Monday, October 31, 2005

Formal complaint lodged with Audit Sunderland parking

Council is facing parking fines probe
Sunderland Echo
Monday October 31, 2005

Sunderland City Council is facing an investigation by Government watchdogs after it kept cash wrongly collected in parking fines for more than 18 months.

Campaigner Neil Herron has made a formal objection to the Audit Commission about the council's accounts for the last financial year, because they included the money collected in fines.

In November 2003, council bosses discovered traffic wardens did not have the power to issue parking tickets to motorists who had left their cars in taxi ranks.

A month later, officials also realised they could not fine disabled badge holders for parking in loading bays.

But despite realising that they had wrongly collected £33,767 in penalties, there were no efforts to refund motorists until August this year.

The commission has confirmed it is investigating the complaint from Mr Herron, who uncovered the errors.

A spokesman said: "We will take a first look to see if we think there is merit in the objection. If there is, we would follow up and investigate, and we would reply to Mr Herron with our findings."

Sunderland Council solicitor Bob Rayner has admitted there may be several more errors within the parking regime.

Staff have recently been repainting parking bays and moving signs in an effort to get things in order.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Chorley Borough Council and Parkwise now in their own 'Fine Mess.'

As more local authorities start to run scared of the Bill of Rights Defence against decriminalised parking offences and the adjudicators position (NPAS and PATAS) starts looking increasingly suspect Chorley Borough Council have well and truly stuck their foot in it.
In a letter issued by Parkwise in response to Alan Waring's use of the Bill of Rights defence against a Penalty Charge Notice they state:
"You and your counsel are correct in your summation of the Bill of Rights Act and no-one may issue fines except by the judgment of a court.
However, this Council does not issue fines we issue penalty charge notices."
Read the whole letter here

But, Chorley Borough attention to detail when you set out to deceive...

The House of Commons Transport Committee in their press notice, 'Finding a Space for Parking Policy' seem to think differently to Chorley. They state:
"About a third of local authorities in the UK have adopted decriminalized parking enforcement since the mid-1990s, and parking fines raised nearly £1 billion in 2004."
No argument there then. But they then go on to say:
"Surpluses generated by parking fines can be kept by the local authority for transport related spending."
and then...
"Is it appropriate that local authorities should keep the revenue generated from parking fines?"
So, I think we can draw the conclusion that a Penalty Charge Notice is a Parking Fine, and that to argue that it isn't in court would lead to some amusement.
However, if Chorley Borough Council wish to do pursue matters, the Bill of Rights refers to 'all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures before conviction...'
So, Chorley Borough Council, if a Penalty Charge Notice is not a fine it is most certainly a forfeiture.
Looks like their ice is getting thinner.
Just to assist Chorley Borough Council, I have added a few links to other Local Authority's decriminalised Parking Enforcement websites:

Woking Borough Council..."The PCN (commonly called a 'parking ticket') will show the contravention that the PA believed was being committed. The level of the fine or charge is £60,"

Hampshire County Council..."Parking fines may be payable where a vehicle is parked in a marked bay without a permit or ticket, or outside a marked bay (for example, on yellow lines). The Council will issue a ticket for an illegally parked vehicle which will advise the owner how to pay the required fine, or appeal against the ticket."

Coventry City Council... "All fines collected will be used to fund the administration of the new arrangement, and any extra can be used for transport or parking improvements. Previously, all fines collected in the city went directly to Central Government."

Bristol City Council..."Pay Council Tax, Business Rates (NNDR), Parking Fines (Penalty Charge Notices), Housing Rent and other Bristol City Council Invoices."

Bath and Somerset Council..." Penalty Charge Notices...Can I Pay My Fine Online?"

Blackburn with Darwen Council ..."Where do I pay the penalty charge notice fine?
Payment is available On-line (, by phone, by post (please do not send cash in the post), and in person at the town halls (by cash, cheque, credit/debit card)"

Sheffield City Council... "If, however, you are someone who parks illegally in Sheffield then don’t be surprised if you find yourself on the receiving end of a fine called a Penalty Charge Notices (PCN)"

Basildon District Council..."Parking Payments/FinesBasildon District Council now has responsibility for parking enforcement and may issue Penalty Charge Notices. "

I could go on but I think the point has been made.

