The scrapping of road tax discs on 1 October will make it harder for parking authorities to confirm that a penalty charge notice was issued to the right vehicle, according to Helen Crozier, Oxfordshire’s civil enforcement manager.
She warns that without the paper discs it will be hard to check whether or not a vehicle has been cloned. At present the unique code on the tax disc offers evidence of the vehicle’s identity.
“This could have a big impact at the appeals stage if appellants claim that their car has nothing to do with the PCN,” said Crozier. “In those cases the ticket might be cancelled by us before it goes to appeal or by the adjudicator if we cannot get definite proof.”
As an alternative to photographing the tax disc, civil enforcement officers might be able to check the VIN (vehicle identification number) by scanning the barcode on the windscreen, suggests Crozier. “But due to data protection issues, we might not be able to do this. Besides which, if a windscreen is replaced it will have a different barcode.”
Also, the cost of reprogramming handhelds to scan barcodes might be prohibitively high, said Crozier, who is president of the British Parking Association (BPA). She said the most likely way of dealing with the change was for CEOs to take more photos of a vehicle, to capture identifying marks and any permits or stickers on windows.
Crozier’s concerns were echoed by Mandy Ainsworth, Worthing & Adur’s parking services manager, who said: “I think the biggest problem for us is not being able to identify some disabled motorists through their tax exempt discs. This could roll on to bailiff enforcement where disabled motorists could be clamped and the car removed when the exempt tax disc would have alerted bailiffs to the motorist’s disability.
“It will also lead to an increase in complaints about CEOs issuing PCNs from around the corner or behind a bush. At the moment, the fact that they record the tax disc details eradicates this accusation.”
A DVLA spokesman said: “We understand the barcode [on the windscreen] relates only to the VIN and not to any information held by DVLA. I can confirm that over the coming months we will work closely with parking authorities to understand how this change affects working processes.”
Kelvin Reynolds, the BPA’s director of policy and public affairs, said: “We understand entirely why the DVLA wants to scrap the paper tax discs, with all its costs and distribution issues but the government must understand that it can’t make these kinds of announcements arbitrarily and without thinking about the wider implications.
“Parking people use the unique references on a tax disc for a variety of reasons including: reporting potentially cloned vehicles; ensuring that vehicles are properly registered when drivers apply for residents parking permits; helping to identify untaxed vehicles; and it helps with fairer parking enforcement. We have asked the government to work with us to resolve these concerns and ensure that the withdrawal of the tax disc doesn’t have unintended consequences.”