Croydon Council illegally encouraged its traffic wardens to issue tickets by giving them financial rewards to target as many motorists as they could.
An investigation by auditors Mazars revealed that staff in Croydon’s Parking Services were given overtime based on the number of penalty charges notices (PCNs) they issued, – in breach of statutory guidance.
Between August and November last year over 50 per cent of all the council’s budget for overtime hours was used to incentivise traffic wardens.
Parking services staff were paid a basic hourly pay enhanced by 20 per cent for overtime hours and time and a half for working on a Sunday.
Analysis of the overtime paid forms between 1 January and 31 August 2020 identified 10 Parking Services staff who had on average worked more than 48 hours a week.
Auditors discovered an email sent out to staff which explained:“…to qualify for overtime walkers must be issuing at an overall hourly rate of a minimum of 1.5 [PCNs], and bikers have to be issuing a minimum of 2.35 [PCNs]. As we have a 9 hour working day this works out to be an average daily output of 13.5 [PCNs] for walkers and 21.15 [PCNs] for bikers per day.’
The damning audit report said: “With staff only being eligible for overtime based on the number of PCNs issued, the Council is in breach of the statutory ‘Guidance for local authorities on enforcing parking restrictions. Furthermore, there is a risk that this process is also in breach of the Equality Act 2010.”
The internal audit also uncovered that Parking Services overtime claims for March 2020 established that the Enforcement Manager had authorised 101 hours of overtime for their brother, a Dispatcher in Parking Services.
The auditors were critical of his action saying: “With the Enforcement Manager approving their brother’s overtime there is also a risk of bias/collusion or of perceived bias/collusion.”
No declaration of this relationship had been provided said the report which “means the staff code of conduct may have been breached.”
Stuart Milson, Opposition General Purpose and Audit Committee Lead, said: “This is just yet another example of the toxic, dysfunctional culture that has taken root in Croydon Council while Labour have been in control.”
He questioned the audit team who carried out the investigation at a meeting of the Council’s audit committee last week.
He added: “At the meeting they revealed that the overtime scheme was introduced without any approval by the Council’s Legal or Human Resources functions.”
At the same audit committee meeting councillors heard the latest annual report of the internal audit function. They found that 56 per cent of the investigations they carried out into the Council’s activities in the last year resulted in no assurance or limited assurance – basically a failure.
This is the seventh annual report issued since Labour took control of Croydon Council, and the number of investigations with no assurance or limited assurance has increased for the last six years.
Conservative councillor Milson added: “The failure of Croydon’s Labour leadership to get on top of detail and the bullying culture they have been accused of establishing is why the Council went bankrupt, and it is why illegal activities such as this overtime scheme for traffic wardens could be brought in.”
To read the full report click here: https://www.croydon.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2021-07/2020-21ParkingServices-OvertimePayments.pdf