Parking is a postcode lottery for drivers, with some local authorities being far more strict in dealing with minor offences than others. Has your council ever issued you with a parking fine or towed away your car?
One was when the wind had blown my parking ticket onto the floor of my car, and the other was when I’d not been able to find a pay machine or any information about hours of operation anywhere near the parking space.
The others I felt were issued for valid reasons – for things like unintentionally parking on a yellow line or staying too long in a legitimate space. So I didn’t grumble too much and handed over the £50 fine.
But if that penalty had included another £200 for the car being towed away, I’d have reacted very differently. Yet, this is what happens to thousands of motorists each year – cars are being towed for minor parking infringements.
Councils tow cars for minor offences
We asked 32 councils under the Freedom of Information Act about the number of vehicles they removed and the level of offences that had led to these removals in 2011/12.
We found a big difference. For example, Westminster council hasn’t clamped or towed a single vehicle since 2008, and yet neighbouring Kensington and Chelsea has towed 6,299 vehicles in 2011/2012 alone.
Government rules say that councils can resort to towing cars if they’re causing an obstruction, if it helps keep traffic flowing, or if they’ve been observed parking illegally for at least 30 minutes. Yet we found some councils towing cars in response to more minor offences, like outstaying their time in a parking space or parking outside the white lines of a legitimate bay.
In Brent and Croydon almost one in four vehicles were removed for minor offences like this, followed closely by Camden council.
Surely the penalty should fit the crime and only cars that block the highway or cause a hazard should be towed? Some councils have generated a massive £1m from towing away cars, so they need to justify that the penalties they’re giving out are a fair reflection of the offences being committed.