Looks like the pressure is on for the Transport Committee. The Bill of Rights will be the protector of the people's rights against an out of control, overly bureaucratic administration that seems to have forgotten that they actually are there to respect our rights, not to abuse them.

But let us go back to Chorley Borough Council and the Parkwise letter...
"However, this council does not issue fines we issue penalty charge notices."
If you click here you will cringe for Chorley and Parkwise. The Parkwise scheme is a partnership between Lancashire County Council and the twelve district authorities. Unfortunately for Parkwise, Lancashire County Council's press release of23rd April 2004 states:
"2.5 From 4th July parking and waiting offences will be classed as civil instead of criminal offences. The Penalty charge or fine is still payable and will be pursued through the County Court if necessary."

So, Parkwise, it looks like you have just agreed that you cannot levy parking fines.

Many thanks and we will pass on the information to every motorist in the country.

Dam starting to crack...Chorley Borough Council admit Bill of Rights is valid

...and that no-one can be fined except by a court
...but then goes on to add that they issue Penalty Charge Notices not fines.

Oh how we laughed.

Looks like it's all closing in on the whole sordid decriminalised parking enforcement scam

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Penalty Claws

Penalty claws
The Guardian
February 9 2005

Since the law allowed councils to control parking enforcement, cash has been rolling in. But it is fast becoming a PR disaster for local authorities as the public grows increasingly angry - and questions what the money is being spent on. Andrew Clark investigates
Guide: London boroughs - highest profits from parking

Guide: the most ticket-happy authorities outside London

By mid-morning in a typical London street, the traffic begins to slow. The rush hour has long receded and the school run is a distant memory. Motorists begin to relax and feel they can pull up outside shops. But they do so at their peril.

Gone are the days when drivers could jump out of their cars to pick up a newspaper, a coffee or a packet of cigarettes. A meter, if available, can cost up to £4 an hour. Nine out of 10 spaces are typically reserved for local residents. And the Jedi knights of local government - parking attendants - are on the prowl. A couple of minutes' ill-judged pause can mean a fine of up to £100.

Once viewed as a necessary cost in keeping the roads free of obstruction, parking enforcement has become a crucial moneyspinner for local authorities. But has it gone too far? According to Edmund King, director of the RAC Foundation, "parking is the least well-thought-out, the least well-considered and the least well-researched form of transport policy. It is just used by local authorities as a convenient and easy way to raise money, rather than as a policy issue."

The RAC estimates that parking fees, fines and meters generate profits of £350m for English councils every year - of which the lion's share is pocketed by London boroughs, which account for 44% of gross parking income. In Scotland, no central figures are available, but Edinburgh alone made £16m revenue from parking after issuing 250,000 parking tickets last year.

Horror stories on parking crop up with alarming regularity. Milkmen, firemen, undertakers and even bus drivers have been the angry recipients of parking fines in recent years. On one occasion, a parking warden in Eccles, Greater Manchester, even ticketed a rabbit hutch, which was left on a yellow line during a delivery to a pet shop.

Outbreaks of "parking rage" are becoming common; three parking attendants are assaulted a day in London. In evidence to a London assembly inquiry into parking enforcement, which opens tomorrow, boroughs will call for a specific offence of assaulting a warden, citing instances of attendants being run over, assaulted by gangs wielding baseball bats, and even shot at.
Motoring organisations have run out of patience. King says: "Of Britain's 25m cars, just 1m are on the move and 24m are parked at any time. Across England and Wales, the number of parking tickets handed out to motorists is approaching 8m annually - equivalent to one for every three cars. In the capital, the number of penalty notices has jumped by 45% in four years to 5.9m.

The boom began in 1993, when parking was decriminalised by the Conservative government - a move that allowed the police to devolve responsibility for enforcement to local authorities. So far, some 120 councils have taken up the challenge. In theory, local authorities are supposed to have two parking priorities: keeping traffic flowing as freely as possible, and maintaining the safety of pedestrians. However, a constant allegation is that they manipulate charges to maximise revenue.

Nick Lester, director of transport at the Association of London Government, refutes this. He says: "Enforcement has clearly gone up. Income has gone up, but then expenditure on the roads has gone up. One of the myths around this business is that the parking thing is just a way of raising money."

In order to deter councils from fleecing motorists, the proceeds are supposed to be ringfenced. But this hypothecation has slipped over the years. When parking meters first became prevalent in the 1950s, the RAC objected to the idea that motorists should pay simply to leave their cars at the side of the road. As a compromise, the government ruled that all the proceeds should be earmarked for highways and car parks.

