COUNCIL chiefs have called for traffic wardens to show more "common sense" when dishing out parking fines in South Tyneside.
The call came during a recent community area forum meeting when it emerged that a Tyne and Wear Fire Service appliance and a Balfour Beatty works van were both hit with parking tickets.
Issuing the fines was private firm APCOA, who took over parking management in the borough after South Tyneside Council tendered the contract last year.
Coun Iain Malcolm, deputy leader of the council and Labour representative for Horsley Hill, told the East Shields forum, said: "I'm sure when this contract was given, workers were told to use common sense, compassion and lenience, but this doesn't seem to be happening."
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue confirmed that one of their service cars was targeted while parked at the back of the Denmark Centre, in South Shields, last week.
A fire brigade spokesman said: "A car which used by a community officer was given a parking ticket.
"He was advising a person about a potential fire hazard and the vehicle is clearly marked to say that it belongs to the fire service. On appeal, the ticket was revoked."
During the meeting it was also revealed that more than 10 per cent of ticket fines were waived when the offending motorist appealed.
Cleadon Park Independent Coun George Elsom said: "In reality, the actual figure should be a lot more.
"How many people receive a ticket and can't be bothered with the hassle of appealing it? Those numbers aren't taken into account."
Arthur Meeks, Labour representative for the Horsley Hill ward, added: "It's absolutely ridiculous what's happening, where's it going to stop?
"These people are trying to do an honest day's work and they're being penalised like criminals."
However, the council was keen to stress that in most cases the parking attendant hadn't administered the ticket wrongly.
And a spokesman for APCOA defended the actions of the parking management company's staff, and said: "We can't comment on individual cases.
"We believe our civil enforcement officers are trained properly and interpret local policies which aren't ours.
"Anyone who receives a ticket should follow the information on the reverse side if they wish to appeal."
Meanwhile, under new changes which came into force last month, parking attendants will now be called civil enforcement officers.
There were also plans announced to buy a new camera vehicle to spot offending motorists entering bus lanes in South Tyneside.
But confusion arose at the meeting as to how the company would pay for the vehicle, after the council's highways and transportation design team manager David Elliott, revealed that the self-financing company was running at a "probable loss of 10,000 to 15,000" over the last financial year.
Coun Malcolm told the meeting that the company would only be able to cover these losses by either issuing more tickets or raising existing fines.
He said: "It can only be a self-financing company if you raise the fines and issue a larger number of tickets."
But Mr Elliot assured this would not be the case, and added: "If the losses weren't regained then we would have to reduce our services."