The Traffic Management Act 2004 (TMA 2004) Part 6 introduced a number of changes in connection with traffic law and set the principles for a complete change in direction in respect of parking enforcement in London as of 31 March 2008. The Act, following decriminalisation of parking under the Road Traffic Act 1991, provides for the civil enforcement of most types of parking contraventions.
The TMA 2004 resulted from a scrutiny review of the parking industry by the Transport Select Committee of the House of Lords and aims to bring fairness and greater consistency to the parking industry.
The TMA 2004 defines how local authorities will run their parking enforcement operations and recommends a number of changes to make parking fairer - to place the emphasis on quality of enforcement rather than quantity. It represents the biggest change to the parking industry since control was passed from the police to local authorities and is intended to provide a new, single framework in England for the civil enforcement of parking contraventions.
With the Act comes new terminology:
- decriminalised parking enforcement (DPE) becomes civil parking enforcement (CPE)
- parking attendant (PA) becomes civil enforcement officer (CEO).
Despite the change in name, CEOs will have a very similar role to PAs. Their duties will remain exclusively in the field of parking and traffic enforcement and will not include other civil enforcement activities. For example, the role cannot include enforcement against graffiti or dog fouling.
The most significant change from the motorists' point of view is that the Act gives councils across the country the power to issue penalty charge notices (PCNs) by post if the CEO is prevented from issuing a PCN because the motorist acts in a threatening manner or drives away before it can be affixed.
The TMA states repeatedly that the goal of parking enforcement is to increase motorist compliance with the law and should be used as a traffic management tool and not for raising revenue. The Act requires local authorities to produce an annual report on income and parking expenditure within six months of the end of the financial year. This will be submitted to government and made publicly available from outlets such as the council website.
Councils should aim for the maximum level of compliance with parking regulations while still maintaining a self-funding parking operation.
As part of this increased transparency the council will now also be required to publish guidelines as to when it may apply its discretion to cancel a PCN. However, the guidelines will not replace the power of discretion held by back-office staff. Under the Act, councillors will no longer be permitted an involvement in representations against PCNs. They will not be allowed to make an official enquiry about a PCN or forward representations against a PCN on behalf of a constituent; council officers would have to return any such correspondence unanswered.
The role of councillors will be the reviewing and setting of policy. The council must publish the enforcement policy to help ensure transparency.
Croydon designated the whole of the borough as a special parking area (SPA) in July 1994. From that date all parking offences in Croydon were decriminalised and following the introduction of the TMA 2004 the borough has become a civil enforcement area.
The following is a summary of the provisions made by the TMA:
- for London boroughs to create civil enforcement areas, within which they carry out all enforcement by the CEOs
- for provisions applying within London, including differential parking charges, to be extended outside London
- the Act defines how local authorities will run their parking enforcement operations and recommends a number of changes, placing the emphasis on quality not quantity.
The Act's most significant change for the motorist is that councils now have the power to issue PCNs by post if the CEO is prevented from issuing one because the motorist acts in a threatening manner or drives away before it can be affixed.