Tuesday, 27 August 2013

British Parking Association Limited 2011 Impact Assessment report to government turns out to be no more than fantasy and hot air

The Impact Assessment for introducing keeper liability for parking (compiled in 2011) considers the financial impact of changing the law.

One of the key benefits is listed as
A reduction in the number of cases taken to court, due to the introduction of an independent appeals service, which in turn would benefit the Criminal Justice System.
To determine this, the government consulted with none other than the British Parking Association Limited.

The Department for Transport has consulted informally with the British Parking Association (BPA). The BPA is the largest professional association in Europe representing organisations in the parking and traffic management industry. These organisations are many and varied, and operate in a variety of different ways. They include manufacturers, car park operators, local authorities, health authorities, airports, railway companies, shopping centres and theme parks. The BPA currently has over 700 corporate members (of which 148 are members of an ATA and so authorised to obtain vehicle keeper information from DVLA), split about equally between the public and private sectors. The BPA has asked for the same parking enforcement regime as that operated by local authorities on public roads - in particular, the introduction of keeper liability for parking charges on private land.

Other than making changes to their paperwork and processes, the BPA considers that keeper liability will have a positive impact on "ticketing‟ enforcers. Benefits will include:
 a reduction in the number of complaints/appeals where the defence is that the keeper of the vehicle was not the driver at the time;
 a reduction in the number of cases taken to court, which in turn would benefit the Ministry of Justice;
Both these scenarios are expensive and time consuming. Businesses will benefit from better compliance and an increased proportion of tickets paid when parking transgressions do take place, instead of incurring costs on debt recovery.
The BPA has said that of the 1.8 million parking charges currently issued each year around 2-5% (36,000 to 90,000) of cases are taken to civil court per year. Court costs are not expected to increase and have not been forecast because keeper liability will not be brought into force until an independent appeals service is operating throughout the country. 
As it so happens, these figures are a complete fiction invented by the BPA Ltd. This report on TV licence dodging shows that there were 1.46 million court cases in 2012, with 180,000 of them being TV licence cases. A figure of 90,000 parking cases a year would make more than 1 in 20 court cases parking related.

Obviously no quality assurance whatsoever was done by any of the people involved in this report, because it would have been immediately obvious that this figure was ludicrously inaccurate had anyone done the most cursory checks.

One person (Bargepole) who did check these figures found the truth was rather different.

The number of cases filed at county court in 2011 was 845, which is approximately 0.5% of the figure guessed by the BPA Ltd. Of these, only 49 proceeded to a contested hearing.

In 2012 the figures dropped to 600 cases filed and 34 contested hearings.

We can safely say therefore that the figures produced by the BPA Ltd were complete fabrication with no basis in fact, and that no-one bothered to check them in the slightest. This will no doubt eventually be an embarrassment for the minister that signed the report off.

What of the predictions that court cases will fall?

So far, we have not yet had a full years worth of figures. However, the ones that are available are pretty damning. Here are the FoI requests that The Prankster is aware of.

Number of claims filed by AOS members in 9 months since Keeper Liability introduced
Number of claims filed by ParkingEye in 8 months since Keeper Liability introduced
Number of claims filed by ParkingEye June/July 2013

The figures show we have already had 4806 cases filed in the first 9 months of Keeper Liability, with ParkingEye contributing around 2378-2438 of these (there is some discrepancy between the different FoI requests, probably cause by variations in the name used to file), and Civil Enforcement Limited 1101 cases.

An initial projection for a full years worth of figures gives 4806 * 12 / 9 = 6408.

However, this fails to take account of the way the number of claims are escalating. Here are the month by month claims by ParkingEye so far.

If ParkingEye continue to escalate at this rate, we can expect another 4,000 cases filed by them alone.

This would give a new projected amount as:
(total cases to Jun - PE cases to Jun) * 12 / 9 + (PE cases to July + PE estimate Aug/Sep)
(4806 - 2378) * 12/9 + (4219 + 4000)
3237 + 8219
The Prankster thinks 11,500 cases filed is a sensible estimate, and this figure is likely to increase next year. Thus, far from saving the courts time and money, we will have almost 20 times more cases filed in 2013 than 2012.

The Prankster has no idea how much a court case costs the Ministry of Justice. However, ParkingEye pay £15 to file each case. Some cases are no doubt settle by scared motorists without court involvement, but others are not. The Prankster thinks that the amount of management time needed by the court will soon swallow up the £15. If the case proceeds to a hearing, ParkingEye pay another £50 for 1-3 hours of a Judge's time, and in those cases the taxpayer is certainly losing out. On balance then, The Prankster thinks that the MoJ is worse off as a result of the new schedule 4 POFA 2012 law.

The two companies filing the most cases, ParkingEye (PE) and Civil Enforcement Ltd (CEL) seem to have different strategies. CEL do not appear to want to go to court, and appear to be using the threat of a hearing to scare motorists into paying. This obviously works in sufficient number of cases. When the motorist fights back and uses a robust defence, CEL drops the case like a hot potato. Where the motorist does not appear to know what they are doing, CEL will chance the occasional court punt.

ParkingEye on the other hand, will go to court whatever the cost. Where they feel their case is weak they will offer between £50 and £100 to settle, but if this not paid they will still proceed to a hearing. Even in cases where the landowner orders PE to cancel the parking ticket, PE still want £50 to drop the case. This hardball attitude is undoubtedly very successful for them, and persuades many motorist to pay. When the case does go to court, the outcome can be a bit of a lottery depending on the judge's leanings and the ability of the motorist to articulate the case. However, PE always lose out financially whatever the outcome because they pay their lawyers from LPC Law £200-£300 which they cannot normally reclaim. Their strategy must be therefore to eventually accumulate enough court wins so that they can frighten more motorists into paying.

So, why is this happening? The prediction that court cases would decrease is based on the following assumption:
A reduction in the number of cases taken to court, due to the introduction of an independent appeals service, which in turn would benefit the Criminal Justice System.
This assumption has been proved completely wrong for many reasons. The Prankster assumes that no serious thought was given to this assumption and it was waved through without wasting any brain cells.

  • POPLA are upholding 50% of appeals. Furthermore, POPLA cost the parking company a non-reclaimable £27 (with a true cost of over £100), and a large amount of internal effort to put together the evidence pack. Therefore POPLA is not an appealing proposition for the parking company. They can pay £15 (which is reclaimable) and go to court instead, with a much better chance of frightening the motorist into paying without spending any serious effort.
  • The number of motorists projected by the BPA Ltd to use POPLA is minuscule (23k per annum). The actual number using POPLA is even less (estimated around 15k this year). As this is less than 1% of tickets issued, and 30% go unpaid, POPLA was never going to be an influence on court case figures.
  • Parking companies actively try and avoid POPLA. Despite warnings from the BPA Ltd and POPLA this practice still continues.

The Prankster concludes that no thought whatsoever was given to the assumption that court cases would fall as a result of the new law, and that this statement was once again, total poppycock.

So what will happen now? The policy will be reviewed in 2016. The Prankster considers that this will be an interesting review.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Warning. Some of the statistics The Prankster used in writing this report came from the BPA Ltd. They may therefore be as much use as a chocolate teapot.

1 comment:

  1. Astonishingly TV Licence offences amount to 10% of criminal cases. Private parking charges are not criminal offences but handled in the civil courts as contract law.
    The statistics from the Ministry of Justice for the last reported quarter (Oct-Dec 2012) show
    Civil (non-family) matters 340,146 claims issued and 10,117 hearings
    while 418,316 criminal cases were completed in magistrates’ courts and 33,137 completed in the Crown Court

    Multiply by four for rough annual figures