By 1968, some local authorities had accumulated hefty cashpiles, which they did not want to spend on car parks for fear of merely generating more traffic. To address their concerns, the then Labour transport minister, Barbara Castle, broadened the rules to cover expenditure on public transport. In December, the chancellor, Gordon Brown, went further by announcing that councils could spend parking proceeds on environment projects, as well as transport measures. High-rated "beacon" councils have complete freedom; they can use the money for anything they like.

Westminster council made profits of £33m from parking revenue of £64m in 2003 - by far the highest of any local authority in Britain. It says projects that depend on this annual cash cow included construction of the Hungerford foot bridge over the Thames and the creation of a £60m vehicle access point to Paddington station. All of London's boroughs pump parking proceeds into the Freedom Pass - a £200m free public transport scheme for older and disabled travellers.

Outside the capital, surpluses tend to be much smaller. Manchester city council made £1.3m profit from parking last year. Some of the cash went on a free Metro Shuttle city-centre bus. The rest went towards the £350,000 cost of maintaining "public roam" areas, such as Cathedral Gardens and Exchange Square.

Manchester's operations director, Pete North, says the Labour-run authority has made a conscious decision against adopting a "zero tolerance" attitude to parking. He says: "For a city of Manchester's size, we don't go about parking enforcement in an aggressive way - it's all about a reasonable, proportionate approach."

But critics fear that motorists are losing confidence in enforcement. In the pages of the London Evening Standard, columnists have described enforcement as akin to a new poll tax. There are concerns that rows over parking could lead to violence similar to the vandalism frequently directed at speed cameras by pro-motoring fanatics.

Guidelines do exist to stop councils from imposing "rip-off" charges. Local authorities are supposed to pitch prices for meters or pay-and-display bays to secure 85% occupancy - enough to make good use of space, while avoiding the need for motorists to search for hours for a vacancy. This is not always followed very closely.

In Westminster, occupancy has been well below 85% since the introduction of London mayor Ken Livingstone's congestion charge in 2003. The council's cabinet member for transport, Colin Barrow, says cutting prices will be "one option" if the shortfall continues - but the authority may opt simply to provide fewer available spaces, earmarking more bays for residents or for lorries offloading.

He insists that the council is not out to maximise revenue, although he adds: "We have to deal with some very significant consequences of being in central London. When we have events such as the Golden Jubilee, the Notting Hill carnival or the Queen's birthday, the mess has to be cleaned up afterwards. We don't get any extra funds to do that."

The AA Motoring Trust accepts that congested city centres sometimes have to levy hefty prices for parking, but it asks why outlying areas are following suit. It questions whether a town such as Colchester, Essex, ought to be asking £2.50 for two hours' parking - or whether so many of Britain's leafy suburban streets really need residents' parking schemes. Paul Watters, the trust's head of roads policy, says: "It's become a gravy train. Parking has got to wash its face - but, in many areas, it's gone far beyond that."

Most councils use private contractors, such as NCP, Vinci Park or Central Parking, to supply parking attendants. The British Parking Association (BPA), which represents the industry, has become so concerned about public opprobrium that it has asked Richard Childs, a former chief constable of Lincolnshire, to produce an independent review of decriminalised parking. His report is expected later this year.

The BPA's chief executive, Keith Banbury, says the industry employs 35,000 people and generates £3bn of annual turnover. He accepts that a public backlash is gaining pace. "There has been a great deal of media coverage, which has fuelled public concern - some of which has been sensationalist and some not unreasonable," he says.

Among the thorniest issues are the bonuses that reward contractors for handing out more tickets. For example, Islington, north London, requires NCP, under the terms of a "performance indicator", to clamp 21,017 vehicles a year and to tow away 9,450.

The BPA wants to move away from such bald incentives and has drawn up a model contract for councils that omits volume-based bonuses. As Banbury points out: "If enforcement is working, the number of tickets issued should go down."

Complaints about parking have soared. The National Parking Adjudication Service, which deals with disputes outside London, has upped the number of adjudicators from four to 80 since 1993. They settled 8,537 complaints in 2003 - an increase of 88% on 2002 - and two-thirds found in favour of the motorist.

