There is a ‘significant cultural shift’ underway in the private parking sector as the industry prepares for the introduction of a new unified Code of Practice, according to Will Hurley, Chief Executive of the International Parking Community (IPC|).
Speaking at his opening address to several hundred delegates attending the International Parking Community’s 2021 Annual Conference, he said: “Although final details have yet to be confirmed by the Government and the operational costs of the new regulatory framework are still an unknown, development of the new Code has certainly helped to focus minds. The IPC’s longstanding drive to encourage closer industry dialogue has finally come to fruition and there is now widespread acceptance that future progress will be dependent on clear evidence rather than alarmist or isolated anecdotes.
“Gone are the days of simply saying repeat offenders, persistent evaders, unacceptable levels of abuse and vandalism are problems. Only by substantiating the scale of such problems with convincing evidence can we expect to receive any regulatory support to address such errant behaviour. This has created a new mindset and demonstrates a growing level of maturity within the industry. In my eyes, that amounts to very positive progress although there is still some way to go to transform long-established behaviours and perceptions.”
He also pointed to the way IPC members have responded so effectively to the IPC’s compliance mantra of recent years. “I’m sure this commitment to compliance has helped to improve operational resilience for all members and provided the agility and a firm footing for the shape of things to come in the new era. Such qualities will be of paramount importance as the new Code is rolled out and as we all move through the transition period towards new processes, procedures and working practices.
“I accept this is an unsettling period for all parking operators and landowners. However, the IPC continues to lead the way with regular webinars, bulletins and guidance. With a theme “Cracking the Code – Moving ahead with confidence’, this year’s Annual Conference has also been structured to provide members with the knowledge and insight to minimise operational and commercial disruption and to hit the ground running once the new Code has been confirmed.”
Chris Naylor, the IPC’s Membership and Operations Manager provided Conference delegates with an overview of the latest developments and expected timings for the new Code and an indication of the steps operators should be taking to get ready for the new certification. He also outlined the central role likely to be played by UKAS and the relationships between the various organisations within the new regulatory framework.
Members of the IPC Steering Committee and Approved Service Provider Panel also hosted a Questions and Answers session in the main Conference Hall. Many of the issues highlighted by delegates focused on the potential impact of the new Code, with the host speakers emphasising the importance of reflection, rethinking former commercial models and of maintaining close engagement with the IPC throughout the transition period.
A series of special ‘breakout’ sessions hosted by expert speakers was held for delegates covering a wide range of topics. These included recent developments in HMRC’s policy on VAT for parking operators, an update on the Biometric and Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s Third-Party Certification Scheme and the practical application of the law in parking management enforcement. There were also sessions on High Court Enforcement, the parking industry’s role in transitioning to zero emission vehicles as well as a taster session for Disability Equality Training.
This year’s motivational speaker was Billy Billingham MBE, a former member of the SAS and bodyguard for Hollywood A-listers and currently a star of Channel 4’s ‘SAS: Who dares Wins’ show. Drawing on his 32 years in the military, Billingham highlighted the importance of adapting and changing to achieve target goals and always trying to do better and going a little further whatever the challenges one faces. He urged delegates not to wait for someone else to do ‘it’, a sentiment that resonates with the IPC’s commitment to lead by example.
Once again, this year’s Annual Conference was held at The Double Tree by Hilton in Milton Keynes and the Conference exhibition area was even busier than previous years. The record number of exhibitors included the main Conference sponsors, Debt Recovery Plus, TRACE Enforcement Group, Gladstones and ZatPark as well as additional sponsors Hub Parking Technology, Sioma, Tap2Park, Parking Control Management UK and Atria.
As it represented the first major social event in the parking industry since the relaxation of social distancing measures and restrictions resulting from the pandemic, the Annual Conference Gala Dinner provided a fun and long-awaited opportunity for entertainment and socialising. As in previous years, the evening featured a special charity auction for the IPC’s nominated charity for 2021. ‘Friends of Frankie’ is a charity raising funds to support research into Sudden Unexpected Death of a Child and to assist organisations who provide support for bereaved families. This year the auction raised the highest-ever figure – topping £15,500 for the charity.
There was also a trophy presentation for the winners of the inaugural IPC Awards, including a personal award for Rebecca Green from Debt Recovery Plus as well as awards for Parking Control Management (UK) Ltd, RingGo and Cornwall Council.