Westminster spends £1.95M of taxpayers money to prop up new parking contract

In May of this year we described some of the strange circumstances in which Westminster City Council awarded its parking enforcement contract to NSL Services, in an estimated £1.1M procurement bungle . It now seems that NSL Services have failed to live up to their contractual promises, leaving the taxpayer to fund up to another 50 Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) to be drafted on to the streets of Westminster over Christmas and into the New Year.

Last week, Cllr Melvyn Caplan (Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources) and Cllr Lee Rowley (Cabinet Member for Parking and Transportation) jointly made the decision to increase the number of on foot CEOs due to the failure of NSLs new ANPR/CCTV mobile cars to be ready in time.  Caplan and Rowley approved £1.3m to fund the variation to the NSL Contract for the increase in CEOs for the period October 2010 to March 2011, and a further expenditure of £650k for the period April 2011 to June 2011 (view Statement of Decision).

This seems odd that the taxpayer has to fund more CEOs on the street because the council’s parking enforcement contractor was unable to provide new technology in time. At last

Cllr Jonathan Glanz

Cllr Jonathan Glanz

weeks West End Area Forum Cllr Jonathan Glanz (Deputy Cabinet Member for Parking and Transportation) said about the decision that he didn’t know the legal answers to this decision but he comes from a background where whether you say you’ll do it on a personal basis or contractually you have to do it, and he would need to get his head around the Caplan and Rowley decision.

Glanz revealed that there were actually two different systems of ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) both being live tested in Westminster at the moment.

In NSLs contract with Westminster City Council they state “NSL is open and honest about the availability of the new technology that it proposes and sets out clear dates when the full technology system will be rolled out.

It would be very nice to know why the taxpayer will be paying for the delay in what NSL claim is technology already tested on the streets of Westminster.

The following text in blue is an excerpt from the Westminster/NSL parking enforcement contract. This was the contract that the Council used to taunt the other two bidders (APCOA & Mouchell) with earlier in the year. That little tease is estimated to have cost the taxpayer £1.1M so far, as both companies are still said to be claiming a lot of compensation from Westminster through the High courts. Council officer Kevin Goad who is still expected to snaffle a nice bonus this year said that £1.1M was no sweat, and could all be clawed back through efficiency savings. The bulk of those efficiency savings are to come to Westminster streets in the form of a new fleet of spy camera cars which can automatically hogtie a motorist, film their humiliation and ram an evidence pack up their jacksy all whilst just driving down the street. The bill for this new service is sent to the motorist later through the post in the form of a Penalty Charge Notice.

The text from the NSL contract has been copied faithfully, so don’t blame us for the grammar and spelling mistakes, please make allowances that the contract was written in an awful rush.

ANPR trial

In order to prove the concept of using mobile ANPR in the parking enforcement environment NSL recently carried out trials in both Westminster and Waltham Forest. The trials were conducted over a 27 day period and involved two different types of ANPR vehicle loaded with Residents Permit data.

As expected the vehicles covered over circa six as much ground as a foot based CEO. The trial was carried out by operatives new to the system so it is reasonable to expect that the patrol speed and effectiveness will increase with experience and practice.

ANPR Patrol Miles/Hr Miles/7 25Shift Streets/hr Streets/7 25 Shift
Westminster 6.27 45.47 24.22 175.56

In Westminster overall the mobile ANPR unit issued 194 PCNs at an issue rate of 1.05 PCN/hr

The trial successfully demonstrated that the equipment could detect VRMs and alert the operator to those that were not present on the list – in this case did not have a permit to park. It also demonstrated that an ANPR unit can cover much more ground than a foot based CEO who will need to check permits manually.

