Page last updated at 12:45 GMT, Friday, 31 July 2009 13:45 UK

A third as many wardens as police

By Ed Davey
BBC News, London

Trafic warden
Campaigners believe that wardens effectively outnumber police

The small army of traffic wardens patrolling inner London numbers one third of the entire police force deployed to keep the area safe.

Some 900 wardens patrol the 13 inner London boroughs - compared with 2,989 police on the beat on the average day.

The Taxpayers' Alliance said: "Taxpayers would rather more money was spent on catching criminals than fining people for petty parking offences."

But parking operator NSL Services said they provide a "vital service."

The numbers were released to the BBC after a Freedom of Information request.

With all the police protecting Parliament there will effectively be more wardens on the street than coppers - it can't be right
Neil Herron, parking campaigner

Matthew Elliott, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "If the proportion of police to traffic wardens is this out of kilter in central London - where so many police are deployed to protect key government buildings - it must be even worse elsewhere."

He continued: "I find it very surprising. People would expect traffic wardens to be equivalent to about 10% of the police force at most."

Mr Elliott was echoed by parking campaigner Neil Herron who said: "With all the police protecting Parliament and other strategic buildings there will effectively be more wardens on the street than coppers.

"It can't be right.

The London boroughs with the most wardens on duty:
Westminster - 224*
Camden - 120
Wandsworth - 87
Kensington and Chelsea - 85
Lambeth - 83
Islington - 80
* Westminster would only confirm they pay for 1,571 traffic warden shifts on the roads each week. The figure is 1,571 divided by seven days

"This shows the system is out of balance, out of control and needs to be completely overhauled.

"We have to stand up and say 'we have had enough'."

But not all agreed.

A London Councils spokeswoman said: "Parking enforcement is carried out to keep London moving, to maintain the safety of all road users and to ensure limited parking space is available for those who need it."

Tim Cowan, of NSL Services - formerly NCP Parking - said: "This demonstrates why decriminalised parking enforcement is the best way to manage parking.

"We provide a vital public service."

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