A hike in parking ticket fines could cost Derry drivers an extra £355,000 per year.
On Tuesday the Stormont Assembly voted in favour of increasing fixed penalty notices (PCN) from the current £60 to £90, as of July 4.
Under the new penalty, illegal parkers will pay £45 if they pay their fine within two weeks.
The north’s Regional Development minister Danny Kennedy says the rise in the cost of PCNs will “go towards the self-funding of car parking services which currently run at a deficit of £7 million per year.”
“The vast majority of drivers park legally and safely and they need never pay this penalty.
”However the increase from £60 to £90 will act as a greater deterrent to those who choose not to park properly. It is the Department’s aim to reduce the number of illegally parked vehicles on our roads, not to issue PCNs.”
The Minister added: “It is my responsibility to cover the cost of delivering car parking services and I want to ensure the burden of enforcement falls on those drivers who ignore the restrictions and cause safety risks, delays and inconvenience for other drivers and pedestrians. Reducing this deficit will free up other parts of my budget for maintaining front-line services such as fixing potholes and maintaining street lights.”
But Derry SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood says the increase is a “retrograde step.”
“Rather than being a deterrent to illegal parking, there is a major fear that it will act as a deterrent to shopping in our city centres.
“It is also financially fallacy to rely on parking fines as a source of revenue to fund a government department. The Minister is attempting to plug a £7.5 million shortfall in his budget by imposing increased parking fines.
“The truth is that many will be in no position to pay the fines, resulting in people being dragged before the courts for pretty minor offences.
“This is not how devolved government should be carrying out its affairs, imposing a form of stealth taxation to fund budgetary shortfalls,” he says.
Last year a total of 11,843 were dished out by ‘red coats’ in Derry last year - that at £60 per ticket would have cost drivers £710,580 in 2011.
Under the new tariff that would rise to £1.06 million - an extra £355,000.