The majority of council decision-makers lack awareness and understanding of potential changes to local authority parking. This is the key finding in a new report, Parking strategies and innovation, from the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU), based on a survey of over 100 councillors and officers.
In 2024, the Department for Transport (DfT) is expected to move the National Parking Platform (NPP) from its trial phase to full-scale national roll out. If adopted by local authorities, the NPP – a publicly-owned technology hub that standardises the management and delivery of parking services – will revolutionise the way phone parking services are delivered.
Although 64% of councils have a parking strategy in place that outlines their development plans, the survey identifies significant gaps in understanding about the new model, which will impact the future-proofing of these strategies. The survey found that:
- over a third (36%) of respondents had never heard of the NPP
- 44% of respondents said they had not heard of the open market model which will introduce competition
- almost 80% said they would welcome efforts by the government to explain more about how the NPP will work in practice.
The NPP will enable approved phone parking providers to integrate their services and access all available parking inventory in a specific geographical area, without needing to go through the current tender process. The platform is publicly owned, which aligns with the survey findings: 44% of local authorities prefer this model, while only 3.5% favour a private-sector hub. The NPP provides the foundation for the open market in parking, which allows multiple phone parking providers to operate alongside each other. This will encourage competition between parking providers and enable motorists to choose their preferred parking app.
Currently, 86% of councils working with phone parking providers contract them through a tender process. This limits motorists to one service provider per area. According to the survey, only 30% of councils say the current procurement model is either cost or time efficient. An open market model significantly reduces or removes these challenges, while improving service resilience and incentivising innovation. It is already a standard model used across much of Europe and solves the problem of drivers having to download multiple parking apps to pay for parking. This approach is strongly supported by local authorities: 83% of survey respondents favour downloading only one app.
Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive, LGIU said: “We understand that parking is a complex issue that cuts across social, economic, environmental and development policies. As driving has become a divisive topic, councils tread a fine line in prioritising the needs of residents, businesses, visitors and different user groups, while meeting other strategic goals, such as net zero targets.
New developments and innovations like the National Parking Platform (NPP) have the potential to transform procurement of parking by opening up the market and giving choice to the individual motorist for the first time. In doing so, it could bring significant benefits to local authorities, including cost savings from lowered procurement costs.
Our latest report found that a significant number of local authorities in the UK have a strategy gap, which could prevent them from realising the benefits of some of these innovations. We encourage the government to spearhead an awareness-raising initiative around the platform to ensure that local councils understand the NPP and can make an informed decision on shifting to a parking hub.”
Peter O’Driscoll, Managing Director of RingGo, said: “The NPP has the potential to benefit every council. They would be able to move away from a time-consuming and costly procurement process, while offering motorists more choice. The preliminary trial in Manchester, and Cheshire West and Chester indicates it creates a competitive market, with parking sessions spread across multiple phone parking providers.
With towns and cities under pressure to improve and integrate services and reduce emissions ahead of net zero targets, now is the time for the NPP and the open market. We look forward to the government moving decisively to scale the platform as we work together with local authorities to make our cities more liveable.”