Hartlepool Council chiefs deny claims there is ‘widespread abuse’ of CCTV spy car

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COUNCIL chiefs have refuted a Government minister’s claims that there is “widespread abuse” of CCTV camera cars.

Road safety minister Robert Goodwill says the use of CCTV spy cars, like the one used by Hartlepool Borough Council to snare illegally-parked vehicles, will be severely restricted amid a “deeply rooted public perception” that local authorities view the cars as “cash cows” to boost coffers.

But Councillor Peter Jackson, chairman of the council’s neighbourhood services committee, says the town’s camera car has been used correctly, only around schools, in bus lanes, at bus stops, on pedestrian zig zags, cycle paths and on no waiting routes, which is where Mr Goodwill is saying CCTV cars should be limited to.

Mr Goodwill said nationally profits from parking penalties more than doubled from £223m to £512m between 1998 and 2011 – expected to rise to £635m in 2014 and that some councils have been using camera cars as a matter of routine, adding: “That is not acceptable.

“The surveillance camera code of practice has long been clear that CCTV should be used sparingly and only where other means of enforcement are unpractical to promote safety and to tackle congestion.”

Hartlepool’s camera car imposed 1,846 tickets in 2011-12, 1,574 in 2012-13, 1,358 in 2013-14 and 305 so far this financial year.

But Coun Jackson said: “This effectively backs up what we said last year – we use the car properly for safety. I will always support the camera car when used in the right way.”

Phil Hepburn, the council’s parking services manager, said: “It is true that the Government has expressed concern over some CCTV vehicles being used inappropriately, prompting calls for measures to regulate or even ban the use of such vehicles for some types of parking enforcement.

“In Hartlepool, we have only ever operated within the parameters of the established government guidelines for such enforcement. Hartlepool council has been an active campaigner in the development of good practice within the industry, working with the British Parking Association and other local authorities to help develop and improve a national clear and transparent policy.

“Indeed, Hartlepool has been used as a ‘blueprint’ example of good practice which other local authorities throughout the country have followed.”