THERE has been criticism of Devon County Council s on street parking service after a report revealed it has been running at a £1.5 million loss in its first two years of operation. Members of the council s Cabinet will hear today (Wednesday) how the Civil

THERE has been criticism of Devon County Council's on street parking service after a report revealed it has been running at a £1.5 million loss in its first two years of operation.

Members of the council's Cabinet will hear today (Wednesday) how the Civil Parking Enforcement Service (CPE) has cost £1,577,006 and almost 13,000 of the 50,052 fines issued in the last year have not been paid.

Enforcement is carried out by district councils on behalf of the county, but of the parking penalty charge notices stuck on windscreens in the past financial year, the report reveals almost a quarter of North Devon and a third of Torridge's remain unpaid.

Independent North Devon Councillor Rodney Cann said the £1.5 million deficit was a stunning loss when set against the cut backs many other services were facing.

"It's a matter of concern we are wasting all this money on a service which is hardly providing customer satisfaction and that people are simply cocking a snook at," he said.

"We are seeing cutbacks right across the council, with important frontline functions such as children's, social care and highways services facing cuts.

"Then we see money bleeding from a service that obviously in many areas is not providing the level of provision the public would expect.

"There are critical areas such as Instow seafront, where we are always having problems but see very little enforcement."

The total number of unpaid fines for the year 2009/2010 currently stands at 1,348 out of 5,777 for North Devon and 1,294 of 4,347 for Torridge.

The report to Cabinet by Chris McCarthy, county executive director of environment, economy and culture, says some fines may still be going through the appeals process, others the debt recovery route, but that all penalties paid help offset the deficit.

The aim is to make the service self financing within five years and to do this it says more efficiency savings must be made.

The county currently funds eight back offices for the service, supporting eight management structures and eight separate teams of enforcement officers - the report suggests an integrated service would be more cost effective.

A Devon County Council spokesman added: "The civil parking enforcement deficit reduced by nearly 30 per cent since 08/09 as the service is now fully up and running.

"We will be exploring further cost savings, efficiencies and better integration of the service across the county to aim to make it self financing over future years."

The new pay and display in market and coastal towns such as Ilfracombe is expected to ease the deficit and a speedier, more streamlined version of the scheme is proposed for future areas under consideration.

The report says the county must work with its partners to improve the service and look at ways of integrating it to provide more savings. Other options which could be considered include farming out the enforcement service to an outside contractor.