Thursday, December 15, 2005

Review of parking charges welcomed

Review of parking charges welcomed
Sunderland Echo
14 December, 05
COUNCIL bosses have caved in to pressure and say an independent review of parking charges should go ahead after they were forced to refund thousands of pounds-worth of wrongly collected fines.

Metric Martyr Neil Herron, who has been picking holes in the city's parking rules since the false fines first came to light, said he was delighted Sunderland Council's Chief Executive Ged Fitzgerald had called for an independent review of parking.

He was speaking out as the council's traffic boss told councillors serious "errors" on parking rules and regulations should all be put right by the end of this month.Council officers have been re-drafting and checking rules across the city after campaigners said it was all illegal.

Top barristers, though, say there was nothing "unlawful" about the council taking parking fines under their control – a process called decriminalisation.

The council admitted in August it was going to hand out hundreds of refunds to people who were fined for parking in taxi bays because the right rules had not been followed.

A similar admission that disabled drivers who were fined for parking in loading bays was also made.

Phil Barrett, the council's chief roads and planning officer, told the city's environment and community services panel: "There have been changes made to the decriminalised regime and we have held our hands up and said that we have made some errors. Unfortunately, some of the work that should have been done in the run-up to the decriminalised parking scheme to make it more consistent was not done."We are putting in new orders and we should have them in place by the end of the year."

Refunds, estimated at about £34,000, were less than one per cent of the parking fines collected by the council, said Mr Barrett.

Councillors on the planning and highways committee are examining objections to the new suggested parking orders next week.

Work on refunds was continuing and Mr Barrett was asked by Coun Ross Wares if drivers were given an apology, as well as getting £30 back.

Mr Barrett said council letters did "express regret" and added: "We make it quite clear that we have made a mistake and regret the inconvenience that they have been put through."

Mr Herron added: "As I said in the first instance, there needs to be an independent investigation into all this and how Sunderland came to take money off people unlawfully."

He disagreed with Mr Barrett and said: "If everything is not in place until the end of the year, how can it all have been lawful in the first place? There are 60,000 people entitled to parking refunds from the city council and this is just the tip of the iceberg."Mr Herron has been advising other campaigners about their local parking rules, including the London Motorists' Action Group.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The only "regret" these people have is that they got caught...

Typical arragance of politicians & their lackeys. The problem is that until there is an effective opposition to such councils then they will continue to try & get away with these 'schemes'.

In Sunderland's case there is NO OPPOSITION OF NOTE - the old saw about "if a monkey wearing a Labour rosette was put forward, it would be elected" is very much alive.

Well done to Neil & his team for persevering with this.

Neil for Mayor!

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