Defending the indefensible: BPA back UKPC’s new incentive scheme

As Parking Prankster noted last week, UK Parking Control (UKPC) has launched a new incentive scheme for their parking attendants. Previously, parking companies rewarded their attendants by issuing bonuses related to the number of tickets issued. From 1st October 2015, the British Parking Association banned members from offering financial incentives to parking attendants contracts “which relate to the quantity of PCNs issued” (see section 9.4 of BPA Code of Practice). Ironically, this measure was introduced after UKPC made the national news when attendants were found to be issuing fake tickets to motorists!

UKPCs new scheme is based on profit-related pay. The attendants can earn additional pay based on the amount of profit their ticketing activities make. UKPC attendants will now get a bonus of 8% of the profits their activities generate. This means that whilst they can generate revenue by issuing tickets, ticket-related costs such as plastic envelopes, POPLA appeals, and their wages charges are deducted, with the remainder as profit. Central operational costs, such as ATA membership, camera installation, and head office wages are not included in the profit share scheme. Have a look at UKPCs training video below:

From UKPCs perspective, this new scheme is likely to be much better for them, although perhaps not so good for the attendants. Under the old scheme, parking attendants were encouraged to issue as many tickets as possible, inevitably driving attendants to issue borderline tickets or even falsify evidence for tickets, as evidenced above. In these cases, UKPC would have to bear the cost of the resulting appeals, including POPLA (which costs £30 per appeal irrespective of the outcome). Under the new scheme, costs such as these are deducted from the profit share, meaning the attendants now share that burden.

What’s perhaps more concerning for UKPC attendants is that most of the costs considered in the profit share are completely out of their control, and as such there is little they can do to improve profits themselves, other than issue more tickets. Many parking tickets are cancelled based on factors unrelated to the actual parking event. For example:

  • Land owner authority
  • Lack of keeper liability
  • Inadequate signage
  • Non-adherence to the Code of Practice
  • Frustration of contact
  • Lack of planning permission
  • The list goes on….

Under this scheme, the cost of appeals will now be at least partly borne by the attendants.

BPA Blessing

After the new scheme was unveiled, one of our contacts complained to the BPA about the apparent breach of the Code of Practice by offering such a scheme. He’s now had a response from the BPA, denying any sort of breach:

We have reviewed the video and can confirm this incentive would not be in breach of section 9.4 of the Code of Practice as it is not based on the quantity of tickets issued.

The new scheme is introducing profit related pay. The incentive is to increase the efficiency of UK Parking Control Limited’s (UKPC) attendants whilst encouraging the attendants to make sure that all parking charges have been correctly issued.

The incentive scheme is not encouraging the operator to issue as many tickets as possible as the more tickets issued the higher deduction of costs (yellow wallets, printer rolls, costs of sending paperwork, DVLA enquiries, cost of POPLA, cost of appeals & cancellations, extraordinary legal costs from parking attendant error) from the revenue. This will deter parking attendants from issuing incorrect parking charges.

This response is quite clearly bollocks, to use the technical term. Section 9.4 of the Code of Practice banned members from issuing employment contracts which include financial incentives that “relate to the quantity of PCNs issued”. Quite clearly, if the only way profit can be generated is by issuing tickets, it does indeed ‘relate‘ to the quantity of PCNs issued. All this scheme does, is introduce other factors into the equation of how much they receive; it does not alter the fact there is a relationship between more tickets and a higher bonus.

The point about deterring parking attendants from issuing incorrect parking tickets is disingenuous. As the parking industry knows, many people pay up either through ignorance or intimidation, irrespective of whether the ticket was genuine or not. Conversely others will refuse to pay up, even where the ticket is issued correctly. Further, as pointed out above, many of the successful appeal points have nothing to do with the actions of the parking attendant or the act of parking. As such, for a borderline case, a parking attendant has two choices:

  • Not issue a ticket, guaranteeing no profit, whilst still incurring some costs (e.g. wages)
  • Issue a ticket and generate profit more often than not

For most, this isn’t a difficult choice.

The BPA conclude their response with the following:

Please note we will not enter into a dispute on this matter.

In this author’s view, trying to shut down criticism and debate is not the action of a professional body.

Race to the bottom

In their response, the BPA are using weasel words to avoid declaring a breach of their code of practice. Even if one could argue it is not covered by the letter of the code of practice, it is clearly not within the spirit. One wonders why the BPA are now condoning such a scheme, especially considering that UKPC were a considerable factor in the rule being introduced into the Code? Parking companies have been leaving the BPA to join the arguably lesser-regulated IPC, which freely allows such schemes.

Perhaps this is more evidence of the race to the bottom?