2. The Overall Approach
2.1. This section presents the findings relating to Questions 1-3, covering the overall approach to charging set out in the consultation document.
2.2. Question 1 asked:
Do you consider there should, as at present, be one flat rate charge for all removals ordered by the police or that there should be a number of different charges for different vehicle categories/incident scenarios?
2.3. Almost all of the respondents (94%) addressed Question 1. A total of 29 respondents did so at Question 1, while a further 3 respondents gave a clear response to Question 1 in addressing Question 2. Only 2 (6%) did not address Question 1.
2.4. Among those who addressed Question 1, most expressed a preference for one or other of the options (even though a tick box was not provided).
2.5. There was a clear balance of views in favour of having a number of different charges for different vehicle categories and / or incident scenarios.
2.6. Among those who addressed the question:
- 24 (75%) expressed the view that there should be a number of different charges.
- 2 (6%) suggested that there should be a flat rate.
- 6 (19%) did not express a clear preference for one or other option.
2.7. By type of respondent, a majority of respondents in almost all of the categories expressed a clear view that there should be a number of different charges (with the exception of the road haulage professional or trade bodies, where one did not express a clear view and the other did not address this question).
2.8. Among those who expressed the view that there should be a number of different charges, respondents described their preferred system in a number of ways, including that there should be:
- Different charges / rates (the most common terminology).
- A scale.
- A matrix.
- A scenario system.
2.9. Of the two respondents who expressed a preference for a flat rate, one made an additional suggestion that this should be supplemented by a mileage rate (a suggestion also made by one respondent who did not express a clear overall preference).
2.10. Among the six respondents who did not express a clear preference for one or other of the options:
- Two mentioned problems with both a flat rate and different charges.
- Two simply stated "no" in response to the question.
- One mentioned problems with a flat rate, but made no comment on different charges.
- One gave a number of different options, including having one flat rate and different charges for different types of vehicles.
2.11. Many respondents made additional qualitative comments, and a number of themes emerged:
- The benefits of having different charges or the drawbacks of having a flat rate (the most common themes).
- The basis of different charges.
- The nature of the system.
- The consultation itself.
2.12. Further details of the comments are provided below.
The benefits of having different charges
2.13. Many respondents commented on perceived benefits of having different charges.
2.14. The most common benefit identified was that this approach would allow for fees to vary to reflect different circumstances (e.g. the size, type, weight and position of the vehicle to be removed). A few suggested that it would also reflect the varying levels of complexity, and one respondent stated that it would allow vehicles to be treated on their own merits.
2.15. Other comments included that such an approach would bring clarity, consistency and transparency, and a few respondents stated that it would be fairer or more effective.
2.16. Other perceived benefits of having different charges, mentioned by a small number of respondents, were that this would:
- Make commercial sense and allow appropriate costs to be recovered.
- Aid the procurement process, where the removal was to be subcontracted out.
- Allow insurers to challenge the decisions of police to deem vehicles "unroadworthy".
2.17. Only two respondents mentioned perceived drawbacks of having different charges. One stated that the approach was not appropriate in practice, while another suggested that the category and scenario system would not cover all of the different types of recovery encountered.
The drawbacks of having a flat rate
2.18. A further common theme was the identification of drawbacks of a flat rate approach. The problem suggested most frequently was that a flat rate would not reflect the different circumstances, types of recovery, complexity and levels of cost involved.
2.19. A small number of respondents mentioned specific cost issues. It was suggested, for example, that a flat rate charge would not cover all costs, and one respondent questioned how shortfalls would be met. Another suggested that the level of a flat rate charge would have to be "unnaturally" high to cover the potential variations in cost. One respondent also stated that VROs would not be fairly compensated for the more complex recovery operations.
2.20. One respondent stated that the flat rate charged at present can be supplemented by legitimate additional fees, but that these are open to challenge, with the risk of reputational damage to the police. They also noted that different recovery operators charge different rates for equipment, staff and time taken.
2.21. Only two respondents identified perceived benefits of a flat rate approach. These were that this would provide clarity, consistency and ease of administration, while being less open to challenge, and reducing the opportunity for abuse.
The basis of different charges
2.22. Several respondents provided examples of what they considered should be the basis on which the different charges for different vehicle categories / incident scenarios could be set, or the factors which the charges should reflect.
2.23. A number of factors were identified (by small numbers of respondents in each case), which included:
- The size / weight of the vehicle.
- The location of the vehicle (e.g. on- or off-road, or the geographic location).
- The nature of the vehicle (e.g. motorcycle, car, small or large commercial vehicle).
- The nature of ownership (e.g. private or commercial).
- The nature of the incident (e.g. whether or not it involved: criminal action; the removal of spilt loads; the presence of dangerous goods etc.).
- The nature of the damage sustained.
- The need for specialist or specific equipment to effect removal.
- The number of staff needed.
The nature of the system
2.24. Several respondents also made suggestions relating to the overall nature of a system of charges. Comments (by a small number of respondents in each case) included that it should be:
- Cost neutral.