This year, angry motorists forced Westminster into an embarrassing U-turn over parking on New Year's Day. The council initially insisted that, because it fell on a Saturday, the day did not count as a public holiday. But after a furious backlash, it relented and agreed to rescind 3,716 tickets.

Environmental groups dismiss the motorists' squeals of pain and say that money raised from them was justified to mitigate the environmental damage caused by cars. Tony Bosworth, Friend's of the Earth's transport campaigner, says: "Parking controls are one way of helping to manage demand for car use. It's important that the money is spent on other forms of transport, and in giving motorists and alternative to using their cars so much."

But the motoring lobby argues that the cash should be invested in more parking facilities and better roads.

The RAC says parking received £29m of public capital in the UK last year - compared to £48m on cycling and £75m on pedestrian facilities. It argues that proceeds from meters and car parks should be used to fund underground silos to cope with booming demand.

The AA's Watters believes that motorists deserve far better facilities. "There is absolutely no excuse any more for councils that provide insecure, pothole-ridden car parks," he says. "The money should be used for parking before it goes anywhere else."

But the Association of London Government is unsympathetic. A spokesman says: "Law abiding motorists are not affected by all this. If you don't break the law, you don't get a fine."

Another fine mess ...
Added insult
A traffic warden outraged local people and Holocaust survivors at a memorial service in Swindon last month when he interrupted proceedings to tell the mayor to move his car. The president of the town's Jewish committee said the warden should apologise publicly, calling his behaviour an "insult". Swindon borough council refused to apologise. A spokeswoman said: "The attendant did not know it was the mayor's car. He did not issue a ticket. He asked the mayor if it would be possible to move the car on."

Cold hearted
A pensioner in Southampton who has arthritis and a heart condition was given a ticket early one morning because his disabled badge was obscured by frost on the windscreen. A neighbour challenged the warden and rubbed the windscreen to reveal the badge. The warden issued the ticket regardless. A council spokesman said: "It's the responsibility of the motorist to make sure the parking ticket [disability badge] is visible along with the tax disc."

Real choker
In Cheam, Surrey, a mother of three young children was shocked when, after pulling her car over into a motorcycle parking bay to help a child in the back seat who was choking, a parking attendant slapped a ticket on her windscreen. Sutton council said it would reimburse the mother over what it called "an unfortunate incident".

Mangled logic
The rider of a scooter in London was suffering from a broken leg and being assisted into an ambulance when a traffic warden appeared and put a ticket on his mangled bike. The fine was later cancelled after protests from the rider - a councillor from south London.

Hard lines
Another man in London received a parking ticket from Lambeth council when he parked his car on a clear bit of road, but returned to find that yellow lines had been painted on either side of the car. The council apologised and advised the man to apply to have the ticket cancelled.

Locked-in dispute
A woman in Birkenhead was told by a parking attendant that she should have locked her young baby in her car while she fetched a ticket from the pay and display meter. The delay caused by taking the child with her to the machine, rather than going alone, was cited as the reason for receiving a ticket. Wirral council cancelled the ticket and said it would apologise.

Flaky decision
A Swedish man was astonished to be issued with a parking fine for his snowmobile in Warwick, even though it had never left Sweden. A Warwickshire county council spokesman says: "This actually happened in a shop car park. They put a ticket on a parked car, but when it went through the system it turned out to be the number of a snowmobile in Sweden. It was completely ridiculous."

Bay botch
An Edinburgh man who had been taking a friend to the city's dental hospital for emergency treatment received a ticket for parking in a bay that was out of bounds, even though the cones warning that he couldn't park there had been stolen. Edinburgh council said it had no record of the ticket being issued.

Sad sack
In Kingston, south London, a traffic warden used common sense by allowing an elderly couple to park their car momentarily on double yellow lines because the woman needed to assist her disabled husband into a nearby bank. However, a passing supervisor demanded that the warden give them a ticket. He refused, and was sacked.
Mary O'Hara

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Not long before this happens here

Aussies fine illegally-parked corpse
Dead man in car gets parking ticket
By Lester Haines
Published Monday 24th October 2005 12:14 GMT
The Register
read it here

Melbourne council is unlikely to collect a parking fine imposed on a 71-year-old man for exceeding his alloted time in the car park of the Croydon Market shopping centre since he had lain dead for "several days" in the vehicle when an enforcement officer moved in.

