A highly-critical report of parking enforcement, branding current policy inconsistent, has been published by the Commons transport committee.
Clamping persistent offenders would be 'proportionate', say MPs
Who enforces parking restrictions?
It is now 15 years since local authorities were given the power to take over control of parking enforcement from the police.
In total, enforcement has been "decriminalised" in 75 local authorities and 33 London boroughs.
In 2003, local authority parking attendants issued 7,123,000 penalty charge notices, while the police issued 1,043,000 notices, says the report.
Why do we need parking enforcement?
An estimated 50 million illegal parking acts take place every year in London alone.
According to the committee, the scale and cost of illegal parking throughout Britain is not known but clearly significant.
In London illegal parking is estimated to cost £270m a year in additional delays and accidents.
Breaking parking restrictions disrupts traffic, increases road congestion, heightens levels of danger, causes injuries and delays public transport, it says.
What are the committee's main findings?
The MPs call for a single unified system of parking enforcement under the control of local authorities.
The police, they say, have failed to enforce parking regulations properly for years because of more pressing priorities.
Before that happens, the MPs want to see a number of improvements to the decriminalised system.
For example, traffic wardens should get better pay and training, and there should be clear performance standards in applying parking restrictions.
Scrutiny of council parking operations by the Department for Transport and the Audit Commission should be improved.
What about appealing against a parking fine?
According to MPs, many people can be unclear about the appeal process, with instances where appeal information is omitted from "notice to owner" letters sent out by authorities.
And while motorists have 28 days to appeal against a penalty, there is no time limit for local authorities, which the committee calls "plainly unfair".
It also wants a 14-day discount period on the fine re-offered to offenders if they decide to appeal but then lose.
What about wheel-clamping?
The report also directs its attention to wheel clamping, which it says is a powerful and visible deterrent to illegal parking.
It says clamping is a severe penalty which must be applied "proportionately".
It calls on the government to consider restricting the use of wheel clamping to persistent offenders and unregistered vehicles.
The RAC said it was "delighted" that the report tackled the "scourge of cowboy clampers".
"The committee has recommended that wheel-clamping on private land should be treated in the same way as on-street clamping, with a proper code of practice and an appeals system," said its executive director, Edmund King.