Foreign drivers escape fines of £110,000

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Portsmouth City Council has written off more than £110,000 of parking fines imposed on drivers of foreign vehicles.

It is one of many councils across the UK which together have written off thousands of parking tickets worth millions of pounds in the last two years as they cannot trace drivers of foreign-registered vehicles they have been issued to.

A range of 20 councils and police forces across the UK which had passenger and freight ferry terminals, ports and other major transport hubs near or in their area responded to a freedom of information request.

Portsmouth had one of the highest value of tickets written off, alongside London, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Portsmouth City Council said between April 2008 and October 31 this year, 110,965 was written off in parking fines for foreign-registered vehicles.

The council said: 'On the expiry of a penalty charge notice (28 days) the DVLA will advise registered keeper details and if they are overseas and outside Portsmouth City Council jurisdiction, then Portsmouth City Council cancels or writes off the amount.'

Westminster City Council said that between July 2007 and October this year, 45,437 tickets worth 3.08 million were written off in parking fines to foreign-registered vehicles as the driver could not be traced, and 3.2 million is still owed.

Lee Rowley, the council's cabinet member for parking, said: 'British taxpayers can no longer foot the bill for foreign motorists who seem to think the rules of this country do not apply to them.

'We would like to see a more rigorous system put in place to hold these drivers to account and send a clear message that this blatant disregard of the law will not be tolerated.'

Newcastle City Council said that 84,470 had been written off in unpaid tickets between April 2008 and December 6 this year.

Other councils said they either did not hold the details or a search of their records would exceed limits under freedom of information requests.

Edinburgh City Council said parking tickets to foreign-registered vehicles worth 233,993.70 were written off in the 2008/09 financial year.

The council's parking operations department also said 211,051 in parking tickets issued to foreign-registered vehicles was written off between April 2009 and October 1 this year after drivers could not be traced and tickets were not paid.

A spokeswoman said: 'There are a number of reasons why a parking ticket could be written off. It could be because the driver cannot be traced, it could also be because signs or road markings were missing, or it could be because the parking attendant made a mistake during the ticket issue.'

Bill Blakemore, director of the SPARKS Network, an association of public authorities that campaigns for more effective cross-border traffic enforcement, said: 'Local authorities will carry on losing money and struggle to enforce parking tickets against foreign-registered vehicles until the Government sets up working arrangements with other European countries to share ownership data.

'Councils need to be able to quickly and easily identify foreign vehicle owners through their number plates, as some continental countries already do.

'But so far the Department for Transport has not chosen to co-operate with our EU partners in this way.'