campaigned for the law to be applied more strictly, with many streets regularly suffering illegal parking. She said: “I'm not surprised to hear about these facts and figures. They back up the case I and others have been making.”
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Norfolk County Council will take over parking enforcement from the police in April. There has been concern that the handover would lead to a parking free-for-all, with a council report stating “removal of warden support will leave a year with no systematic enforcement of parking restrictions outside the city of Norwich”.
At present, the police are responsible for enforcing on-street parking laws while councils are responsible for their own car parks. In Norwich, City Hall is responsible for all parking enforcement.
An agreement has now been reached with the council paying police to continue the current level of enforcement.
Last night, Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said he hoped that by targeting wardens at problem areas it would be possible to provide a better service.
Ms MacDonald said she was concerned the latest delay in the decision over a unitary council in Norfolk would cause further problems over parking enforcement - with the authority previously saying it could not commit to a plan until the future was more certain.
She added: “With the delay to the unitary decision, I want to see Norfolk County Council cabinet putting some effort into solving this situation and not keeping it on a back burner.”
Mr Gunson admitted the unitary delay would have a knock-on effect on parking enforcement - saying there was no appetite either at county or district council level to invest in a system that may be scrapped once local authorities are restructured.
He said: “It would not be viable because we do not know what the future holds and we do not want to invest money setting something up which may cease to exist.
“We have reached an agreement with the police which will maintain the current level of wardens. We hope to achieve more enforcement by better targeting those wardens to the areas where we know there are problems.”
Although the police declined to comment, Chief Supt Bob Scully previously said: “The constabulary will be working with Norfolk County Council to ensure the role of traffic wardens remains in place.”
The figures show a steady year-by-year decline in the number of tickets issued as budgets were gradually trimmed. At the same time, the amount received in payment for fines has fallen from �188,400 in 2004-05 to �90,030 so far this year.