The man had been reported missing nine days previously and was known to be "seriously ill", The Age reports.

The Mayor of the eastern suburb of Maroondah, Paul Denham, explained that the "parking officer had not noticed the man when he attached the parking fine to the windscreen", offering: "The parking bays are 90-degree with cars parked nose in. A small garden bed is located immediately at the front of the parking bays. Our local laws officer checked and wrote out the ticket at the rear of the vehicle and placed the ticket from the passenger side on the windscreen. The local laws officer did not notice anything unusual regarding the vehicle, and is extremely distressed to have learned of the situation."

A female friend of the man was less than impressed with the explanation. She said: "From what the police had told me, it would have been very obvious he was deceased so I'm really disgusted."

Premier Steve Bracks last week expressed his condolences to the man's family and friends, noting: "I think the whole community would be concerned at that sort of development." Bracks added there would be a full coroner's enquiry into the matter and any recommendations "will be adopted by organisations such as councils".

Monday, October 24, 2005

Rebellion Grows

Drivers fight parking fines
20 October 2005
BULLY boy tactics used by a parking company on two drivers "will not be tolerated and fought to the end".

That's according to Gill Knight, of Old Road, Old Harlow, and Jim Linsell, of Matching Tye, who parked on Garden Terrace Road in Old Harlow, and received fines in the post of up to £300 from UK Parking Control Ltd.

The company has since issued the pair with bailiff letters and court orders, and increased their fines by hundreds of pounds - and yet the road in question had no signs to say that they were not allowed to park there.

"I have parked on this road to pop into the shops since I passed my test about eight years ago," said Mrs Knight, who has two children. "I have never been given a fine before and would not park somewhere that I was not allowed to do so.

"I am shocked at the treatment I have received from this company. They haven't listened to a word I have said about the lack of signs along this road."

UK Parking Control Ltd issues tickets through the post, opting out of informing the driver that they are parking 'illegally' by not putting a note onto the car. Drivers have subsequently continued to park along the road unaware that what they are doing could incur a fine.

"I parked on the road three times in a week, but did not find out that I had received a parking fine until 12 days later. The last one didn't come through until 22 days later," said Mrs Knight. "It is just a disgrace. All they are trying to do is make money by whatever means it takes."

On one occasion I even saw the man with his camera just sitting in a car.

"I didn't think it had anything to do with me because I thought that he would have told me if it did."

When I received the court order I spoke to my solicitors, and they said UK Parking Control were just trying to put the frighteners on me."

Pensioner Jim Linsell, 76, said he was initially scared by the fine and subsequent bailiff letters when he decided to contest the ticket.

"My fine said that I was parked on 1 to 17 High Street, Old Harlow. At first I was terrified, but then when I went back down to have a look at the street I found out that I was parked at number 21, as I was behind the Somerfield supermarket. I wasn't even on UK Parking Control land!

"They are using bully boy tactics just to get their money, and they don't care who they upset or who they fine."

A spokesman for Harlow Council said: "This company has nothing to do with Harlow Council parking operations. In areas where parking controls are in place there should be signs displaying the fact that such controls are in operation."

A spokesman for UK Parking Control Ltd refused to comment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Press Release ... Council guilty of Parking Cover-Up

Press Release
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' 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 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.



Neil Herron
0191 565 7143
07776 202045

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Parking fines on verge of collapsing across the country.....this time York

Parking bay row
From: This is York
first published Friday 7th Oct 2005.

PARKING bays will be repainted in York streets this weekend after council bosses admitted they were wrong.

Highways chiefs said they would be willing to reconsider the cases of some motorists fined for parking illegally in the bays.

The authority said there seemed little doubt that the majority of motorists would have no problem understanding the marking of the bays, despite the "minor errors", but it was today painting white lines black to remove any confusion.

However, Richard Bentley, a traffic signs expert, said: "My understanding of the law is that if the signs were wrong, then money taken is a debt to the motorist and therefore should be returned.

"The bays are non-prescribed traffic signs, which are illegal, and the authority in choosing to use such signs has acted beyond its powers. This is not a technical issue, it is a matter of the law."
A retired York police officer, who raised the parking bays issue with City of York Council just over a week ago, warned that if refunds were not given, he would lodge a complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman, claiming maladministration.

He also claimed that a gap in the double yellow lines in Parliament Street meant the restrictions could not be enforced.

