'Competing priorities' holding back traffic warden reforms
ROADS chiefs say plans to remove dozens of towns from routine parking warden patrols have not yet been implemented because of "competing priorities".
In January it was announced that areas with fewer than 10 parking tickets issued on average per month would be removed from the schedule for regular visits.
A review of Transport NI's southern division led to several towns being removed from the list, and the same plan was to be extended to the northern, western and eastern divisions.
According annual figures on parking tickets issued, it suggests more than 40 areas look set to be removed from regular patrols.
But three months on, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) confirmed a decision has still not been made.
The delay comes despite the Stormont department a fortnight ago publishing detailed statistics for parking tickets issued during 2016.
Almost 85,000 on-street parking tickets or penalty charge notices (PCNs) were issued last year - an 11 per cent surge compared to 2015.
The review of operations in Transport NI's southern division led to seven towns being removed from routine patrols – Dromore, Rathfriland, Gilford, Tandragee, Crossgar, Richill and Dunmurry.
Announcing the extended review in January, then Sinn Féin infrastructure minister Chris Hazzard said his priority was to "ensure the free flow of traffic".
Senior civil servants have since taken control of Stormont executive departments amid the ongoing political deadlock following last month's snap election.
Under the criteria, other towns due for removal from routine patrols would include Lisnaskea in Co Fermanagh, and Fivemiletown and Moy in Co Tyrone.
However, DfI said it is "too soon to speculate on how deployment in these areas will change until the reviews have been completed".
"The review of the other regions is taking place against other competing priorities in the department and it is hoped it can be completed over the next number of months," a spokesman said.
"As stated in January, any town that was routinely enforced and generated less than 10 Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs)/Vehicle Drive Aways (VDAs) on average per month will be removed from the schedule for routine traffic attendant deployment.
"The review has been completed in the department's southern division and a number of towns have been removed from scheduled enforcement.
"The same criteria will now be applied in the northern, western and eastern divisions but it is too soon to speculate on how deployment in these areas will change until the reviews have been completed.
"The department will continue to visit all towns, including those removed from regular deployment, when need arises or when requested and resources are available."
A parking ticket or PCN carries a £90 fine, reduced to £45 if paid within 14 days. Responsibility for off-street car parks transferred to the north's councils in 2015.