Parking rules in Lancashire will be enforced directly by Lancashire County Council for the first time from this autumn.

The wardens who patrol the county’s streets will come under the authority’s control as of September 1.

County Hall says that the move will enable it to be more responsive in tackling problem parking wherever it arises.

Ever since the county council took over parking enforcement from the police – when parking breaches were decriminalised in Lancashire in 2004 – the authority has outsourced the work to private contractors. Its current arrangement with NSL Limited to do that job will end in just over a month.

From that point, Lancashire County Council will take the service in-house, where it will form an end-to-end operation with the team responsible for processing parking tickets and fines, which is already run by the authority itself.

The county council is ultimately responsible for the enforcement of all on-street parking regulations across Lancashire – except in Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen – whether it chooses to outsource the role or not.

Off-street car parks are controlled by local district councils, many of which employ private parking firms to monitor their facilities and issue tickets. Burnley, Chorley, Fylde, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Pendle Preston and West Lancashire councils jointly have such an arrangement.

The enforcement system currently operating in Lancashire’s off-street car parks will not change as a result of the county council’s decision.

County Cllr Charlie Edwards, cabinet member for highways and transport, said that taking direct control of monitoring on-street parking will bring “a number of benefits to the way we enforce the restrictions, which are there to keep our roads safe and ensure everyone can travel efficiently”.

“Having direct control over day-to-day enforcement activities will allow us greater flexibility over how resources are deployed. For example, we will be able to change enforcement and deployment patterns to deter poor parking and make better use of more up-to-date technology to manage the service more effectively and efficiently.

“It also means we can ensure that those who are responsible for delivering the service do so to the county council’s standards, vision and values.

“It will also allow Parking Services to contribute more effectively to the council’s wider objectives, for example by adopting use of electric vehicles as part of the net-zero carbon agenda, which is something we are currently working to put in place in the near future.

“In terms of ‘back office’ functions, the processing of parking penalties will continue to be provided by the existing team we have in place,” County Cllr Edwards said.

The police remain responsible for taking action over parking which is considered an obstruction – such as when vehicles are parked wholly or partly on pavements – unless yellow line restrictions are in force along the corresponding stretch of road, in which case councils are permitted to issue fines in the usual way.

The county council will continue to outsource the role of recovering unpaid parking and bus lane penalty charge notices (PCNs). Cabinet members recently gave the go-ahead to start the search for a company to undertake that work – which is also currently provided by NSL Limited – once the present contract ends next month.

A cabinet meeting heard that the new contract would be based on an assumption that 35 percent of outstanding fines would be recovered – although deputy leader Alan Vincent expressed his hope that the collection rate would rise.

When a motorist fails to pay a PCN within the time allowed, it increases by 50 percent.

Ultimately, a warrant can be issued by a central court facility which authorises councils to send bailiffs to recover their debts. Also known as enforcement agents, they add on their own fees which are charged to the person who owes the money.

Almost 13,500 PCN-related warrants were issued in the Lancashire County Council area in 2019.

County Cllr Edwards said of the changes to the provision of enforcement agency services: “This was previously included as part of the wider parking services contract with NSL, but having direct oversight of the contract should result in benefits in terms of customer service and being able to quickly resolve any issues which may arise.”

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