This report presents the findings of an analysis of written responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on the removal, storage and disposal of vehicles regulations. The consultation ran from 14th May 2018 until 6th August 2018.
The purpose of this consultation was to seek views on proposed changes to the relevant Scottish Government legislation: the Removal, Storage and Disposal of Vehicles (Prescribed Sums and Charges etc.) Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2005; and the Police (Retention and Disposal of Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Regulations 2005.
At present, there are three separate statutory charges for the removal, storage and disposal of vehicles, two of which are set by the Scottish Government (with the third reserved to the UK Parliament). The charges set out by the Scottish Government date from 2005, and there is seen to be a need for them to be revised to take account of increased costs and inflation. Additionally, the current flat rate system is not seen to cover the range of potential scenarios for the removal, storage and disposal of vehicles.
The proposed changes are intended to put in place revised charges that would apply when the police or local authorities invoke their legislative powers to remove, store or dispose of vehicles.
A total of 34 written submissions were received to the consultation. The largest number was from individuals (32%), with just under a quarter (24%) from Vehicle Recovery Operators (VROs) and just under 1 in 7 (15%) from insurance companies. Responses were also received from local authorities (9%); vehicle recovery professional or trade bodies (9%); road haulage professional or trade bodies (6%); an insurance professional / trade body (3%); and the police (3%). The findings are summarised below.
The overall approach (Questions 1-3)
There was a clear balance of views in favour of having a number of different charges for different vehicle categories and / or incident scenarios, rather than one flat rate charge for all removals ordered by the police (Question 1).
Many respondents made comments on the perceived benefits of having different charges for different categories / incident scenarios (e.g. to allow fees to reflect different circumstances; provide clarity and transparency; and provide a fair system).
A further common theme was the perceived drawbacks of a flat rate (e.g. not reflecting the complexity or costs of different types of recovery. Comments were also made about factors upon which to base charges; and the overall nature of the system.
Around a fifth of respondents overall provided views on what one flat rate charge should be based on (if there were to be one) and what it should be (Question 2).
A small number of respondents made suggestions about what a flat rate charge should be based on. These included: the matrix (although this was proposed as a replacement for a flat fee); and the cost for the removal and processing of a vehicle.
A small number made suggestions about what a flat rate should be, which included that it should: be larger than at present; include a mileage rate; and have prices for each element of recovery.
A majority of respondents (61%) expressed the view that there should not be any types of police-ordered removal for which no charge should be prescribed (Question 3).
A small number of respondents made comments about situations in which they believed no charge should be prescribed. These included: where it was in the public interest; where vehicles were seized or removed as a result of the driver having no licence or the vehicle no insurance; or where criminal activity had taken place. One stated that there should be no extra charge for equipment requirements covered by the matrix.
The matrix (Questions 4-5)
A majority of respondents (52%) indicated that they agreed with the current categories and scenarios in the Scottish Government's proposals (Question 4).
Among the additional comments made, many were general comments about the nature of the matrix to be adopted (e.g. general support for the approach; cost and charging issues; definitional issues; the need for simplicity).
Another common theme was the identification of specific factors to be taken into account (e.g. the nature of the incident; involvement of specialists; type of vehicle involved; loads; location; and position). A small number of other comments were also made, mainly about the operation of the scheme.
A majority of respondents (67%) indicated that they agreed with the approach of allowing for more to be charged for recovery of a vehicle that is not upright, or is "significantly damaged", and with the Scottish Government's definition of "significant damage" (Question 5).
Many respondents made general comments about the approach and / or definition (e.g. support for this / reasons for agreement; the importance of the definition; difficulties in interpretation of the term or other problems; the nature of the issue of significant damage; and suggestions for the way forward).
Several respondents made specific suggestions about the definition, suggesting amendments or alternatives. A small number of other comments were made, including the perceived need for a clear definition of "off-road".
Charging issues (Questions 6-8)
Less than half of respondents overall made comments on the level or basis of the charges (whether or not they agreed with those suggested by the Scottish Government), although almost three quarters made some comments on related issues (Question 6).
