Wednesday, 29 May 2013

How much does POPLA cost the Parking Operators?

To answer that question, we should look first at how POPLA, the independent adjudication service for parking on private land, is funded.

POPLA receives it's money in two ways. Firstly, it got a chunk of money to set up in the first place. It then gets a monthly payment based on actual expenses - wages, building rent, phone bills, postage, etc. This money all comes from the British Parking Association (BPA) Ltd which is billed monthly by POPLA.

The BPA Ltd then recoups that money from its members in the following ways. Firstly, the BPA Ltd charge the appropriate member £27 for each POPLA appeal. If that is not enough (and it probably isn't, as we will see later), then each member pays the BPA Ltd an association fee based on the size of the company, and any shortfall is made up from that.

The figures

That's all very well in practice, but how does that look in hard cash terms?

Well, the setup fee for POPLA was £64,500, and the monthly fees billed to the BPA Ltd were:

Oct £21178.14
Nov £23777.87
Dec £36642.62
Jan £64069.84
Feb £49440.80
Mar £51336.69

The January figure is a little inflated because POPLA forgot to bill 8-10k for the 3 previous months.

Overall this comes to a total of £246446, or £310946 if you include the setup fee. This works out at an average of 41k a month (not including setup). However, we can expect to see that rise. Staffing costs were low in Oct and Nov as the service took off. The February and March figures include extra staffing costs to try and clear the current backlog.

This might fall over time, perhaps if less people appeal, or if the assessors get quicker at adjudicating cases, meaning fewer staff are needed. However, it might also rise over time. Given that currently 61% of cases are judged on the side of the motorist, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain for a motorist to appeal. As knowledge of POPLA increases, we may therefore see the number of appeals rise. The BPA Ltd estimated initially that there would be 23k appeals per year, but have now revised this to 17k.

Time will tell of course, but an estimate of 50k/month does not seem unreasonable for the running costs of POPLA.

What do the Parking Operators get out of this?

Currently we only have 2 sets of figures for POPLA, from 25th January and 6th February. Further, these figures may not actually be for those days, but for a few days previous.

       Cases Completed Won by Operator

Jan 25 1490  650       260
Feb 6  1551  843       328

We can see a few things from this. Over the time period, 61 new cases arrived, and 193 were resolved. Perhaps this means that POPLA are getting to grips with the backlog issue. We probably need more data to get a better picture. However, in April the backlog on The Parking Prankster's case was 20 days, and in May the backlog is already over that, so perhaps the backlog problems are not yet solved.

Let's look at the Feb 6 figures. The Operators had won 328 cases, and the BPA Ltd are reporting that in 70% of cases where the motorist loses at POPLA, they pay up straight away. Thats 230 cases. Assuming an average charge of £130, this gives the operators £29918. They had to pay out 843 * £27 for this privilege, or £22761. They will no doubt be very happy with their £7k profit. Assuming it takes 2 hours for them to prepare a case for POPLA, this works out at a very exciting return of  £4.25 an hour, or a little below the minimum wage.

This may increase a little if the Operators take the other cases to court, and win. On the other hand, the Parking industry is clogging up the courts at the moment, so that money won't be coming in for a long time, if at all.

Minimum wage? That's not too bad, is it?


By the end of January, the BPA Ltd had paid £145668 in monthly fees to POPLA. In reality, any shortfall from the £27 per case fees has to be paid for by the Operators via their subscriptions. So the true balance sheet reads something like this.

Cases:             843
Money in:       £29918
Money out:     £145668
Loss:          £115750
Loss per case:    £137.30

So there you have it. Each case submitted to POPLA costs the parking operators an average of £137.30.

Now, seeing as the average parking charge the Operators want is around £120, that does seem like an excellent incentive for the motorist to take their case for POPLA! Note of course, that if the Operators acted sensibly, and only referred cases to POPLA where they had a chance of winning the figures would be completely different. Remember, they currently lose 61% of cases. Perhaps the real incentive then, is for the Operators to cancel the 61% of parking charges where they will lose at POPLA. The more people that appeal and use POPLA, the quicker the message will get through.

The figures

All figures used here are taken from FOI requests. The Parking Prankster is grateful to his sources. You know who you are!

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

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