Another motorist, Keith Hughes, revealed how he had recently been excused paying a fine after the council said it had "concerns as to the validity" of another sign, this time on a post outside York Magistrates Court, saying: "Magistrates vehicles only."

City of York Council said in a statement: "There is a minor error with a very small percentage of the council's on-street parking bays.

"This problem has been noticed by a number of other local authorities across the country, including Leeds, Hull, Harrogate and Scarborough.

"The error has arisen due to a tiny change in the small print concerning how parking bays should be marked and used. Bays marked under the old legislation comply fully with the law, but more recent ones may have an extra white line."

The council denied that the yellow lines in Parliament Street were negated by the unpainted gap.

It said that, as in all cases where a Penalty Charge Notice had been issued, a motorist had the right to challenge it and if the notice had been issued incorrectly, it would be cancelled.
"That principle applies to Penalty Charge Notices that have been paid if some new evidence comes to light that might have made a difference to the original decision made at any representation stage," said spokesman Peter Evely.

"For persons who have paid without making a representation they have accepted that they have been in error and the matter is therefore closed. If anyone feels that they should have their case re-examined then we are happy to consider the circumstances afresh if they write in with all of the necessary details."

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Rochdale's ship ready to sink

12 Frederick Street

14th October 2005
Mr. Kevin Mayor,
Parking Enforcement,
Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council,
PO Box 39,
Municipal Offices,
Smith Street,
OL16 1LQ Email: Copy also by Recorded Delivery

Re: Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council:Decriminalised Parking Enforcement (DPE) Regime

Dear Mr. Mayor,

Further to our telephone conversation 12.30pm Friday 14th October 2005 I would be grateful if you can confirm and clarify the following:

1. You stated that (regarding the incorrect wording on the Penalty Charge Notices) that you had taken advice from consultants, Argonaut on the matter and that there was nothing wrong with the PCNs which contained the wording 'To the Driver of the Vehicle'. You then stated that it was not a written opinion on the legality of the PCNs but an informal opinion. When questioned further you stated that the opinion was not from Argonaut but from someone whose name you refused to disclose.
Can you please advise as to whose informal opinion you were referring to regarding the legality of the PCNs and under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 can you please provide any records of that opinion?
Or can you confirm that no such opinion exists? If it is the latter, I would be grateful for a written apology for making a misleading statement.

2. You inform me that you have no website informing the public as to the nature, location and extent of Rochdale Council's DPE regime, and it will not be in place for possibly another six months. Can you please advise as to why this was not considered necessary prior to the commencement of DPE and confirm that this is an unacceptable state of affairs?

3. Can you please supply a copy of the Audit Report you referred to detailing this failure to provide information?

I would be grateful for the answers to a number of further questions (please treat as a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 wherever necessary):

4. Can you please advise as to the exact date when Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council began their Decriminalised Parking Enforcement Regime?

5. Can you please advise as to when and how it was brought to your attention that Rochdale Borough Council's Penalty Charge Notices were incorrectly worded?

6. How many Penalty Charge Notices have been issued from the inception to date?

7. How many PCNs were issued with the incorrect wording:
and can you please confirm the amount of income derived from these unlawful PCNs?

8. How many of these incorrectly worded PCNs have ended with enforcement action by bailiffs?

10. Have you now changed the wording? If so, can you please advise as to when and please supply a copy of both pre and post decision PCNs?

11. Can you please confirm that all of the PCNs issued with the above incorrect wording are 'void and unenforceable'?
In order to assist you with this I have copied below an NPAS decision from 25th May 2000

Mr. C v Hastings Borough Council Case Number: HS0013

The effect of a Council disregarding the statutory providsions set down in the Road Traffic Act 1991 for notices and time limits was considered in Moulder v Sutton London Borough Council (1994 LPAS 1940113243). The Adjudicator, G.R. Hickinbottom, following Sedley J.'s (as he then was) judgment in R -v- The London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Tower Hamlets Combined Traders Association, (1993 unreported) determined where the Road Traffic Act 1991 stipulated that (in the Moulder case) a Penalty Charge Notice "must state certain requirements (Section 66(3)), those requirements are mandatory. Therefore a Penalty Charge Notice failing to contain each of the requirements set down in section 66(3) is void and unenforceable.

