Questions over parking enforcement in Hounslow as Serco terminates contract

Image above: Library image of a parking enforcement officer working in LB Hounslow

Council to consider authorising negotiations with a new provider

Serco has decided to terminate its contract with the London Borough of Hounslow for parking enforcement and the Council is now looking for another company to issue parking tickets.

Serco has been responsible for issuing Penalty Charge Notices on streets and off-streets in Chiswick and across the borough of Hounslow since 2013. Although they signed a five year deal in September 2019, Serco informed the council on 6 June this year that it intended to terminate the agreement, saying it was no longer viable.

Traffic wardens went on strike earlier this year for higher wages and Servo agreed to pay them more after sustained strike action by staff.

The company said they would end their service provision in July, but then agreed to continue providing enforcement services until the end of November, pending the appointment of a new service provider. It remains uncertain whether Serco has agreed or is obliged to continue coverage if a new provider is not found.

In December 2022, Ealing Council announced its plan to bring parking enforcement in-house upon the expiration of its current contract with Serco, scheduled for March 31, 2024.

The annual value of the Hounslow contract stood at £3.6 million, yielding an income surplus of over £1 million. Serco managed ‘Civil Enforcement Officers’ and the operation and management of CCTV enforcement services.

A forthcoming meeting of the Hounslow Council Cabinet will consider authorising negotiations with a new service provider, who must assume the enforcement role by 1 December. The cost of the new contract, to be awarded by the Executive Director of Environment, Culture, and Customer Services, must fit within existing budgets.

Image above: Fixed Penalty Notices for parking

Lack of enforcement could have “potentially significant financial implications” for the Council

Typically, securing such a contract would take around 12 months but, given the circumstances, a full-scale procurement exercise is deemed infeasible. Consequently, it has been decided that entering into an agreement with a new service provider without tender is the only realistic option.

Council officers argue that this situation qualifies as an “extreme emergency” under the Regulations and can be exempted from full procurement requirements, especially since the contract termination was not a decision made by the Council.

The Council did explore the option of rejecting Serco’s termination notice and obliging them to fulfil the contract until the end of the next year. It was deemed unwise to force a contractor to provide a “critical” service unwillingly, which could compromise its quality and effectiveness.

Balancing these factors, the Council opted to maintain a collaborative relationship during the transitional period rather than entering an adversarial environment and potentially engaging in litigation with the contractor.

The interruption of parking enforcement services could have “potentially significant financial implications due to the scale of income generated via this contract,” according to the council report.

To minimise disruption and avoid a breakdown of financial controls during the transition period, the new contractor must be fully operational by December 1. Existing bases for enforcement officers in Chiswick Town Hall and Bridge Road will be made available to employees of the new service provider.

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