Pickles unveils populist crackdown on parking charges

Councils will be stopped from "raking in large sums of money" from parking fines under a series of populist proposals unvelied by Eric Pickles ahead of the Conservative party conference.

Local authorities will be banned from using CCTV to prosecute parking offences and motorists will be given a longer "grace period" to return to their cars, the communities secretary said this morning.

"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," Pickles said.

"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."

The conservative party claim councils have used static and car mounted cameras to issue £300 million in the past five years.

A recent study by the audit commission also found that councils earn more through parking charges and other fees, than through council tax.

Local authorities deny using parking policy in order to raise revenue and insist that parking fines are necessary in order to protect vulnerable pedestrians.

"Camera cars have been instrumental in keeping children from being hurt or killed on the way to school, and CCTV plays an important role elsewhere in monitoring traffic flow and keeping cars moving," Tony Ball of the local government association said.

The communities secretary today dismissed these claims as a smokescreen.

"For local authorities to say it is all to save the children. No it isn't. It's about raking in pretty large sums of money," he told the BBC.

Under Pickles' plans, motorists will be given up to 15 minutes grace to return to their cars after their parking time has run out.

The communities secretary said this was necessary so that motorists did "not find themselves in a situation where that they're worried all the time that if they're a few minutes late they will have a whacking great fine."

Motorists' rights to appeal parking fines would also be strengthened under the plans and "unnecessary" yellow lines would be reviewed.

Local authorities today insisted that some of these proposals are already in place.

The government intends to introduce secondary legislation to ban CCTV enforcement of parking in the first half of next year.