Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Parking gaffe may cost council dear

Manchester Evening News
6th December 2005

Parking gaffe may cost town hall dear
Amanda Crook

APPEAL: Neil Herron.

A COUNCIL may be forced to pay back almost £700,000 to motorists after a campaigner uncovered a legal loophole he claims makes its parking tickets invalid.
Rochdale council sent out more than 28,000 tickets addressed to "the driver" of illegally-parked cars rather than "the owner" - wording which a national adjudication service has already ruled invalid.
Now Neil Herron, who advised the "metric martyr" greengrocer in his anti-EU legal battle, is calling on council bosses to return the £660,000 he claims they have collected unlawfully.
He wants any motorist who received a parking ticket between July 2004 and August 2005 to contact him as he prepares to launch legal action, which he estimates could cost the hard-up council £2m.
Rochdale MP Paul Rowen, the Lib Dem transport spokesman, will raise the issue in the Commons tomorrow.
But council bosses, who corrected the wording of their tickets days after the parking tribunal found against them, say the tickets were valid.
Mr Herron, who has already forced Sunderland council to start paying motorists back £35,000 in illegally-collected parking fines, said: "The arrogance of Rochdale council is staggering. The 28,000 penalty charge notices it issued before August had wording which I believe makes them void and unenforceable, and now it is refusing to pay the money back to the motorists."
New freedom of information laws used by Mr Herron have revealed the council used bailiffs to recover 409 parking fines.
He believes these people could be entitled to compensation as well as their money back.
On July 27 the National Parking Adjudication Service (NPAS) upheld a complaint, ruling: "The Rochdale notice is addressed to `the driver', whereas liability under the Act rests upon the owner. The driver may not be the owner, and in these circumstances the Rochdale notice is misleading."
In April, the NPAS sent all councils guidance that the wording on their parking tickets must fit statutory requirements.
Rochdale parking services manager Kevin Mayor said: "We were asked by the NPAS to make minor changes to our penalty notices' wording. We acted immediately to amend the wording, which now follows the adjudicators' recommendation."
Mr Mayor also claimed that penalty charge notices issued before the changes had previously been accepted by the NPAS.
An NPAS spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that an appeal involving Rochdale was allowed by an adjudicator on the grounds that the penalty charge notice issued was not valid. The adjudicator's decision is not binding in subsequent appeals."

Mr Herron wants anyone issued with a parking ticket from Rochdale council between July 4 last year and July 27 this year to write to 12 Frederick Street, Sunderland, SR1 1NA, or email: mail@thepeoplesnocampaign.co.uk.

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