Tricks of the wardens
By David Williams Motoring Editor, Evening Standard
2 March 2005
Parking attendants have been caught on camera admitting they cheat drivers to boost the number of tickets they issue. Undercover investigators filmed a series of wardens confessing their top tricks. The film shows them:
Discussing how to give motorists tickets - even after they have driven off.
Lurking in car parks so they can give a ticket the instant the time limit
Observing a motorist stopped on a yellow line for less than the required full five minutes before issuing a ticket.
Learning dubious "tricks of the trade" from supervisors.
An undercover reporter working for Apcoa in Southwark even filmed a warden who ticketed a motorist asleep at the wheel instead of moving him on.
The Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, Confessions Of A Parking Attendant, also infiltrated the HQ of Capita, which runs the congestion charge for Transport for London (TfL). It shows how Capita officials left a desperate woman at the mercy of bailiffs even though she sold the vehicle in question before the congestion charge was introduced. An independent tribunal cleared her name.
The filmmakers say Capita's computers frequently crashed, leaving callers trapped in a "complicated penalty web". They accuse the firm of running a "rigid" system in which small mistakes by drivers quickly became "costly fines".
At Apcoa in Southwark, a reporter was told by a supervisor: "The best way to hit them is you go in groups. Two people having a hand-held [computer] ... just sneak in from somewhere - someone to distract them." In another case wardens are told to ticket a distraught woman whose car has broken down.
The documentary claims some councils collude with contractors to set ticket number targets and parking firms are penalised if they fail to reach them. But it also exposes the violent attacks and frequent abuse meted out to attendants.
RAC Foundation executive director Edmund King, who appears in the programme, said: "Many of the scenes are everyday occurrences across Britain. We are in danger of becoming a Big Brother state run by inhumane bureaucrats."
Today Apcoa said if it discovered any wrongdoing, disciplinary action would follow. It said some comments in the film were "canteen-culture banter" that was not an accurate reflection of real life.
Richard Thomas of Southwark council said: "Parking illegally causes congestion and is dangerous. We don't want to raise income, we want people to park legally." He said cases of alleged unfair treatment would be investigated.
Capita and TfL criticised Channel 4 for not letting them see the film in advance. A TfL spokesman said: "We will take on board any legitimate criticisms levelled."