Spy car to catch school-run parents

School-run parents who park illegally face fines of £30 or being taken to court if they are caught out by a spy car that could be operating in the West Midlands later this year.

School-run parents who park illegally face fines of £30 or being taken to court if they are caught out by a spy car that could be operating in the West Midlands later this year.

Several councils are already considering joining a scheme aimed at stopping parents parking dangerously outside schools to drop off or pick up their children.

Sandwell Council is leading a project to lease a vehicle equipped with video cameras and automatic number plate technology, and aims to have the scheme rolled out across the region, with costs split between councils.

Steve Pretty, Walsall Council's head of engineering and transportation, said the use of the vehicle has been discussed at the West Midlands Parking Managers Group and options are currently being considered as to how it could be operated and co-ordinated across the region.

He said: "We are all in agreement that such a vehicle would be beneficial to enhance safety and reduce congestion in certain circumstances such as outside schools, in taxi bays and on red routes where it is often difficult for penalty notices to be issued before a vehicle has driven away."

Wolverhampton City Council spokesman Gurdip Thandi said the authority is prepared to look at all options for controlling illegal and inconsiderate parking including looking into the spy car scheme to assess its viability. He added: "We will monitor how it is used in other local authorities to see if it is a success. Enforcement is already carried out by officers outside some schools to penalise and discourage parents who park dangerously and inconsiderately."

Meanwhile in Stafford the borough council is investigating the possibility of using remote CCTV to catch drivers flouting the law in one-way streets, pedestrianised areas and box junctions. They are also looking into equipping parking wardens with body-mounted cameras. Joint parking committee chairman Bill Simpson has said the measures would help deal with the problem of persistent offenders in the town centre.

Fiona McEvoy from the Taxpayers' Alliance said the scheme could ultimately prove to be a "cash cow" in the long run. She said: "We have to question whether this elaborate scheme will actually solve the problem, or – knowing this council's fondness for fixed penalty notices – just prove to be another cash cow for Sandwell in the long run.

"Obviously school children's safety is a priority but it's difficult to imagine such a response vehicle having an impact across the borough, and whilst taxpayers are still paying for traffic and parking wardens this looks like another case of throwing spag-hetti at a problem and seeing what sticks."

However, Councillor Hussain defended the scheme saying it was justified if it saved the life of a child. He added: "I would do anything if it protects the life of people."

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