NSL proposes the following types of vehicles over the life of the contract
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
ANPR 7 8 8 8
Vans 2 2 2 2
Motorcycles 10 10 10 10
Bicycles 19 19 19 19
Removal vehicle 1 1 1 1
NB vans are used for primary deployment and administration jobs between CEO bases

Suitability, efficiency and cost effectiveness of vehicles

Type Patrol Speed(Inc. Enforcement) Annual Costper unit CostPer Km Non-compliance detecting ability
On-Foot CEO 2 km/hr £23,126 £6.57 Very Good
Cycle CEO 5 km/hr £23,346 £2.65 Good
Moped CEO 10 km/hr £25,590 £1.45 Medium
Mobile ANPR 13 km/hr £44,822 £1.96 Very Good

On-foot CEO patrols – A highly visible presence of CEOs on street encourages compliance with the parking restrictions. On-foot CEOs are well placed to detect and carry out hard or soft enforcement actions against non-compliant vehicles. On-foot CEOs are also very accessible to the public able to carry out an important city ambassador role and therefore, deliver a high quality customer experience

Bicycle CEO patrols – A CEO on a bicycle is extremely flexible and can react quickly to targeted areas of high non-compliance. Cycle CEOs are also very accessible to the public able to carry out a civic ambassador role and deliver customer service excellence.

Moped CEOs – A CEO in a crash helmet is not always seen as the most customer friendly face, however, mopeds do provide a required element of flexibility and are able to react quickly to cover targeted areas of localised high non-compliance.

Mobile ANPR patrols – Are able to improve compliance by efficiently covering large areas of permitted bays and areas where hard enforcement action can be taken for the most serious offences such as school keep clear, safety zig-zag lines, bus stops loading/unloading restrictions.

ANPR patrols

Due the analysis above NSL’s deployment in Westminster for the first time will utilise mobile ANPR for :

Extensive compliance monitoring

Enforcement

Around 40% of the contraventions in the City Of Westminster are related to either resident’s permit or paid for parking infringements. These contraventions can be enforced more effectively using ANPR technology than by t5raditional CEO foot patrols. ANPR technology has been fully tested in the enforcement environment, where it has been typically deployed to identify persistent evaders.

NSL uses this technology across the UK to detect a range of persistent evaders and statatutory debtors. In the application the ANPR unit is looking for a VRM that appears on a list known as a ‘black list’.

  • NSL Transport for London – NSL pioneered (we were the FIRST) this use of mobile ANPR when we introduced the technology to the TfL Congestion Charge Persistent Evader contract in 2005
  • NSL DVLA – first implemented in 2006, NSL deploy 35 ANPR enforcement units in its national DVLA contract to detect vehicles that appear on a list of VED evaders. In 2008/9 we successfully detected, and took action against, over 100,000 untaxed vehicles across the UK. In 2009/10 we achived 126,000 actions whilst the previous contract managed 44,000
  • NSL TASK – first to commence loading warrant lists to ANPR vehicles in  2007
  • NSL Waltham Forest – first to commence using ANPR to enforce residents bay in 2009
  • ??? NSL Westminster – first to commence using ANPR to enforce across the piece – residents bays, pay by phone, serious contraventions, non-compliance detection

ANPR vehicle solution

NSL are proposing to use Roadflow Vision which combines the characteristics of ANPR with a CCTV capability. The system will be able to identify vehicles parked without a PnP parking session or a permit. Additionally it will be loaded with the GIS dataset of parking controls and will be able to monitor compliance and capture CCTV PCNs for instant offences.

Nutsville has found two videos describing the use ANPR ROADflow on YouTube, and feel this one to be the most accurate:

Another Nutsville reader came across one of the new Westminster/NSL  ANPR/CCTV scamera cars in the West End last week. Parked up on yellow lines in Peter Street, whilst one of the operatives popped into a local café for his dinner.

Westminster ANPR camera car parked whilst buying lunch in local cafe

Westminster ANPR camera car parked whilst NSL staff are buying lunch in local cafe

The driver of the scamera car spotted the photographer and drove off, leaving his buddy still in the café. A short time later the scamera had to return to collect his mate, who jumped on board whilst hiding his face.

Quick jump in we're being filmed

Quick jump in we're being filmed

One thing we noticed that these new ANPR/CCTV cars have even smaller signs on them than the older smart cars. So far Cllr Rowley, Cllr Glanz and council officer Kevin Goad all maintain that these cars are very clearly marked. Which is something that every member of the public we’ve met disputes?

Here is a photo of a Westminster Council rubbish collection lorry all lit up like a Christmas tree.

westminster dust cart

westminster dust cart

Here is a photo of a Westminster City Council CCTV Smart Car on duty ( Courtesy of No To Mob ), can you spot the councils deterrent here?

Can you spot where Westminsters clearly marked scamera car is?

Can you spot where Westminsters clearly marked scamera car is?

