COUNCIL ‘spy cars’ used to catch people parking illegally cost more to run than they generate in fines.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) has three CCTV camera cars which film people who break parking rules and issue them with tickets.
But the cost of running the so-called ‘spy cars’ over the past two years has exceeded the amount of money generated through fines.
CWaC has spent £8,502 keeping the controversial vehicles on the road but the total income brought in was only £6,950 meaning there was a £1,552 deficit.
However, the council said the cars were also used to catch people misusing disabled parking badges, dog owners who don’t clean up after their pets, people who litter and have even filmed drug dealers outside schools.
Councils have come under heavy fire for using CCTV-equipped cars to enforce parking restrictions, with the Department for Transport saying CCTV should only be used when it is impractical to use traffic wardens.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has been one of the biggest critics and last month he unveiled proposals to ban councils from using mobile cameras to impose parking fines on motorists.
Mr Pickles described them as a ‘step too far’ and said some councils were treating parking fines as a ‘cash cow’.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show CWaC issued 133 parking fines using CCTV camera cars between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013, and another 18 between April 1, 2013, and October 7, 2013.
Motorists were fined for being parked on a taxi rank or being parked in restricted areas outside schools. Most of the offenders were caught in Bridge Street in Chester and Marina Drive in Ellesmere Port.
CWaC said the camera cars were only used for parking enforcement when it was impractical or inappropriate for traffic wardens to patrol on foot.
The council added the figures were liable to change as some fines were still being collected.
“The amounts are only a snap shot in time as we are still running the process of collection for some penalty charge notices Issued,” said the authority.
“The use of the vehicles for parking enforcement is only one element of how they are used, as they also assist us with the detection of blue badge fraud, dog fouling and littering and have also recorded drug dealing outside of schools.”
The Local Government Association has also defended the use of so-called ‘spy cars’.
Cllr Tony Ball, vice-chairman of the economy and transport board, said: "Camera cars have been instrumental in keeping children from being hurt or killed on the way to school and CCTV plays an important role elsewhere in monitoring traffic flow and keeping cars moving.
“Nobody likes getting a parking fine but the fact that less than one per cent go to adjudication shows that in the vast majority of cases councils get it right.”
l SHOULD the council be using CCTV cars to catch people parking illegally? Let us know what you think about the controversial vehicles on firstname.lastname@example.org