July 28 2014 Latest news:
Lizzie Dearden, Senior reporter
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Following the use of controversial “spy cars” to catch driving offences on the move, the country’s first automatic CCTV cameras have been installed to instantly dish out fines at box junctions.
The council insists that the measures are to ensure the safety of drivers and pedestrians and keep congestion down, but are fines really in the public interest?
Steve Baker, from parking campaign group “No to Mob”, thinks enforcement has gone to far.
He travels around London and beyond with a group of bikers, who follow council CCTV cars doing their rounds while wearing V for Vendetta masks.
Their mission is to warn drivers before they get slapped with a £130 fine, but traffic wardens rarely appreciate the company.
Steve said: “We have the police called on us numerous times but they won’t do anything because we’re not doing anything wrong.
“You can’t get arrested for harassing a car.”
The bikers follow the CCTV vehicle until it stops to start recording, when they position themselves nearby to warn drivers about to be fined.
They stop vehicles and hold up signs telling cars not to break the rules.
And the bizarre effort does not go unnoticed - strangers have been known to hug them in support.
Steve said: “The cars are not supposed to be there to fine people, they are supposed to be a visible deterrent.
“We stop people committing offences as well, they just won’t get a ticket.”
The council has made £1.6million so far from more than 40,000 issued in just 10 roads in 2013.
Most hotspots are in Ilford town centre, where parking is restricted in many areas and cars are banned from entering some roads.
A council spokesman said the restrictions are there “for a reason”.
He added: “The council it has a responsibility to make its roads as safe as possible and to try to ensure the free movement of traffic.
“We have to try to balance the needs of motorists, local residents and businesses with a huge number of other local factors.”
They include keeping bus journey times down, safety walking to school and stopping blind turns to prevent accidents.
But Steve is one of many questioning why fines – ranging from £60 to £130 – are necessary.
“You can get a lower fine for shoplifting than for parking eight inches over a kerb,” he said.
“If the offence is truly dangerous it should be a £120 penalty but if someone has stayed two minutes longer than their ticket people shouldn’t be paying much more than £40.”
The charge for parking and traffic offences in Redbridge ranges from £30 to £130, depending what has been done and how quickly it is paid.
Drivers can appeal to the council if they are unhappy and take issues to the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service if they are not satisfied.
Even a government minister has told councils not to use parking as a “cash cow” for revenue.
Last year, Eric Pickles announced plans to do away with spy cars in favour of traffic wardens.
The communities secretary said: “We want to rein in these over-zealous and unfair rules on parking enforcement, so it focuses on supporting high streets and motorists, not raising money.
“Parking spy cars are just one example of this and a step too far.
“Public confidence is strengthened in CCTV if it is used to tackle crime, not to raise money for council coffers.”
But with the council showing no sign of budging and groups like No to Mob increasing in popularity, the battle looks set to continue.