Newham Council has been forced to write off over £7.2million in Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) debt this week as bailiffs have been unable to trace drivers due to them moving elsewhere or no longer living at their address. Since 2021, the council has written off a total of £55.64m relating to parking debt between 2014/15 and 2021/22.
Speaking at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting (April 4), deputy mayor and cabinet member for environment and sustainable transport, James Asser said: “We started this process three years ago as a part of improving our financial management and ensuring we have proper financial management on the way we manage parking debt.
“It had built up over a large number of years – it was structured in a way that existing debt was irrecoverable and was not just kept up in the books… [over two years] we have written off various sums.”
Cllr Sarah Ruiz replied: “This is yet another legacy issue… I was absolutely shocked that we had all of this uncollected money, so going forward we have made a real impression into that. I think we have to accept that there’s always going to be persistent evaders, but I also think [there are a] number of cars that are probably registered to people who don’t live in the borough.”
Cllr Asser added: “You’re right, nobody collects it at all and there are persistent evaders and there’s people who have vehicles registered elsewhere. It’s a particular problem in bigger cities and London has a particular problem.”
A council officer told cabinet members that one of the biggest problems with irrecoverable parking debt is due to people no longer living there, or having moved and can’t be traced. Cabinet members then agreed to the recommendations set out in the cabinet report and approved the £7.2m write-off.
Newham Council are not the only local authority with uncollected debt issues. There has been many stories of Councils forced to write off uncollected debt as the economy continues to struggle.