July 22nd, 2013 by James Goudie KC

R (Attfield) v Barnet LBC [2013] EWHC 2089 (Admin) is a judicial review of the Council’s decision to increase the charges for residents’ parking permits and visitor vouchers in Controlled Parking Zones in its area.  The claim succeeded before Lang J.  She held that the increase in charges, pursuant to s45(2)(b) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (“the RTRA”) was unlawful, because its purpose was to generate a surplus on the Special Parking Account, maintained under Section 55 of the RTRA, beyond the monies needed to operate the parking scheme, to fund other transport expenditure, such as road repair and concessionary fares.  She rejected the Council’s argument that it was entitled to exercise its powers under s45 (such amount as the authority may prescribe) for the purpose of raising a surplus to use for any transport functions, provided that they come within the scope of s122 of the RTRA.  Lang J said, at para 59:

“The purpose of section 122 is to impose a duty on local authorities to exercise their functions under the Act in accordance with the objects set out therein. It is necessarily couched in general terms because it applies to a remarkably broad range of functions in the RTRA 1984, e.g. traffic schemes, pedestrian crossings, school crossings, street playgrounds, speed limits, bollards, traffic wardens, removal and immobilisation of vehicles, as well as different types of parking facilities. I do not consider that section 122 was intended to authorise a local authority to raise a levy on parking permit holders, pursuant to section 45(2)(b), to fund any project which met the objects set out in section 122. Such an intention is not expressly stated, nor can it properly be implied. The RTRA 1984 is not a revenue-raising or taxing statute.

Lang J concluded that the amount of the charge is limited to the amount the authority considers appropriate for the purposes of parking regulation, not for other transport purposes.  She observed, however (para 57):

“… the authority has a discretion to set charges to reflect its parking policies.  It is not restricted to levying a charge only to cover the base cost of running the schemes.”

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