A Welsh council has made more than £115,000 in fines in the two years since it started using a mobile ‘robowarden’ which drives around recording people’s illegal parking.
In February 2019, Carmarthenshire Council introduced a new way of catching out people who park in forbidden areas across the county’s towns. This happens thanks to a white Toyota Auris – named Iolo Patrolo by local schoolchildren – which is driven around by a civil enforcement officer.
The vehicle has two cameras on its roof – one pointing left and one pointing right – which records evidence against people who park in certain areas such as designated pedestrian zones, bus stops, taxi areas and pedestrian crossings. That evidence is then reviewed by council officers and, if a parking offence is confirmed, a fine of up to £70 is sent to the offender after information is obtained from the DVLA.
You can read more about how the system works here.
The system, including the car, the cameras and the accompanying software, cost the council around £55,000.
That amount has already been recouped, however, as figures obtained by Carmarthenshire Council have revealed. Between April 2019 (a few weeks after Iolo Patrolo was active) and April 2020, £80,002 in fines were paid to the council by members of the public penalised by the use of the camera enforcement system.
In the most recent 12-month period (between April 2020 and April this year), the amount paid in fines was £36,668 – an amount no doubt affected by the coronavirus pandemic and various lockdowns, meaning towns like Carmarthen and Llanelli were naturally quieter.
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In terms of the number of penalty notices sent out, the council issued 2,768 in 2019-20 and 1,113 in 2020-21. Most of those have been handed out in relation to parking offences carried out in Carmarthen, but the car has also been deployed and used in Llanelli, Burry Port and Llandeilo, particularly near schools, while further school sites are soon to be included in the vehicle’s enforcement patrol areas.
When use of the vehicle was launched, Carmarthen’s Guildhall and Nott squares were said to be the “key priority” for the council, after both become synonymous with cars being parked in what are supposed to be pedestrianised areas.
However, the car quickly started to target people parked in other areas too. A few months after the car started being in operation, a pensioner from Carmarthen was fined when he dropped off a bag of items at a charity shop in Lammas Street in the town centre.
Unbeknown to him, his good deed had actually cost him £70 because Iolo Patrolo had driven past the local branch of the Salvation Army as he was parked outside – for one minute. Remaining philosophical about his financial penalty, the man said: “I was considering appealing because I was only there for a minute but at the end of the day, that’s the rules.”
Asked what the money raised through the camera enforcement system is spent on, the council said it is used to cover “operational costs”, with any surplus cash reinvested in local transport services.
The amount of money raised in fines could be even greater in future.
When asked if there are plans to introduce more vehicles like Iolo Patrolo across Carmarthenshire, the council admitted that they are currently looking at the wider role fixed cameras might have in enforcing areas such as bus lanes, school streets and roads where there are driving prohibitions.