We are not talking apples and pears but parking fines. We are often grumping about penalty charge notices (PCNs) in Ludlow. At times, there is a feeling that we are targeted. Is that the case? I thought I’d take a look on how many fines are handed out across the county. In 2017/18, Shropshire Council’s civil enforcement officers handed out nearly 14,000 PCNs. Half of them were, unsurprisingly, slapped on windscreens in Shrewsbury. Bridgnorth came next, followed by Ludlow. Trailing by some way is Oswestry.
Nearly 40 tickets a day were issued across the unitary area, five of them in Ludlow. They raised an income of around £440,000, rather less than the £590,000 cost of running the civil enforcement service.
2018 was a year dominated by debates on car parking charges. Meanwhile, parking tickets continued to be issued. Last December, I asked the council how many penalty charge notices (PCNs) were issued in 2017/18.
It is obvious that most PCNs are issued in Shrewsbury. Ludlow comes third, behind Bridgnorth. 
To understand this data, it helps to consider the size of the market towns. In the right-hand columns above, I have calculated the number of PCNs per 1,000 head of population and ranked the market towns.
This rather crude analysis shows that Bridgnorth can proudly claim itself the “car parking fine capital” for Shropshire. It can proclaim itself a 7×7 town, seven penalty tickets every day of the week. Somehow, I don’t expect the good burghers of Bridgnorth to promote their town as somewhere you have more chance of a yellow ticket on your windscreen than of winning the lottery.
Ludlow trails somewhat behind the county’s champion. A mere 1,722 PCNs in 2017/18, five a day.
Shropshire Council’s standard reaction to complaints about the level of fines is that “it shows the level of need”. I am not convinced by that argument.
Ludlow’s car parks are threadbare. You can’t see the lines for bays in many places. I know of one driver who received a PCN for parking in the disabled bays behind the former Budgens. I have no sympathy for anyone who parks in a disabled space but these PCNs are unenforceable because the markings are eroded and signs have been removed.
Part of the reason we have a high level of fines is confusion over where you can park and how long you can park. Another problem is that Shropshire Council insists on payment up front. A pay as you leave system would be more effective.
I also asked about the cost of the service. In 2017/18, the cost was £586,334. PCNs raised £437,584, 74% the cost of running the service. I asked the council why the cost of the civil enforcement officers is above income. The response was:
“[Parking enforcement] is not the only role that they undertake. The also collect cash from parking machines and undertake parking machine maintenance/ticket replenishment, together with other enforcement functions that relate to matters such as Blue Badge fraud and using or leaving a vehicle in the Square in Shrewsbury. These other enforcement functions are criminal matters and are not controlled under the civil regime.”
This is a rather confusing answer. Given that there was not a single prosecution for Blue Badge fraud in Shropshire last year, this cannot take up a lot of time for civil enforcement officers.  I cannot see that this and shooing casual parkers out of The Square in Shrewsbury needs a budget of £150,000 a year. That would repair a lot of potholes and refurbish the lines on a lot of car parks.
Shropshire Council should take a serious look at how much it spends on civil enforcement and whether it is value for money. It is important that people who park in disabled spaces and block access are moved on or fined. But the parking regime must also work in a way that ensures that the economies of market towns like Ludlow and Bridgnorth thrive. It doesn’t do that at present.
 Most of the car parks in Oswestry are owned by the town council so are not enforced by Shropshire Council.
 “Section 94 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 serves as an amendment to s21 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. Under the terms of the act, Police officers, traffic wardens and civil enforcement officers have the powered to inspect Blue Badges from anyone getting into or out of a vehicle displaying a badge. It is a criminal offence for anyone to fail (without reasonable excuse) to provide the badge for inspection. Only Police officers have the right to confiscate the badge, at which point they may then hand it over to the local authority for use as evidence in any resulting prosecution. This will also take the badge out of circulation.” Source: London Councils.