Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

How traffic wardens out-earn countries

Beach in the Seychelles and London traffic warden
Worlds apart - but the GDP of the Seychelles is comparable to that of London's parking economy

Most drivers know the feeling of returning to their vehicles to see an angry yellow packet stuck to the windscreen.

But the £60 price tag is truly a drop in the ocean - because, according to BBC London analysis, parking rakes in nearly half a billion pounds for authorities in the city each year.

Ed Davey reports on the parking industry worth more than entire countries.

If London's army of traffic wardens and forest of pay-and-display machines were a sovereign nation, they would rank as the 171st most wealthy country on earth.

The city's 32 metropolitan boroughs plus Transport for London raised more than £456m in the last tax year.

That is just below the gross domestic product of every man, woman and child in oil-rich Liberia or the Seychelles, with its booming luxury tourism industry.

The BBC used Freedom of Information requests to analyse how much each council raised from issuing residents permits, dishing out tickets to people who park unlawfully and running pay and display systems.

Barrie Segal
I always used to say you could run a small country on the money generated by parking and this research shows it is literally true
Barrie Segal, parking campaigner

The combined total shows the full extent of revenues from parking.

By comparison, World Bank figures show there are more than 30 countries with an economy rated as smaller than that of London's parking regime.

Dr Richard Dawood, a GP based in Camden, north London, fought a lengthy battle with Camden Council over tickets issued to his scooter while it was parked on land he owned.

Dr Dawood said: "The figure of nearly half a billion is absolutely astonishing - I had no idea it was so big.

"This is a huge sum raised by what is effectively taxation and it contributes to the siege mentality everyone in London feels when driving."

He continued: "Traffic wardens have this 'gotcha' mentality. But the money they raise is directly deducted from normal people's quality of life."

At first glance, the globe-trotting stars of Chelsea FC might seem a world away from the humble traffic warden.

But the city's parking officials out earn the wealth generated by the likes of Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba by more than two-to-one.

Figures from accountancy firm Deloitte show that Chelsea's income last year was £212m - under half of London's parking revenue.

'On the attack'

Parking campaigner Barrie Segal said: "The point is that if you look at the way wardens operate, they score far more often than Chelsea do.

"Parking attendants are always on the attack, so they have no need for a defence like Chelsea's."

Mr Segal, who runs parking website Appeal Now, continued: "This research shows that parking really is big business.

"I always used to say you could run a small country on the money generated by parking and this research shows it is literally true."

Top earning London councils from parking
Westminster - £72m
Camden - £39m
Kensington and Chelsea - £34m
Wandsworth - £26m
Islington - £23m

And it is not just countries.

London's parking revenue is three times the Mayor of London's budget (£127.8m) and more than the £405m annual cost of the London Fire Brigade, the world's third largest firefighting organisation.

Tim Cowan is a spokesman for NSL, which carries out parking enforcement for London councils.

He said the UK's recent economic problems have failed to dent revenues generated by parking.

Mr Cowan said: "Even though you have a lot of bad news about the financial outlook, London is a large city and you will see quite surprising sums of money still being raised from parking.


"There are a lot of cars in London."

He described the total income as "eye-opening".

But a spokesman for London Councils insisted: "It is not a money-making scheme.

"There have been three investigations and no-one has come up with any evidence of boroughs using parking to make money."

A Transport for London (TfL) spokeswoman added: ''TfL enforces traffic regulations to keep the red route network moving safely for the benefit of all road users."

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