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Councils to defy Pickles over spy cars
6:00am Tuesday 1st October 2013 in Local News
SPY cars will continue to patrol the streets of south Essex despite Government calls to scrap them.
Southend and Basildon councils have rejected calls from Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles to get rid of the controversial cars which film motorists committing parking offences, claiming they are useful and popular.
Mr Pickles, who is MP for Brentwood, is considering changing the law to ban their use, over fears some authorities are using parking as a “cash cow”.
Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said: “Parking enforcement is popular with residents, particularly around schools and high streets.
“When we had the car exclusively for Basildon, it was seen as something very good.
“The whole point is for safety and to keep traffic moving.”
Tony Cox, Southend councillor responsible for transport, said: “They are being used appropriately and in accordance with priorities set by members.”
More than £34,000 in fines have been handed out in Basildon so far this financial year as a result of the spy car, which is operated by South Essex Parking Partnership.
A spy car does not patrol in Castle Point.
In its 26 months of operation, until the end of August, Southend Council’s spy cars have handed out 18,749 tickets, collecting £577,921 in fines.
The cars have cost £513,741 to run during that time.
The authority, which spends £1.6million more on managing parking than it generates in charges and fines, launched a reviewof its use of spy cars last year after residents complained it was targeting particular areas.
It opted to publish the cars’ routes in a bid to combat concerns but all 51 councillors backed its continued use.
Mr Pickles had said he was worried local authorities were using parking fines as a “kind of a cash cow” from motorists, although legislation clearly said that was not allowed.
He added: “The legislation originally was about ensuring it was about stopping crime, not using it as a way to pick out motorists to make that extra few bob.”
A Government consultation paper will suggest amending legislation underpinning the Traffic Management Act 2004 to outlaw the practice.
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