Many of the respondents to this question made comments on the overall nature of charges (e.g. general agreement with the system or principle of the matrix; general problems with the matrix; and suggested requirements or improvements) rather than the level or basis of these.
A number did, however, comment on the overall level of the charges (or particular aspects of these, such as storage charges; specific columns within the matrix; or their own suggested charges).
Several respondents also made comments on the basis of the charges (e.g. that these should be based on: all costs; the charges in England and Wales; the type of vehicle; and the complexity of the removal).
A small number of other comments were made about the operation of the scheme and one respondent provided detailed comments about a menu-type pricing example.
A majority of respondents (64%) stated that there should be a charge for "all other cases" not identified in the scenarios (as opposed to no charge being prescribed) (Question 7).
Many respondents made comments on the nature of the current list (e.g. the benefits of this; the need for an "all other cases" charge; and some potential problems with this).
Many also made comments on the nature of a charge for "all other cases" (e.g. the types of scenarios that might be covered; the basis of the charge; an approach based on a flat rate; or specific suggested levels of charge).
A further common theme was the identification of suggestions for the way forward (e.g. review of the matrix; consultation; use of digital images; and particular approaches to charging). A small number of other comments were made relating largely to instances in which respondents believed that no charge should be levied (see Question 3).
Respondents' views appeared to be mixed (where these could be identified) about whether the prescribed charges should take into account: the fees recovery operators pay to belong to management schemes; or charges that are not paid; or any special requirements made of operators by the police. Just over half believed they should not, while just under half identified factors to take into account (Question 8).
Most of the respondents who did not believe that the charges should take account of some, or all of these factors made comments on problems with their inclusion (e.g. general opposition to charging for membership or the use of management companies; views of these arrangements as commercial or contractual issues; and opposition to the vehicle owner having to pay for the types of costs mentioned).
Those respondents who considered that some factors should be included in the charges identified the nature of these factors (including those mentioned in the question and a small number of other factors). A few respondents also made general comments on charges (e.g. their overall nature and the receipt of fees) or made other suggestions (e.g. relating to long term storage and clean-up costs).
Other issues for consideration (Questions 9-11)
Just over half of respondents overall provided comments on unintended consequences of the Scottish Government's proposals, or other factors not currently taken into account (Question 9).
Several respondents identified what they considered to be potential unintended consequences (e.g. contractor abuse of the system; a negative impact on service; "laden / "unladen" being open to interpretation; potential continuing judicial challenge; increased costs; and risk of a large number of unclaimed vehicles).
A further common theme was the identification of other factors perceived not to have been taken into account (e.g. management company issues; specific types of incident; types of vehicle; the impact of smart motorways; operator safety; issues relating to storage and disposal; retention of vehicles for civil cases; and poor training for police and Procurators Fiscal).
Several respondents also made general comments (e.g. the need for fast and competent local operators; general support for the proposed system; the importance of the "finer detail" and the perceived need for a joint approach with Traffic Scotland).
A majority of respondents (68%) expressed a preference for the regulation to be reviewed at specified times, such as every 3 or 5 years (rather than increased annually based on inflation) (Question 10).
The largest number of comments related to reviewing the regulation at specified times (e.g. respondents' favoured timescales and reasons [with the most common being three years]; and the general benefits of review at specific times or on a regular basis).
Some comments were also made relating to increasing the prescribed charges annually, based on inflation (e.g. support for, or benefits of this approach; or suggestions about how to implement this).
A majority of respondents (52%) stated that there were factors the Scottish Government should take into account to reflect on the experiences of the matrix system that has been operating in England and Wales since 2008 (Question 11.)
The factors identified included: definitional issues, and issues for clarity; cost issues; the need for review / update; overall benefits of the system in England and Wales; management issues; issues for specific vehicles; differences in Scotland; and a small number of other perceived issues and requirements. A small number of additional comments were made including the importance of learning from experiences in England and Wales and consulting those with relevant experience.
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