Foreign cars costing councils thousands

FOREIGN-registered cars are leaving councils in Suffolk tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.

Anthony Bond

FOREIGN-registered cars are leaving councils in Suffolk tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.

Since October 2005 Ipswich Borough Council has lost out on up to £29,890 after writing off 427 Penalty Charge Notices (PCN's) because it was unable to trace the owner of a foreign-registered vehicle.

This is for offences including parking on double yellow lines and overstaying the time purchased in a pay and display car park.

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St Edmundsbury Borough Council also revealed it has lost out on up to £11,100 after writing off 222 Excess Charge Notices since 2003.

Meanwhile Forest Heath District Council has lost out on up to £2,960 since September 2006, having wrote off 74 Excess Charge Notices.

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The problem occurs because owners of foreign-registered vehicles only need to register with the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) if they have been in the country for longer than six months.

Mandy Chapman, parking manager at Ipswich Borough Council, said it was problem.

“It is more than frustrating for the council but it is also a worry from a health and safety point of view,” she said. “We have no way of telling if these vehicles have an MOT certificate or if they are insured. It is not a good situation to be in.

“The empathy I have is for people who park illegally that have been caught and paid because although they have parked illegally they have paid the penalty. But there are people driving in foreign vehicles in the UK who are flouting that.

“What people need to be aware of is if we fine vehicles not registered with the DVLA then they can collect penalty charges for six months and then leave the country without paying any of them.”

Ipswich MP Chris Mole said there was no reason why somebody coming into the UK should get away with not paying penalties.

“I think there needs to be more awareness among people coming into the UK of the requirements for them to have their vehicles properly registered and identifiable,” he said. “Whether we can add some further checks to vehicles at the points of entry to the UK I do not know. But I am sure it would be worth looking at.”

A spokesman for Suffolk police said: “Foreign-registered vehicles are difficult to trace because we work with the DVLA and they are English registered. Obviously there are other ways to trace vehicles and they will be used where possible but it makes it more difficult.”

A spokesman for the DVLA said enforcement of penalty charges issued to keepers of foreign registered vehicles is a Europe-wide challenge that needs a Europe-wide solution.

“The European Community has recognised the need for data exchange mechanisms and this is an area that is developing continuously,” he said.

A Department for Transport spokesman added: “The Local Transport Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, includes a measure to allow the DVLA to obtain and pass on data from overseas registration authorities. This will help local authorities to send penalty charge notices to the owners of foreign-registered vehicles.”

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