If you couldn’t spot where the scamera car was hiding go to the end of this post for the answer.

What the Westminster/NSL contract says about ANPR:

Mobile ANPR has the capacity to interrogate multiple databases at the same time and this is where the real efficiency of mobile ANPR will be driven. It delivers a sound non-compliance information and covers far much more ground.

ANPR – Resident’s permit enforcement

Currently 18% of the contraventions detected in the outer zones of Westminster are code 12 (parked in a residents or shared use parking place or zone without clearly displaying either a permit or voucher or pay an display ticket issued for that place). In order to enforce against Code 12 contraventions the ANPR unit will be loaded with a white list of the vehicles which have been issued with a WCC residents permit. In Westminster residents permits are zone restricted meaning that a permit holder in Zone E is not permitted to park in Zone G. To enable this to be detected the ANPR unit would be loaded with a dataset of permit holders in each zone. The dataset is a flat ASCII file of VRMs and does not contain personal data.

ANPR – Paid for bay enforcement

Currently 83% of paid for parking transactions in Westminster are made using PbP (pay by Phone). This equates to around 30,000 transactions per day and there are about 5,000 sessions active at any one time. Over 35% of the contraventions currently detected in the City are related to non-payment or overstaying in paid for bays.

NSL will deliver the for WCC to use ANPR technology to confirm compliance with its Pay By Phone (PbP) parking operation. The current process involves a CEO entering the PbP street code into Internet Explorer on his DAP. This GPRS link generates a list of those VRMs who have a parking session in progress. It also shows those sessions that have recently expired (highlighted in red). The CEO must then compare those vehicles parking on-street with those shown as paid on the list. At the same time the CEO is also looking for P&D tickets, vouchers, Blue Badges etc. This process is time consuming, inefficient and related to a type of parking that is characterised by higher compliance – our surveys show that permitted parking compliance is well in excess of 95% at 96-99%.

<photo close up ANPR mobile camera>The process can be automated by linking the PC in the ANPR unit to the PbP back office using GPRS/WiFi. The ANPR unit will connect to the PbP back office using the Verrus API (Application Programme Interface). The ANPR unit will handshake with the PbP system on a regular basis to refesh the data and provide a real time picture of active parking sessions. When the ANPR unti passes a vehicle whose VRM does not have an active parking session it gives an audible alert to the operator. In practice the ANPR may give multiple alerts for multiple VRMs on the same street. The driver will carry on to the end of the street and pull over in a safe place. The CEO then needs to refresh data to check that the VRMs detected are still recorded as being without a parking session. This could be doen using the existing handheld solution where the CEo simply enters the VRM into Internet Explorer or via the onboard PC. If the vehicle is still in contravention then the CEO carries out the appropriate observation and issues a PCN. Where the vehicle has paid for the parking session by cash (P&D or voucher) or or has some other form of dispensation (eg Blue Badge) then the ANPR vehicle will still detect the vehicvle as not haing paid. When the CEo approaches the vehicle it will become clear that the vehicle is correctly parked and no PCN will be issued.

Supporting data

The data provided by WCC (April 2007 to March 2009) indicates that 40% of the PCNs issued in the City are of the type that could have been detected and enforced by ANPR. These are essentially Code 4, 5, 6, 11 and 12 contraventions. This is shown in the following table.

Apr 07 – Mar 09 Total PCNs % of Tot Total ANPR % ANPR % ANPR of Tot
Inner 799,162 61.89 286,125 54.73 35.80
Outer 492,040 38.11 236,704 45.27 48.11
Total 1,291,202 100.00 522,829 100.00 40.49

In February 2008 the PbP parking system went live across the whole city and led to an increase in the proportion of the inner zone contraventions able to be enforced by ANPR from 35% to 39%. The overall % of total contraventions occurring remained relatively static.

ANPR Enforcement – resident’s bays casual use, shared use bays

The processes described above allows us to reduce CEO deployment in our service plan where there are with a high proportion of residents, casual and shared use bays. This ANPR solution will be a highly visible enforcement capability which in addition to reducing overall deployment, will increase the detection of contraventions and provide a visible deterrent to increase compliance. Our solution involves deploying six ANPR vehicles in year one of the contract and eight in 2nd year. We have priced for a spare to cover maintenance and servicing.

