Big Brother 'spy car' is watching parking sites

thisisoxfordshire: A Citroen Berlingo. Oxford City Council is using an adapted version of the van to monitor its car parks A Citroen Berlingo. Oxford City Council is using an adapted version of the van to monitor its car parks

A £30,000 ‘spy car’ is being used by Oxford City Council to catch motorists who fail to pay their parking fees.

The council bought a Citroen Berlingo last March and has kitted it out with cameras that scan motorists’ number plates in its car parks to alert wardens if a fee has not been paid.

The existence of the car only emerged last week following a report by privacy campaigner Big Brother Watch over councils’ use of CCTV cameras to enforce parking and traffic infractions and today the Oxford Mail can reveal what it is being used for.

However, city council spokeswoman Louisa Dean said there were no figures on how many fines its deployment had led to. Fines are issued manually by wardens after they have been alerted that a driver has not paid for their parking.

The council said it was proving to be a valuable addition for its parking system but Liberal Democrat leader Jean Fooks was uncomfortable with its use.

Mrs Fooks said: “I think people should pay for parking fines, obviously, but it does make me feel uncomfortable.

“The county council has cameras on High Street but at least people know they are there, people don’t know it (the ANPR vehicle) exists.

“The city council has spent public money on this and I’m sure people would like to know if it is cost-effective and how many people it has caught.

“Figures should be made available.”

Big Brother Watch has dubbed such vehicles as ‘spy cars’, but Ms Dean defended its use. She also rejected criticism that fines were simply an additional form of cash for the council.

She said: “Parking enforcement is not about quotas or income generated from penalties, it is about improving safety and traffic flow.

“We also need to manage supply and demand for car parking spaces in an extremely busy city.

“We are pleased with the ANPR vehicle as it speeds up the process for enforcement officers to check if cars are parked illegally.”

Big Brother Watch director Nick Pickles said: “The fact the council doesn’t record proper statistics about the penalties being issued only begs the question if they are trying to hide the facts from the public.”

During the 2012-13 financial year – prior to the Berlingo’s use – Oxford City Council made a surplus on its parking charges of £4.56m, a rise on the previous 12 months.

Last week’s report by Big Brother Watch revealed the county council’s cameras enforcing restrictions on the city’s bus gates had caught 94,217 motorists between April 2008 and March 31 last year. It had received £3.3m in fines.

Comments (8)

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8:01am Mon 21 Apr 14

norton manor says...

this is like the replacement of street wardens with the Community Response Team and their CTV. it save having someone going around on foot to enforce local bylaws.
this is like the replacement of street wardens with the Community Response Team and their CTV. it save having someone going around on foot to enforce local bylaws. norton manor
  • Score: 0

2:02pm Mon 21 Apr 14

Lord Palmerstone says...

norton manor wrote:
this is like the replacement of street wardens with the Community Response Team and their CTV. it save having someone going around on foot to enforce local bylaws.
Don't think Dixie Dean need worry too much about "traffic flow" Who can afford to park in Oxford, the Forbidden City? All public bodies are parasitic; just that the Soviet of Oxford is a little more tapeworm like than most.
[quote][p][bold]norton manor[/bold] wrote: this is like the replacement of street wardens with the Community Response Team and their CTV. it save having someone going around on foot to enforce local bylaws.[/p][/quote]Don't think Dixie Dean need worry too much about "traffic flow" Who can afford to park in Oxford, the Forbidden City? All public bodies are parasitic; just that the Soviet of Oxford is a little more tapeworm like than most. Lord Palmerstone
  • Score: 1

5:04pm Mon 21 Apr 14

King Joke says...

