This year UK drivers have been given a near record number of parking fines from private firms, despite being quieter during the pandemic.
According to new figures, 1,95 million motorists were charged in the first three months of the 2021-22 financial year, compared with 497,678 in the first quarter of last year (2020-21) when lockdown restrictions were in full force.
If parking fines continue to increase over the next three quarters, it will near the record high of 8.4 million tickets issued in 2019/20, which saw 2.1 million issued in the first quarter.
With fines capped at £100, private firms issued demands for up to £840 million in 2019/20 and £195 million in the first three months of this financial year alone.
It was also discovered by RAC Foundation analysis that the number of parking firms has grown by two-thirds in the past five years.
Nearly 159 companies accessed car ownership records from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in order to issue penalties – up from 97 in 2016.
Steve Gooding, RAC Foundation director, said the DVLA’s figures “cast doubt” on industry claims that firms’ margins are “hanging by a hair’s breadth.”
He added: “If that’s the case, how come more and more appear to be joining the industry already on track this year to issue a near record level of demands for parking charges?
“It is inconceivable that more than eight million drivers are setting out each year consciously deciding to flout parking rules and risk ending up with a parking charge.
“These numbers, which have risen in leaps and bounds over the last 10 years, suggest we have a system that isn’t working – not for the motorists who are receiving charge demands and not for the private landowners either.”
Under proposed new laws, there will be a code of practice for the industry sanctioned by the government, a single appeals service and a system of charges and penalties that would be more in line with those imposed by councils.
The charges consultation was published in July, and is now closed. The government is due to respond, with the law awaiting ministerial sign-off.
The strengthening of the rule aims to crack down on the practices of some private firms – which run thousands of car parks at hospitals, motorway services, train stations and shopping centres – and help deliver a fair, proportionate and consistent system across the country.