A former traffic warden has described parking enforcement as a “money-making machine” in which his former employees would ruthlessly issue tickets despite not being on commission or bonuses.
The former employee, who worked for Merton Council for several years, described a variety of techniques used including “hot spotting”, in which officers will ignore residents parking zones and focus on pay and display bays.
He said: “The expectation is that, if you are on an area such as Worple Road in Wimbledon, you wouldn’t worry too much about checking residential bays.
“Instead you check the pay and display on Worple Road and Mansel Road where the school is and keep going backwards and forwards because you are, on average, likely to find the most tickets there.
“It’s an unwritten law. If you concentrate on pay and display around that area, you’re not going round other roads checking who’s illegally parking in residential bays, so residents get a worse service because of hot spotting.
“You would never find a document on it or anyone that would admit to it.”
In recent years, many residents have complained to the Wimbledon Guardian about traffic wardens being over-zealous in giving out tickets.
In October 2010, Merton Council was criticised for using "underhand tactics" after their traffic wardens were driving around in an "old banger" and issued a ticket within one minute, before the motorist had a chance to buy a permit.
And last week, we highlighted a case where a CCTV enforcement van had parked on double yellow lines to catch out cars stopped in a box junction in Merton Park.
Merton Council states clearly on its website that “no targets are given and no bonuses are paid” to parking officers.
But, the former employee said, colleagues did not need such incentives to issue fines.
He explained: “There was always a few that would do anything to get on the other side the road to issue this parking ticket and you think to yourself ‘why’?
“If you dash across the road and you get run over the authority will wash their hands of you.
“The motorist would be mortified because you have run out in front of the car, but they would do it.”
In 2011, a five-minute grace period, which allowed the motorists time to purchase another ticket or return to their car after their ticket expired, was reduced to two minutes.
But our informant said there was nothing to stop officers ignoring this guideline, which is devised to allow for discrepancies in timekeeping because of differences in the clocks.
He said: “A lot of people will see your ticket is expiring at 2pm and give you a ticket at 2pm. They probably won’t check in the office.
“There should be a random check of everybody’s tickets but they don’t care because it’s money and it’s only a policy – a guideline.”
The revelations came as the council admitted 5,007 tickets were wrongly issued in 2010-11 – nearly 10 per cent of the total issued of 58,642.
The former parking warden said: “Of the 53,000 tickets that people paid how many of those tickets were issued incorrectly and people didn’t complain because they didn’t know? It’s just a money-making game.”
A Merton Council spokeswoman said: “We work hard to make sure all PCNs issued are accurate, but we respond to legitimate representations and cancel them where appropriate.”
This story is part of the Wimbledon Guardian's PARKING MADNESS series, in which we call on readers to help us promote a just and transparent system of parking enforcement in Merton.