Feeds

Report slams London Mayor's car charge zone contract

Systems don't seem to be entirely working after all...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Capita, the contractor responsible for the congestion-charging system that has previously been categorised by Mayor Ken Livingstone as an outstanding success, has been fined £1 million by Transport for London for poor customer services. Mayor Ken has subsequently rowed back a little, describing Capita's performance as "completely unacceptable," but still faces a caning when the London Assembly's Budget committee considers a report on TfL's contract with Capita at its meeting this Thursday.

In light of events since the introduction of the charge the report will not make comfortable reading for Livingstone and TfL. It notes that although 441,000 penalty charge notices (for being in the charge zone without paying) have been issued, only 209,000 have been paid, mainly at the discount rate of £40. 129,000 have been disputed, and 66 per cent of these objections are accepted, meaning only 59 per cent of notices were paid in the first five months.

The Assembly has faced substantial difficulties in extracting the terms of the Capita contract from Livingstone (you can read about that by tearing through some of the other agenda papers here,) and its report does not particularly like what it found when it succeeded. It is critical of the initial contract, and suggests pointedly that "the events of the past year with the Congestion Charge contract have shown that there is a legitimate public interest in key performance data being made publicly available at an early date." It also compares unfavourably Ken's reluctance to share in this instance with his demands for information about the government's public-private partnership arrangements concerning London's Underground.

Indeed. Livingstone, who told the Committee in September that he came close to firing Capita, renegotiated the contract. The previous one would have involved paying £81 million to Capita in the event of termination, but the report isn't impressed by the new one ("We do not view this as a good deal") either. Now, Capita gets a further £3.5 million for IT systems, which were originally deemed to be successful, and the upgrading costs of which "should have been met by Capita and not TfL." In addition, Capita gets a 138 per cent increase in its share of penalty charge revenue, up from £2.06 to £4.90 per penalty paid.

According to a TfL forecast of last December Capita would receive £297 million over the five year contract, representing 70 per cent of total scheme costs. Revenues for the scheme have been lower than expected, contributing substantially to TfL's large money hole, which Livingstone would like the government to plug.

Snapshots of the scheme in operation over the past few months have not exactly inspired confidence in how well the technology is doing. Capita has confessed that it has problems distinguishing between zero and O, and has admitted a less than systematic approach to enforcement.

Charge co-director Malcolm Murray-Clark is here quoted as saying that drivers who enter the zone without paying every day of the week were only receiving a penalty notice once a week, and that: "We'd want that to rise to at least three, possibly four, a week." This, clearly, is not a fully automated, bulletproof system firing on all cylinders, but one that requires a very worrying level of manual intervention. Last week, Livingstone admitted that a whole seven vehicles had been impounded since February, which also seems a tad of an underachievement, given the number of zeroes (ah, that's why...) on the end of the unpaid penalty notices tally. Clearly, the vaunted scheme is a bit broken - how broken, we presume, has yet to emerge. ®

Related stories:
The London charge zone, the DP Act, and MS .NET

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
IRS boss on XP migration: 'Classic fix the airplane while you're flying it attempt'
Plus: Condoleezza Rice at Dropbox 'maybe she can find ... weapons of mass destruction'
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
New Facebook phone app allows you to stalk your mates
Nearby Friends feature goes live in a few weeks
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.