‘Draconian’ council using learner driver parking wardens to issue fines

Richard Hughes was ticketed by a learner rider parking warden in Clapham, south London
Richard Hughes was ticketed by a learner rider parking warden in Clapham, south London - Jamie Lorriman

A Labour council is allowing “cowboy” parking wardens with learner plates to issue fines to fully qualified drivers.

Civil enforcement officers, being paid more than many nurses, are using mopeds without a full licence to drive around residential streets in south-west London and catch out motorists.

Lambeth has been accused of exploiting a “loophole” to rush wardens onto the streets collecting up to £35 million a year in parking penalties, by rolling out a fleet of learner mopeds.

Through a private contract with the parking firm Apcoa, wardens aged 18 and over are hired with CBT certificates – short for compulsory basic training – a foundation pathway towards a full moped or motorbike licence that is valid for two years.

The day-long course does not require a full practical or theory test and teaches a low level of riding skills.

The wardens are covered by higher-rate commercial insurance, but the private contractor and council have refused to confirm whether taxpayers are paying for this and renewal CBT certificates.

The Telegraph observed five hi-vis wardens riding these vehicles with red L-plates in the borough, enforcing rules around residential permits, visitors’ and parking tickets.

Richard Hughes, a pensioner, parked in Abbeville Village, an upmarket area of Clapham, to pick up food for his granddaughter.

A parking warden with a learner plate on his scooter issues a ticket to a car in Clapham, south London
A parking warden with a learner plate on his scooter issues a ticket to a car in Clapham, south London - Jamie Lorriman

The 75-year-old qualified driver of 40 years, who had parked in a bay that was suspended for building works which were nowhere to be seen, said it was “a bit odd” to be issued a ticket by a learner.

“It seems that there are loopholes and weaknesses in the system that means that it’s advantageous to them to be learners rather than to have passed their test,” he said.

“It’s a bit draconian... It’s a honey trap – they’re engineering it to catch people rather than improve the roads and improve the situation.”

The Telegraph observed how a warden on a learner moped issued a penalty on the unoccupied car around two minutes after it arrived, after trying to find the driver. The moped was also parked in a suspended bay with its L plate partially upturned, which could get six points on a licence under road laws.

Lambeth is thought to be one of a handful of councils using learner mopeds to issue parking fines, including for residents who have visitors. Job adverts show these wardens can be paid £29,000 a year, a higher starting salary than nurses.

Nearby Tory-run Bromley council is also advertising for a “Civil Enforcement Officer – Moped Rider”, paid £25,000 a year, which like Lambeth only requires a CBT certificate, carrying learner plates.

Both authorities have contracted Apcoa to run their parking services. In Lambeth, this contract since 2016 is valued at an estimated £35 million, raking in around the same amount in parking fines a year.

‘We use electric scooters’

Brian Gregory, policy director at Alliance of British Drivers, said: “It’s just more of this cowboy, Wild West enforcement mentality in local authorities – their attitude now is ‘let’s screw motorists and commercial vehicle drivers for every penny we can get out of them’.

“There needs to be, as there needs to be for speed enforcement cameras, an overarching objective regulatory body that can audit these people at a moment’s notice and if there is non-compliance then start fining them. That’s the only way to stamp this cowboy behaviour out.”

An Apcoa spokesman said: “Alongside foot patrols, scooters offer a low emission and versatile means for CEO’s to carry out their duties within a large borough – 80 per cent of the Apcoa mopeds operating in Lambeth are electric.

“These vehicles are driven in accordance with licence & DVLA regulations and all the Apcoa fleet is insured under a commercial agreement.”

The company said its mopeds were allowed to park safely in bays while issuing penalties and wardens “are not offered any incentive or reward based on the number of PCN’s they issue”, adding that they ensure “parking is fair and equitable for all” and provide a “reassuring uniformed presence”.

A Lambeth council spokesman said: “Our parking services help to keep the streets of our busy inner London borough safe and convenient. We use foot patrols and electric scooters to efficiently achieve that, all in line with relevant legislation.

“Penalty Charge Notices are only issued to people breaking the rules, and there are no targets attached to this work.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Penalty charges related to parking in London are set by the Mayor of London, so this is a matter for Lambeth Council and TfL (Transport for London), however we expect all enforcement officers operating using a motor vehicle to comply with the law.”