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Civil Enforcement Officers and Traffic Wardens (Integration of Duties and Powers) (England)

Volume 598: debated on Tuesday 14 July 2015

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision about the integration of the duties and powers of civil enforcement officers and of traffic wardens with respect to the issuing of fixed penalty notices for additional offences; and for connected purposes.

I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting me 10 minutes to state my case. I also welcome to his place the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones), and commend him for his help and guidance on this complicated issue. I should also mention in dispatches the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), who has been most helpful and understands the problems the Bill is trying to solve. I apologise to Members waiting for the last day of the Budget debate, but I hope that in the next 10 minutes they will be as interested in, and intrigued by, the parking issues in Kettering as I am. I hope to outline what the problem is and how it might be resolved.

The problem is that street wardens, whose role in life is to enforce important environmental protection measures, do not have the power in law to enforce parking regulations under a decriminalised parking regime. Likewise, traffic wardens, who can issue tickets under a decriminalised parking regime, are not able to enforce against infringements of environmental legislation. The purpose of this Bill would be to allow both sets of wardens to enforce each others’ provisions and therefore, as it were, establish one generic type of warden, who could take action on lots of important issues at street level.

I declare my interest as a current, serving member of Kettering Borough Council. I want to draw the House’s attention to the tremendous work that Kettering Borough Council has done in establishing an effective generic street warden scheme. The council has sought to remove artificial barriers to service delivery by asking its staff to take an holistic approach to their work. An example of that is the way in which the council has created the generic street warden team, which has required officers to take a creative approach to working within existing legislative constraints. Like most local authorities, Kettering Borough Council originally had a series of small teams, each dealing with areas such as car parking enforcement, dog fouling, litter enforcement, pest control and dog warden duties. The council was also gearing up to introduce residents parking schemes across the borough, which it has now done, and it needed a new resource properly to enforce the residents’ parking zones.

What the council did was combine all those functions into a single, generic street warden team, which was able to absorb the new residents parking enforcement work and reduce the overall cost to the combined service, while at the same time hugely increasing its coverage. As a result, the council now has an enforcement presence across all those areas for 84 hours a week, rather than the original 40. That has meant that the council is effectively two and a half times more efficient than it was in enforcing against both environmental and traffic offences. Originally, the council had 10 staff operating from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. Now it has a team of eight staff, operating from 8 am to 8 pm— 12 hours a day—seven days a week, providing 84 hours of work. They are able to enforce controls over abandoned cars, stray dogs, litter, off-street car parking, environmental offences, dog waste and fly-tipping, as well as dealing with pest control, supervision of local markets and residents parking.

On-street parking controls—yellow-line parking controls—in Kettering are still provided by the local police, traffic wardens and police community support officers, because the parking arrangements in Kettering have not yet been decriminalised. This peculiar arrangement works extremely well. The residents parking schemes are extremely popular and there is a demand for more of them. They cost only £45 per vehicle per year and up to three vehicles per household are allowed. There are generous arrangements for visitor permits and there is high customer satisfaction, with good value ratings. The enforcement of residents parking zones is provided by Kettering Borough Council’s generic street warden team, which provides a flexible, responsive service, able to handle peaks and troughs, and at a lower cost than the original environmental warden capacity.

The problem in Kettering has arisen because the Government are keen for local authorities to decriminalise their parking arrangements and have asked the county council, Northamptonshire County Council, to look at this. The problem is that if Northamptonshire County Council goes along and decriminalises parking arrangements in Kettering, Kettering Borough Council’s street wardens would not be able to enforce the residents parking that exists in the town. A similar situation will apply to the Minister’s constituency in Harrogate, because Harrogate Borough Council—which I am sure is an excellent local authority—operates civil parking enforcement on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council, alongside Craven District Council and Selby District Council. However, if Harrogate Borough Council wanted its civil enforcement officers for parking to enforce environmental legislation—such as control of litter, abandoned cars, fly-tipping and so on—it would not be able to do so in law. The purpose of my Bill would be to correct that anomaly in law, so that those wardens could enforce each other’s responsibilities.

Kettering Borough Council is extremely keen to ensure that this problem is sorted out before the successful residents parking schemes in Kettering are undermined. I am sure it is not the intention of the existing law to make such residents parking schemes in Kettering unworkable. Ideally, Kettering Borough Council would be happy to see parking decriminalised, with Northamptonshire County Council allowing Kettering Borough Council to enforce the new arrangements, but that would require a change in the law to enable Kettering Borough Council’s wardens to police the new parking arrangements. If the Government are not certain that that correction to the law would necessarily be the right thing, Kettering Borough Council is volunteering to offer itself as a pilot for this new, multifunctional working to apply to the new types of wardens in Kettering, so that the Government can satisfy themselves that the change in the law is required.

If this more integrated option were taken up, it could provide a template that the rest of the country might like to follow, because what Kettering Borough Council is saying is that we can have better enforcement of on-street provisions for environmental offences and parking offences with a smaller number of wardens, operating a larger number of hours, at a lower cost. If that were rolled out across the country as a whole, I estimate that it could save the Exchequer hundreds of millions of pounds, while also providing better arrangements at street level to police all the things that most of us tend to overlook day to day, but which are very important to making sure that a local area functions properly.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That Mr Philip Hollobone, Mr Stewart Jackson, Mr John Baron, Andrew Rosindell, Mr Peter Bone, Sir Simon Burns, Mr Christopher Chope, Andrew Percy, Mr Nigel Evans and Tom Pursglove present the Bill.

Mr Philip Hollobone accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 11 September, and to be printed (Bill 55).