Lord Palmerstone wrote:
norton manor wrote:
this is like the replacement of street wardens with the Community Response Team and their CTV. it save having someone going around on foot to enforce local bylaws.
Don't think Dixie Dean need worry too much about "traffic flow" Who can afford to park in Oxford, the Forbidden City? All public bodies are parasitic; just that the Soviet of Oxford is a little more tapeworm like than most.
Our main roads are choked at peak times, so clearly someone can afford it.
[quote][p][bold]Lord Palmerstone[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]norton manor[/bold] wrote: this is like the replacement of street wardens with the Community Response Team and their CTV. it save having someone going around on foot to enforce local bylaws.[/p][/quote]Don't think Dixie Dean need worry too much about "traffic flow" Who can afford to park in Oxford, the Forbidden City? All public bodies are parasitic; just that the Soviet of Oxford is a little more tapeworm like than most.[/p][/quote]Our main roads are choked at peak times, so clearly someone can afford it. King Joke
  • Score: -2

6:38pm Mon 21 Apr 14

Cityview says...

There is a simple solution to reduce the number of vehicles caught going through the bus only zones. Make changes to the legislation so we can go back to the old red and white "No entry except for ....." signs. As soon as they were replaced with the white restriction signs no body understood them or saw them. Every time I am in Oxford you will see confused looking tourists sailing unaware through the signs and presumably getting a ticket some days later. Not a great way to encourage them back, A red and white "No entry sign is rarely ignored.
There is a simple solution to reduce the number of vehicles caught going through the bus only zones. Make changes to the legislation so we can go back to the old red and white "No entry except for ....." signs. As soon as they were replaced with the white restriction signs no body understood them or saw them. Every time I am in Oxford you will see confused looking tourists sailing unaware through the signs and presumably getting a ticket some days later. Not a great way to encourage them back, A red and white "No entry sign is rarely ignored. Cityview
  • Score: 6

8:12am Tue 22 Apr 14

King Joke says...

The 'beware low-flying motorcycles' sign you speak of is perfectly clear and should be understood.

I agree with you however, as 'should be' and 'is' are two different things! the 'no entry' sign is much more universally known.

I suspect you'd run into protests from High St traders who would prefer more traffic on the High not less - they'd argue that after 1830 the 'no entry' sign was not correct, even if it were qualified with time restrictions.
The 'beware low-flying motorcycles' sign you speak of is perfectly clear and should be understood. I agree with you however, as 'should be' and 'is' are two different things! the 'no entry' sign is much more universally known. I suspect you'd run into protests from High St traders who would prefer more traffic on the High not less - they'd argue that after 1830 the 'no entry' sign was not correct, even if it were qualified with time restrictions. King Joke
  • Score: 1

4:41pm Tue 22 Apr 14

my,say says...

This is one of the worse councils in England. Just want to make as much money as they can and never want to improve services apart from wasting money on road surface that fall apart after a month.
This is one of the worse councils in England. Just want to make as much money as they can and never want to improve services apart from wasting money on road surface that fall apart after a month. my,say
  • Score: 2

8:06pm Tue 22 Apr 14

King Joke says...

my,say wrote:
This is one of the worse councils in England. Just want to make as much money as they can and never want to improve services apart from wasting money on road surface that fall apart after a month.
I read a fair few other local news sites. As I understand it from the comments on news stories, from Bristol to Edinburgh, and doubtless beyond these, councils are hopeless, officers are all clueless and councillors are all taking back-handers. It seems everyone is convinced their council is the worst (different from worse by the way) in the country.
[quote][p][bold]my,say[/bold] wrote: This is one of the worse councils in England. Just want to make as much money as they can and never want to improve services apart from wasting money on road surface that fall apart after a month.[/p][/quote]I read a fair few other local news sites. As I understand it from the comments on news stories, from Bristol to Edinburgh, and doubtless beyond these, councils are hopeless, officers are all clueless and councillors are all taking back-handers. It seems everyone is convinced their council is the worst (different from worse by the way) in the country. King Joke
  • Score: 0

10:58pm Sun 27 Apr 14

Arnold.Brewer says...

So they have £30000 to fund this and nothing to empty our litter bins, what an appalling Council we have
So they have £30000 to fund this and nothing to empty our litter bins, what an appalling Council we have Arnold.Brewer
  • Score: 1

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