A camera-operated parking system in the Wycombe District could be letting many ticket dodgers get away scot-free, a Bucks Free Press investigation has revealed.

Only £26,000 has been collected in fines from Wycombe District Council car parks in the last year since ANPR machines were rolled out across the area – £235,000 less than three years ago under the old Pay and Display scheme.

READ MORE HERE: Comment: BFP exposes car park flaws, putting new ANRP machines under the microscope.

Councillors have already admitted the scheme has brought in almost £500,000 less than the £2.8 million they predicted this year, while machines have also been repeatedly targeted by vandals – costing the taxpayer a further £160,000.

Bucks Free Press:

Easton Street car park.

But after the BFP put the system to the test last month, it raises the question over whether there could be a much bigger flaw in the system.

A number of risk-taking drivers believe there is, questioning whether the £680,000 camera system has the capability to fine those who leave free of charge after refusing to pay for parking.

Last month, chief reporter Andrew Colley put the new cameras to the test – parking without paying in the Wycombe Swan car park, Easton Street car park and right under councillor’s noses in the Queen Victoria Road car park.

According to the council, a fine should have been received about 10 days later – yet, over one month on and it still has not arrived.

The BFP has since privately arranged to make payment so the taxpayer is not out of pocket.

Bucks Free Press:

The advanced system was introduced in Wycombe just under two years ago, with councillors promising to see bigger returns while also streamlining payments.

On entry, cameras take a picture of your number plate, so drivers can pay on exit or online up to 24 hours later.

To collect online payments, WDC use a ‘Veri-Park’ website, which openly states it does not collect Standard Charge Ticket fines, but at the time of going to print the council has not confirmed if they are legally free to fine people for not paying.

£26,876 in fines was collected from April 1, 2015, to February 29, 2016, but WDC has not confirmed how much of that came from fining non-payers and how much from illegal or dangerous drivers, wrongly parking in disabled bays or reserved parking spaces.

The BFP launched a month-long investigation after readers suggested they could park for free and never have to worry about paying.

Bucks Free Press chief reporter Andrew Colley tested out the ANPR system in three High Wycombe car parks.

In a letter sent in 2014 – seen by the BFP – a Department for Transport minister warned councils against using private land parking schemes like ANPR instead of fixed penalty notices enforced under existing parking legislation.

In his letter, MP Robert Goodwill suggested the department would ask the DVLA to refuse to give out driver details to councils – leaving many private machines worthless.

The ANPR system only impacts council-owned off-street car parks in the district, including High Wycombe, Marlow and Princes Risborough.

Bucks Free Press:

A similar system was used in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, but was scrapped after bosses admitted: “In hindsight the Royal Borough did not buy the best system and it is not working for residents.”

In 2012/13, WDC earned £262,350 in fines, but this has dropped year-on-year as the new pay machines were rolled out across the district.

A WDC statement is expected soon. See next week’s Bucks Free Press.

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