ANPR Enforcement – instant offences

In addition to the codes described above we would envisage using CCTV equipped ANPR to detect non-compliance with the following instant offences.

  • Vehicle seen contravening bus lane regulations
  • Parked in a restricted bus stop/stand
  • Stopped in a restricted area outside a school

ANPR in deployment plan

Our service delivery plan presented in section 1.1.2 for a six mobile ANPR vehicles on a daily basis from 0700-2359 covering the daytime and evening periods. One each for zone B, C, E, F and G and a shared vehicle for A & D. Two units will work through the night 0000-0700 and on irregular days. As well as enforcing the vehicle will be used as a scout to detect non-compliance, sending real time messages to the central system for visual heat maps which in turn will send ‘job requests’ to on-foot, cycle and moped CEOs. Where non-compliance is detected for softer offences the job requests will be sent, for hard offences such as white safety zig-zags, no loading/unloading, bus stops, dropped kerbs and school keep clears the vehicle will automatically record the offence to be reviewed and loaded onto the ICPS system as a postal PCN.

Handheld ANPR

Handheld ANPR solution will be used to augment Mobile ANPR patrols in situations where te use of a vehicle would be impractical or inappropriate. An example would be enforcing against motorcycles, since approximately 5,000 use the PbP system each day. Motorcycles are often parked tightly together with their VRM facing the kerb which precludes the use of traditional mobile ANPR. A handheld device working in the same manner as the mobile ANPR would allow a CEO to quickly identify those motorcycles that are in contravention in paid for motorcycle bays.

RADflow Enforcment Vehicle

A ROADflow vehicle offers a complete and proven mobile enforcement solution. It can enforce locations where instant tickets can be issued without operator intervention and can be used as an attended CCTV vehicle where periods of observation are required. It allows permit holder parking bays to be enforced efficiently and provides a range of communication technologies that permits it to interface to the back office for evidence transfer and immediate updates for cashless parking and real-time job despatch. In addition it provides logs of each enforcement session that can be used to generate compliance heat maps.

ROADflow has received certification by the Department for Transport as an approved device for the enforcement of civil traffic offences for both automatic (unattended) and manual (attended) modes of operation and is being actively used by councils to produce PCNs.


Council also use ANPR for another highway ransom sting

Westminster Philips unmarked ANPR van

Westminster Philips unmarked ANPR van

For a while now Westminster Council through their ANPR equipped bailiffs Philips Collection Services have been running joint operations with the Metropolitan Police. Sometimes late at night or in the early hours of the morning motorists are flagged down by what looks to be a normal police stop. But data supplied to the police by the Philips bailiffs in their ANPR van instruct the police as to which vehicles they should pull over. After a brief vehicle check by the police ( kick the tyres, check the air freshener still smells, that sort of thing),  the motorist is introduced to the Council bailiffs for a little chat, with not even a HobNob on offer.

There have been reported incidents of motorists at 3am in the morning having to hand over in excess of £600 for an unpaid parking ticket. If the motorist can’t pay up they risk having their car impounded.

This can be quite a shock, especially if you find yourself owing  just one parking ticket, which Westminster Council have sent to the wrong address. Sometimes the stunned motorists will try to appeal to the police who are alongside; surely this cannot be legal, fair or honest. We hear the Police show no sympathy towards the motorist,  they are willing partners in the sting, which is looked on as a lucrative source of overtime revenue for them.

In defending the roadblocks the Council are keen to say that they are intended to catch serious offenders, such as disabled badge fraud and illegal minicabs. It is certainly true that there have been publicised blitzes on the minicab trade, but even if you have one outstanding parking ticket you are just as likely to be pulled over by the police and herded towards the Councils bailiffs.  Westminster Councillor Lee Rowley has said “Law-abiding motorists have nothing to be concerned about”. Sorry Lee, but as far as we knew parking tickets issued by the Council are for a civil offence and not a criminal matter. So doesn’t that mean that law abiding motorists who may have been the victims of say, an incorrect out of date DVLA record, should not be concerned? Of course if you’re wealthy enough to fork out over £600 on demand then Lee Rowley’s dismissal would be correct. The borough of Westminster welcomes the well heeled, but if you ain’t got the cash you’re part of Cllr Lee Rowley’s very own “Kosovo-style social cleansing” big society initiative ( golly aren’t we just so topical today view Boris Johnsons latest gaff)

.

