Covid led to huge fall in Norfolk parking fines and £1.3m budget hole

A parking enforcement officer. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Coronavirus contributed to a 38pc drop in parking penalty charge notices. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The fall in parking fines issued and pay and display payments made in Norfolk because of coronavirus has left the county's parking enforcement service facing a £1.3m budget black hole.

National lockdowns and government advice to suspend all but essential on-street enforcement triggered a 38pc drop in penalty charge notices issued in Norfolk in 2020.

Excluding Norwich, which has only just become part of the partnership, there were 9,665 penalty notices issued, compared to 15,536 the previous year.

Coupled with on-street parking charges being suspended between last March and July - and Yarmouth's charges only running from April to October - more than half the charging season was lost last year.

The money raised from penalty charge notices and on-street parking fees is used to pay for the running of Norfolk Parking Partnership - a collaboration between Norfolk's councils.

And the reduction in income means the service has a forecast £1.3m budget deficit - and only about £400,000 in reserves.

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Because the partnership is not a council itself, it is not able to apply to the government for financial help.

It had been hoped the various district councils could apply for government cash through a loss of income scheme.

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While Norwich City Council has made a successful claim, West Norfolk Council has not been able to claim via that method, due to the way budgets are set up.

And that means the county council could have to plug the gap from its own budget.

Worried councillors, representing councils in the partnership, discussed the issue at a meeting last week.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: "There's clearly quite a bit of work to do. It's been a tough time for everyone. There's no easy ride for anyone out there."

He said the committee needed an early look at the partnership's business plan for the year ahead.

Graham Plant, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council and a Great Yarmouth borough councillor, said he feared a "fundamental flaw" in the mechanism of the partnership had been exposed.

The partnership agreed district councils would seek more clarity from the government over their claims for financial help.

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