It would appear that taxpayers are footing the bill for yet more benefits for public sectors workers. This time it's free gifts, paid lunches and afternoons off work for traffic wardens who obtain the most revenue from parking penalties.
The bonus system came to light after a briefing was leaked by Bristol City Council. The “performance-based” scheme finds a loophole from parking regulations, which stipulates that councils are prohibited from handing out cash bonuses to traffic wardens. Instead teams of traffic wardens who issue the most parking tickets and generate the most money from penalties are rewarded with buffet lunches and afternoons off work. Also the individual within the team who successfully makes the most money from issuing parking tickets is given a gift pen.
This naturally raises questions over the very premise of such a scheme - it potentially incentivises traffic wardens to be overzealous in issuing parking tickets in order to get a free lunch and then go home for the afternoon. Bristol City Council argues that this is not the case, stating the system is designed to reward good service and not increase the number of parking tickets. A spokeswoman said:
“The scheme is aimed at improving the quality of the service. The team is rewarded for compliments, courtesy and punctuality.
“The finger buffet lunch – £50 for the entire group – held at our operational base, is a working lunch where issues such as team morale and service improvements are discussed.”
However the statements contain a complete contradiction, with Bristol City Council arguing that the scheme rewards traffic wardens who generate the most revenue and also aids the council in improving parking services. What is more worrying is that the scheme goes against the basis on which parking enforcement was granted to local authorities. The Road Traffic Act of 1991 permitted local authorities to apply for legal powers to take over parking enforcement and retain the revenue generated from parking tickets.
However it was promised that with local authorities obtaining this extra revenue, council tax would decrease. Of course, council tax has continued to rise and it would appear that surplus from parking penalties is going towards showering traffic wardens with benefits. Once again the taxpayer is the loser, with high council taxes and an increased likelihood of being slapped with a parking penalty from predatory traffic wardens.