- Transparent, and clear.
- Fair and equitable.
- Effectively managed.
- Used by all public sector organisations.
2.25. It was also suggested that it should:
- Supersede all previous legislation and charging frameworks for the removal, storage and disposal of vehicles.
- Have a standardised process for outsourcing.
- Include a standards framework for contractors, with a breach of this leading to their removal from the framework.
2.26. In addition to these themes, a small number of respondents made comments relating to aspects of the actual consultation. One stated, for example, that the consultation document showed a Scottish Government predisposition towards a "category/scenario" type of model. Two others stated that Question 1 was effectively a two-part question.
2.27. Question 2 asked:
If you believe there should be one flat rate charge, on what do you think that should be based and what do you think it should be?
2.28. Around four fifths of respondents (79%) provided an answer to this question.
2.29. More than three quarters of these, however either: reiterated that they did not agree with a flat rate; identified further problems with a flat rate; or simply stated that this question was "not applicable". In addition, three respondents provided their answers to Question 1 here (which were included in the analysis of Question 1 - see above).
2.30. Just over a quarter of respondents to Question 2 (26%), and around a fifth of respondents overall made substantive comments on this question. This included the two respondents who stated at Question 1 that they favoured a flat rate, along with three who favoured different charges and two who did not express a clear preference at Question 1.
2.31. By type, those who made comments included: 4 individuals; 2 VROs; and the police respondent.
2.32. Most of these comments related to the two parts of the question and focused on either (or both) of:
- What a flat rate should be based on.
- What they thought it should be.
2.33. Only one respondent made comments on any other issue.
2.34. Further details of the comments are provided below.
What a flat rate charge should be based on
2.35. A small number of respondents provided views about what a flat rate charge should be based on.
2.36. Two suggested that this should be based on the matrix proposed at Appendix E in the consultation document (although, as described in Question 1, the Scottish Government was proposing the matrix approach as a replacement for the flat fee approach).
2.37. The remaining respondents (while not in favour of a flat fee approach) suggested that it would need to be based on the cost for the removal and processing of a vehicle, with one also stating that it would have to be calculated to cover all recoveries.
What a flat rate charge should be
2.38. A small number of respondents (with mixed views of whether or not a flat rate was the preferred option) made comments about what a flat rate charge should be.
2.39. While none provided a specific figure, suggestions included that it should:
- Be larger than at present.
- Include a mileage rate.
- Have specific prices for each element of a recovery.
2.40. The only other issue raised at Question 2 was by one respondent who suggested that recovered vehicles should be offered to a local recycling plant or breaker / dismantler for free and should not be allowed back on the road.
2.41. Question 3 asked:
Vehicles removed on police instructions must be released to their owner on payment of any prescribed charge. If no charge is prescribed, they must be released on demand free of charge. Do you think there are any types of police ordered removal for which no charge should be prescribed?
2.42. Almost all respondents (31, or 91%) addressed this question. Only 3 respondents (9%) did not address the question.
2.43. A majority of those who addressed this question (61%) stated "no", indicating that they did not believe that there were any types of police ordered removal for which no charge should be prescribed. The remainder (39%) stated "yes".
2.44. By type of respondent, all of the vehicle recovery professional or trade bodies, and the majority of VROs, individuals and local authorities stated "no", while views amongst insurance companies were more mixed. The insurance professional / trade body and the police respondent were both among those who stated "yes".
2.45. Respondents' overall views are summarised in the table below:
Table 3. Responses to Q3
Do you think there are any types of police ordered removal for which no charge should be prescribed?
2.46. No space was provided for respondents to provide further qualitative details of their views, although a very small number of respondents made specific comments on this at other points in their responses.
2.47. Further details of the comments are provided below.
2.48. Among the other comments, one respondent suggested that no charge should be prescribed where: a vehicle was hit by an uninsured driver; the victim was taken to the hospital unconscious; and it was in the public interest to provide the service free of charge. The respondent stated that this should be a public service and expressed the view that the default position should be to charge in all circumstances, unless such a veto of charges would serve the public interest.
2.49. Another respondent stated that no charge should be prescribed where vehicles were seized or removed as a result of the driver having no licence or the vehicle having no insurance, in order to protect other road users. This respondent suggested that the support given to the police by the recovery operator formed part of their general agreement with the police, and a VRO should be able to recover expenses from the disposal proceeds of the vehicle (where crushed); or from fines paid by the owner for driving without a licence.
2.50. A further respondent stated that Police Scotland should wave any removal costs in situations where criminal activity had taken place involving the keeper's vehicle (e.g. where a vehicle had been reported stolen). They also expressed the view that the need to examine the vehicle for evidence associated to the crime was a police matter, and any unavoidable upfront cost to the vehicle keeper could be recouped via the motorist's insurer.
2.51. Another suggestion made by one respondent was that, as the potential requirement for additional equipment for recoveries with significant damage was reflected in the higher matrix rate, they would expect current practices of attempting to render extra charges for specialist equipment to cease.