SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan has expressed his disappointment that Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd has refused to relax existing timeframes for the payment of Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs).
Mr Durkan had proposed extending the timeframe individuals can benefit from a 50% discount when paying parking fines, from 14 days to six weeks in a bid to ease the financial pressures facing people as household bills soar.
He said this small move would alleviate the burden on impacted individuals and has suggested that all caretaker ministers should consider what steps they can take within their own departments to push back against spiralling costs.
Foyle MLA Mr Durkan said:
“Parking enforcement within our communities plays an important role and while I’m in no way suggesting that people should not be fined for violation of these rules, I am asking for leniency with regards to existing timeframes. Currently, motorists fined for parking contraventions are given 28 days to pay a £90 penalty, however, if paid within the first two-weeks individuals can benefit from a reduced rate of £45. Those exceeding the 28-day window must pay an increased charge of £135. What I have proposed is a six-week period permitting individuals to access the lower rate of £45.
“I cannot accept Minister O’Dowd’s rationale for rejecting this proposal, in which he states that as PCNs are intended to discourage illegal parking, his department has no plans to change the discount period. I’m not asking for charges to be scrapped and the existing penalty, albeit at a discounted rate, would still serve its purpose as a deterrent.
“Current rules unfairly punish those who cannot afford to take advantage of the two-week window. This approach is fundamentally flawed and the reality is that more and more people will see themselves disadvantaged as the cost of living crisis deepens. The aim of parking enforcement has always been to discourage illegal parking and not about making money and I believe that all ministers should demonstrate their willingness to help people by implementing small steps such as this one. It is doable and we saw a similar approach taken by previous Minister Nichola Mallon when she instigated a massive scale-back of enforcement during the pandemic.
“While the continued absence of an Executive has restricted what actions caretaker ministers can take, it’s important to acknowledge that departments are not completely hamstrung. There are steps which can and should be taken to provide some assistance to people struggling in the current financial climate. Minister O’Dowd’s failure to act on this relatively simple ask is indicative of a lackadaisical approach by caretaker ministers, their unwillingness to do the bare minimum in the face of such hardship is unacceptable.”