There’s nothing like a parking ticket to ruin an otherwise pleasant day, and in the U.K., they’re being ruined at record levels. The 4.2 million tickets issued by town halls in England and Wales (excluding London) from April 2009 to March 2010 was nearly twice the number in 2002-03, according to figures from the country’s Traffic Penalty Tribunal. The increase has led to accusations that councils are using the resulting funds to fill out their budgets, which were shrunk by deep spending cuts announced by the British government last October. “We can only suspect they do want to increase revenue,” says Paul Watters, a spokesman for the Automobile Association, commenting on the rise in tickets, as well as plans by some councils to step up fine amounts.
The tribunal, however, insists the increase is simply a result of more communities opting to take over parking enforcement from police, which has been an option since 1992. The U.K.’s Traffic Management Act states councils aren’t allowed to generate revenue through fines and must reinvest in improving transportation. But “local authority finances are complex,” says Watters. “It is hard to prove any sleight of hand.”