Councils Write Off Millions To Foreign Drivers

Councils across the UK wrote off thousands of parking tickets worth millions of pounds in the last two years as they cannot trace drivers of foreign-registered vehicles they have been issued to.

A range of 20 councils and police forces across the UK which had passenger and freight ferry terminals, ports and other major transport hubs near or in their area responded to a freedom of information request.

Among the highest value of tickets written off were areas including Portsmouth, London, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Westminster City Council said that between July 2007 and October this year, 45,437 tickets worth £3.08 million were written off in parking fines to foreign-registered vehicles as the driver could not be traced, and £3.2 million is still owed.

Lee Rowley, the council's cabinet member for parking, said:

"British taxpayers can no longer foot the bill for foreign motorists who seem to think the rules of this country do not apply to them.

"We would like to see a more rigorous system put in place to hold these drivers to account and send a clear message that this blatant disregard of the law will not be tolerated.''

Portsmouth City Council said between April 2008 and October 31 this year, £110,965 was written off in parking fines for foreign-registered vehicles.

The council said:

"On the expiry of a penalty charge notice (28 days) the DVLA will advise registered keeper details and if they are overseas and outside Portsmouth City Council jurisdiction, then Portsmouth City Council cancels or writes off the amount.''

Southampton City Council said 10 tickets worth 530 issued to foreign-registered vehicles had been written off between January 1 2008 and December 31 2009 as the driver could not be traced. A total of 48 tickets issued to foreign-registered vehicles at a value of 2,520 had been cancelled between January 1 2008 and October 31 this year. The council said 126,578 parking tickets were issued during the period.

A spokeswoman said:

"Where cases have been cancelled we have received communication from the driver, possibly a challenge to which we had we have considered the challenge and accepted it and cancelled the PCN."

Bill Blakemore, director of the SPARKS Network, an association of public authorities that campaigns for more effective cross-border traffic enforcement, said:

"Local authorities will carry on losing money and struggle to enforce parking tickets against foreign-registered vehicles until the Government sets up working arrangements with other European countries to share ownership data.

"Councils need to be able to quickly and easily identify foreign vehicle owners through their number plates, as some continental countries already do.

"But so far the Department for Transport has not chosen to co-operate with our EU partners in this way.''