Monday, August 22, 2005

Sunderland Council and NCP now admit to 78 offences

It started just a week ago when on Saturday 13th August the Newcastle Journal ran the story that we had been building up for a while...that Sunderland Council's parking regime was unlawful.
They were operating a Controlled Parking Zone for the city centre. We had argued that to do so they needed a traffic order.
Sunderland said they didn't.
The Department for Transport confirmed that they did.

As the story broke the press and media went into feeding frenzy with TV, radio and all the press covering the story.

Then we received a telephone call...from a former Parking Attendant. They added more information...that Sunderland Council had had a meeting with NCP regarding the fact that there were no traffic orders in place for the city's taxi ranks. This meant that issued tickets were unlawful, but rather than admitting this, they covered it up. They knew in October 2003.

Further problems now arise because they did immediately not contact the motorists to refund this money. They only began doing this once we had exposed it in the press, but it begs the question, "Why the cover up?"
An audit trail is now being conducted into where this money went, but the problem is that the Council's accounts were signed off for 2003-4 with officials knowing full well that it would contain items of unlawful income.

Sunderland Council were forced into making a humiliating admission. However, one must not be confused by the smokescreen. The Taxi Rank Orders are only a part of the whole Special Parking Area...which created the 'decriminalised' operation.
The Controlled Parking Zone is only a get the approval from the Secretary of State's approval for the whole 'decriminalised' regime, all the necessary orders and signs needed to be in place. This is clearly not the case.

Late on Friday Sunderland Council were forced to admit that they continued to issue tickets (Code 045) on the City's taxi ranks after they became aware.

The following questions have to be asked:

Why, if Parking Services and NCP were aware they were acting unlawfully, were these code 045 'offences' not immediately refunded? We have received confirmation today that they are aware of 78 (of which 38 have been paid). Could this be regarded as attempting to obtain, and obtaining monies by deception?

Who was responsible for covering up the fact that 700+ tickets had been unlawfully issued?

Why weren't all NCP Parking Attendants given explicit instructions not to issue further tickets?

Why have no steps been taken to put in place the correct Traffic Orders for the Taxi Ranks since November 2003? Could it be that this would highlight everyone to the fact that the decriminalised regime could be classed as unlawful if the Secretary of State has been misled?

Lots of questions. Not many answers forthcoming.


W.C.Christopher said...

Milk it for all it's worth, it's time that underhanded practices like this are exposed for all to see!

Anonymous said...

If it appears to be the case that these tickets ARE illegal, I wonder what the implications would be of the motorists who were issued tickets to bring criminal charges against Sunderland City Council and NCP for a number of actual crimes. The first being Obtaining monies by deception. Then we have the stress factor. Compensation is surely in order. How many of these motorists have suffered? Could someone (And, indeed, SHOULD) someone sue?

Bill Sticker said...

Interesting stuff, especially the point about decriminalisation not being fully legal unless all the Traffic Regulation Orders are properly in place. We, as Parking Enforcement Officers constantly complain about the state of road signs, markings and TRO's to Management who give us a brittle smile and a "Carry on lads. Leave it to us grown ups to sort out.". Only they rarely do.

Personally, in our area there's a particular Manager who looks to be guilty of this, and we would all like to see them take a fall from as great a height as possible. Onto their own sword for preference.

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