19th October 2005
Council Guilty of Parking 'Cover-Up'
Thousands more motorists to get refunds...but they haven't been told.
Sunderland City Council has begun a massive cover-up operation across the city as the parking rip-off scandal now descends into absolute chaos.
It was pointed out a number of weeks ago that Sunderland's decriminalised parking enforcement regime was unlawful. At first the council denied but in the light of damning evidence they reluctantly conceded to acting unlawfully 'in some areas.' This was initially for tickets issued on taxi ranks. Further pressure exposed that they had unlawfully issued tickets to Blue Badge holders on loading bays. They had been aware for two years that they had received this money unlawfully but failed to offer any refunds.
As a result their is an ongoing internal investigation with the police awaiting the outcome.
Now we are about to expose further damning revelations.
Senior Council Officials are desperately trying to cover-up their incompetence and unlawful actions by instructing council workers to correct incorrect or missing signs and cover over the unlawful ones.Tens of thousands of motorists have been unlawfully ticketed because of incorrect signage and the council is going to have to pay back millions of pounds.
Motorists who have been ticketed in these areas are entitled to their money back as their tickets have been issued unlawfully. However, the local authority has been fully aware of this for over two years, and again covered it up. Regularly weekly meetings between council officials and NCP highlighted the problem. A former Senior NCP Parking Attendant has made a witness statement to a solicitor confirming that Parking Attendants were told to keep issuing tickets and refunds would only be made if the motorist appealed.
However, this situation is even more serious than obtaining money unlawfully because the Secretary of State had been misled in the first instance, by Sunderland Council officials, into granting the Road Traffic (Permitted Parking Area and Special Parking Area) (City of Sunderland) Order 2002 (SI, 2002, No. 3266).
In the appplication for Decriminalised Parking Enforcement to the Department of Transport council officials gave 'reassurances' that ALL the signs, lines, plates and Traffic Regulation Orders would be correct and in place before the commencement of DPE.
The council was already aware as it had been revealed in a report prepared by consultants Oscar Faber in 2001 (at a cost of £61,488.97 excluding VAT) detailing the errors across the city.
The report was never acted upon but Sunderland City Council.
The Secretary of State issued the necessary consent unaware that he had been misled.
It is only now that all the incorrect, missing and unlawful signs are being corrected and the task is a monumental one.
Sunderland City Solicitor, Bob Rayner now admits they are desperately trying to rectify the situation that the Secretary of State had been told was correct . He states, "It (Sunderland City Council) has a duty to ensure that it (the DPE) works properly. It is intended to take all necessary remedial action to achieve that, and in appropriate cases to make refunds.The Council is undertaking a programme of works to rectify incorrect signage and is identifying all situations where refunds ought to be made."
The trouble for Sunderland City Council is that this is a clear admission that they misled the Secretary of State. They had a duty in the first instance before they began enforcement to ensure that they were doing so lawfully. It is now abundantly clear to all that this was not so. Mr. Rayner goes on to state, " I would reiterate that it is not considered that the Council has any power formally to "suspend" the Decriminalised Parking Regime."
That is correct, but it is the Secretary of State that does have the power and in the light of all the evidence he should now be asked by the Chief Executive to intervene immediately.
Neil Herron who exposed Sunderland City Council's unlawful activity states, "What we are witnessing here is the compounding of unlawful activity with further unlawful activity. This is not just closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, the Grand National has been run and the horse is in the winners enclosure! The incompetence of council officers and their continued denial is staggering. I believe that they will face very serious consequences for their unlawful actions, along with others, which amounts to many thousands of offences of obtaining money by deception involving many millions of pounds, along with malfeasance and misfeasance of public office and maladministration. I think the population of Sunderland is well aware of the phrase...'when you are in a hole stop digging.' It is about time the Senior Council Officers had their shovels taken off them. We expect a clear comment form Council Leader, Mr. Bob Symonds, immediately. He has been very conspicuous by his absence throughout this disgraceful episode. The city solicitor has given a clear indication that the council does not have the power to formally suspend enforcement...but the Secretary of State does. I expect this to happen forthwith and I suspect that the people and businesses of Sunderland who have suffered this draconian 'cash-generating' enforcement regime will welcome the day when a proper, sensible non-profit enforcement regime can be re-instated."
The pictures below highlight a couple of examples of the desperate attemts at 'cover-up, but even now they cannot get it right. We have many hundreds of examples of this complete shambles.
In the three pictures above the disabled bays are originally incorrectly marked in yellow. As can be seen from the recent picture, they have now been correctly marked in white.
However, the taxi ranks are now correctly marked in yellow but they are still unlawful as they can only be parallel to the kerb / carriageway and not painted as echelons. The Clearway sign, indicates no stopping on 'main carriageway' ...it is in a parking layby. Sign below Clearway sign, 'On taxi rank,' ceased to be legal on 1st January 2005
The photograph above shows a newly painted disabled bay...in yellow. The legislation states it must be white (as they have done in the example above). More public money spent by incompetent council officers desperate to cover their tracks but another classic example that even now they haven't got a clue what they are doing.
0191 565 7143
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
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