If Westminster Council is confident of their position we wonder why when the public ask questions to hold the Council to account, that these are increasingly being turned in to Freedom of Information requests, which often can take months to partially answer or be rejected out of hand.

It’s becoming painfully obvious how Westminster Council is swimming in the opposite direction from the way the coalition Government say they want to go. So much so that almost any question put to the Council by the public is seen as a threat, which they will wriggle and squirm in every way possible to avoid answering. There is a public petition set up for those who do not agree with the increasing amount of secret back ally politics conducted at Westminster Council, you can view the petition here.

Under Cllr Colin Barrow’s leadership the council has become more secretive and defensive, and out of touch with the public who they were supposed to serve. There is an increasing number of disgruntled hard working staff at WCC uncertain if they will still have a job come the New Year. How must they feel to see a few select officers and Councillors continue to do very nicely out of the rich pickings to be had at the top of the Westminster tree. How galling it must be for those staff to see Barrow pimping his request for volunteers which will replace some talented and experienced Council staff, around the media (we do mean those that actually do the real work at City Hall).

Barrow is either very thick skinned or simply cannot see what the public think of him. Just take a look at readers comments to Barrows letter in the Guardian recently (VIEW HERE ), in which Barrow comes across as a patronising hypocrite to most of the readers who comment on his “legacy of social responsibility and civic engagement” palaverous tripe.

Regular readers of Nutsville may have noticed that we made no posts during August this year. This was because Mr and Mrs Nuts and all the little Nuts went off on a fact finding trip to New Zealand. Whilst over there we discovered how the Auckland authorities use CCTV enforcement.

Auckland CCTV enforcement, very relaxing

Auckland CCTV enforcement, very relaxing

At one particular Auckland bridge, which has a vehicle restriction the local authority use a professional photographer with half a day to spare. The video cameraman sets up his tripod at one end of the bridge and films any vehicle going across the bridge when it shouldn’t. You’re probably reading this and thinking we are pulling your leg, but it’s absolutely true.

new zealand auckland traffic enforcement

new zealand auckland traffic enforcement

This really could be the way to go for Westminster, especially if they use Barrows new army of volunteers instead of a professional photographer.

BTW, the hidden Westminster Scamera car is the fourth one back on the right hand side.

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4 Comments

EddieOctober 29th, 2010 at 11:12 pm

This is an outstanding piece of investigative work and all of the Nutsville team deserve a medal for their tenacity. Those low-lifes running Westminster are on borrowed time……

Btw thought you might like this article:

http://www.urigeller.com/articles/weekly-news/2007/April07_07.htm

Paul GlittenOctober 30th, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Those images of Auckland are both hilarious but APPOSITE.
They have the right attitude. How could anyone fail to see them – there is a singular deterrent.

Not like the slime coated, bottom feeders that the Westminster parking department under Cllr ‘Slowly’ Rowley employ. Can it really be true that Rowley sucks up to Barrow more than an Electrolux – (and we know nothing sucks like an…)

ps… Is Rowley really a Councillor?

All images so him look like he’s only out with his Mum’s permission. We already know what a sycophant he is, but does his mum know he is on his knees in front of ‘Wheel’ Barrow.
You are a bit of dark horse Rowley aren’t you ? My mum used to explain strange children to us by describing them as ‘ a bit of a treasure’

Are you a treasure?

The residents and Lord Mayor of Westminster scoff –(openly).

Gerry (Beak St)October 30th, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Hang on… is that really Johnny Glanz in his Hush Puppies and wry smile.

There are two clear signals here:

Glanz (rhymes with prick on a stick) should not really be out unsupervised. Yes, I know he lives in Marylebone, yes he has dog, but – he has Hush Puppies for footwear. Sheesh.

How is it possible to take him seriously.

I know we all look up to those who are stronger than ourselves, but in Glanz’s case it EVEYBODY! Depressing he should be such an imitator rather than innovator.

Hopefully he will crawl back into his shell while he has a chance.

WillDecember 28th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

An amazing piece of work, well done. Westminster made a grand mess of the parking contract renewal and got it very badly wrong when they went after bikers in their desperation to find new sources of revenue. I think they will be paying for both of those mistakes for some time to come.

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