Parking fines could become more frequent if a major shake-up to the enforcement system gets the go-ahead.
Proposals by Devon County Council will see changes in the way Civil Parking Enforcement is managed by April next year.
The district council has run the service on behalf of the county council since 2008 when the Government transferred parking powers from the police to local councils.
It was originally anticipated that the enforcement of the on-street service would operate at or around a zero budget, with the cost of enforcement being outweighed by the income from Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs). But in reality enforcement costs have increased significantly over the past few years and exceeded the income from parking fines.
A report by Devon County Council into off-street parking enforcement, published in January, revealed a deficit of £795,000 in 2011/12 – a 30 per cent increase since the previous year.
In order to reduce that debt, the plans are to terminate the existing on-street civil parking enforcement agreement and instead run the service through either the county council or a privatised company.
A Mid Devon District Council insider said the proposals could mean pressures from higher management to increase revenue and therefore issue more fines.
They said: “The report mentions meeting targets and at the moment enforcement officers aren’t under any pressure to meet targets. This could result in officers having to issue fines as much as they can – for example, if the back wheels of your car are just touching a set of double yellow lines a fine would have to be given.
“As it stands Mid Devon doesn’t have any on-street parking meters – they’re more common in areas of Devon with a higher level of tourism – but we could see those coming into force to generate more money for the council.”
The source has also suggested that while they will remain on the same contracts, officers could be covering districts from all over the county.
Mid Devon District Council has opposed the current proposals stating in a report: “There is concern over the sufficiency of the annual fee. Unless a more suitable financial arrangement can be delivered it is unreasonable to expect council tax payers to subsidise the £400k saving County hope to achieve”.
Devon County Council has strongly denied any claims that enforcement officers will be under any sort of pressure to meet targets, stating that these allegations are ‘completely false’.
A spokesman from the county council said: “Devon County Council’s Cabinet is being asked to consider recommendations to explore options for civil parking enforcement to be either delivered “in house” by the county council or for a county-wide service led by a district council collaboration.
“The recommendations aim to ensure closer collaborative working for more efficient and consistent enforcement to reduce the current annual deficit.”
Exeter City Council has turned down the county council’s fixed fee offer which would allow it to continue ‘policing’ on-street parking.
At the moment the city council provides civil parking enforcement on behalf of Devon County Council.
Staffing costs for 2011/12 were £448,001 and Devon offered Exeter £421,219 as an annual fixed fee offer for 2014/15.
A spokesman for the city council said: “The city council refused the fixed fee offer because it would not cover the full costs of running on-street civil parking enforcement in Exeter.
“We presented an alternative fully-costed model to the county council which they were unable to accept.
“Most of the districts in Devon have rejected their respective fixed fee offers on similar grounds.”
Devon’s Cabinet was meeting this week to decide on a way forward."