Off-street parking enforcement contract extended

ELECTED members sitting on the Business and Culture Committee approved an extension to the current agency agreement with the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) for the delivery of the off-street parking enforcement contract from November 1, 2022 to October 31, 2023.

Councillors were told that the primary focus is "delivering a high quality service" which is also "value for money."

Addressing the virtual chamber, Head of Business, Kevin O’Connor said: “Council is responsible for the off-street car parking and have a number of paid car parks throughout the city and district.

“The enforcement in relation to those car parks is carried out by NSL and the PCN (Penalty Charge Notice) processing is carried out by DfI’s parking enforcement unit.

“In 2019 council signed a new agreement with DfI for a further three years until October 2022 and back in April of last year members approved the opportunity to test the market and seek service delivery options outside the current agency agreement post October 2022.

“Since then the Regional Off-Street Car Parking Group which comprises of the nine participating councils have been meeting with DfI to progress the off-street contract.

"One of the partner councils has agreed to act as the lead council on the engagement of a consultant who would assist with the tender procurement process.

“There has subsequently been a delay in the appointment of the consultants to assist the councils to develop the procurement framework and as such, to be prudent, councils wish to extend the existing agency agreement beyond the current period up to 2023 to allow time to get the tender out to market and get an appropriate contractor appointed to deliver beyond that period.”

Raising a concern, SDLP councillor Rory Farrell said: “Obviously we want value for money for ratepayers and hopefully that results in a more effective and ultimately cheaper parking enforcement system.

“I do have concerns about creeping privatisation and the potential loss of jobs in DfI and I have potential concerns regarding governance and accountability arrangements especially around challenging PCNs.

“We have a lot of people who come to us asking about challenging parking charge notices and DfI are currently very, very responsive as they are a public body.

“We will make a decision when a proposal is put in front of us but has there been any discussions about privatisation or are we looking to do this in-house or is it an outside company we are looking to provide these services?”

Mr O’Connor responded: “The current arrangement is that it is a private company that does it, that’s NSL and they have an agreement with DfI.

“There’s eight other councils involved in these types of discussions and the primary focus is around delivering a high quality service.

“There is a legislative background to off-street parking so anybody, regardless of whether it is a private sector provider or a public sector provider, has the assurance they are safe in relation to the legislation. So that challenging function and that ability to appeal will always remain.

“Value for money will be the focus around who the replacement is, if there is a replacement provider, it is incumbent on us.”

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