Since Paragraph 1(2) of Schedule 6 of the Acts sets out the requirements to be contained in a Notice to Owner in the identical words, namely,
"A notice to owner must state",
it follows that the requirements are mandatory.
Any Notice to Owner that does not comply with those requirements is void and unenforceable.

12. In the Rochdale Observer (4th October 2005) you were quoted as saying, "Since DPE was introduced in Rochdale, the ultimate liability has always been with the registered keeper of the vehicle. There has never been a fixed legal wording of notices." (my emphasis).
Can you confirm that this statement in bold type is incorrect?

13. You then go on to say, "Penalty Charge Notices issued before this time have been accepted by the National Parking Adjudication Service."
Can you please provide details of the following:
(i) The number of PCNs which have been appealed to NPAS and their outcomes?
(ii) Whether the incorrect PCN was included in the evidence bundle from Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council
(iii) Can you please confirm that Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council received the 'Recommendations/Guidelines’ that NPAS have issued to all local authorities since the inception of NPAS, and can you please provide a copy?
(iv) Can you please confirm how many tickets have been refunded to date and the amount?

14. Can you confirm that steps will now be taken to immediately refund all the money obtained unlawfully by contacting the motorists directly and issuing notices to the press and media?

15. Can you please confirm that Rochdale Metropolitan Borough's Treasurer will be informed that there are unlawful items of income contained in the Council's accounts, and confirm the amount, and provision will be made to ring-fence this unlawful income in order to protect the monies to be refunded?

16. Can you please advise as to whether the DPE application made to the Department for Transport to create Statutory Instrument 2004 No. 1402 'The Road Traffic (Permitted Parking Area and Special Parking Area) (Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale) Order 2004' included a copy of the proposed PCN?

17. Can you confirm whether there was an inspection carried out of all the relevant Traffic Regulation Orders, signs lines and plates and proposed PCNs prior to the implementation of Decriminalised Parking Enforcement? If so by whom, and were all the recommendations acted upon?

18. Can you please confirm receipt of this e-mail and confirm that you will provide the Chief Executive, Treasurer, Head of Legal Services and the Leader of the Council with a copy along with all of Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council's councillors?

I hope that Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council accepts full responsibility for its actions without the need for a protracted internal or external investigation involving the expenditure of more public money and look forward to Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council doing 'the decent thing.'

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron

cc. Andrew Barfoot, Tribunals Manager NPAS
cc. Katie Hopton / Bethan Dorset, Rochdale Observer
cc. Christopher Booker, Sunday Telegraph
cc. Joseph McHugh, Deputy News Editor, Public Finance

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Remember that Glowing Report on Decriminalised Parking?

Just a reminder of this little report...COMMISSIONED AND SPONSORED by NCP!
It is destroyed by the first line.
The whole sordid decriminalisation scam is beginning to unravel faster than Prescott on a bungee rope.
Events in Sunderland will open the floodgates.
We will be asking Professor Raine and his colleagues to comment in due course.

Academics Call for Quality, not Quantity, in Parking Enforcement Regimes

An independent report launched by the University of Birmingham today [Tuesday 5 July] urges local authorities to put customer service and public accountability at the heart of their parking enforcement regimes in order to address the growing public discontent that is so widely reported in the media.

This timely report argues that councils should apply to parking enforcement the same standards of professionalism and commitment to customer service that they now routinely practice in other regulatory areas such as planning, environmental health and licensing.
Simple improvements such as more face-to-face customer service desks, prompter responses to correspondence and higher standards of communication generally would make a big difference for many motorists wishing to challenge the councils’ actions.
Councils, and their contractors, should also improve their recruitment and retention practices for parking attendants to build up professionalism. The emphasis should be on encouraging quality in parking enforcement by attendants rather than the quantity of tickets issued. One solution is to join up parking enforcement with other street management functions, by developing teams of multi-functional street wardens to deal with issues such as graffiti, fly-tipping, abandoned vehicles, defects in street lighting, and other factors as well as parking infringements - this would encourage parking attendants to take more pride in their role.
A team from the University’s Institute of Local Government Studies (INLOGOV) carried out the six-month research project to investigate the very best practices in council-run parking enforcement.

Six authorities were identified and nominated by peers as demonstrating high quality practices: Winchester; Hammersmith and Fulham; Manchester; Cambridge; Weymouth and Portland; and Sunderland.

Since the Road Traffic Act 1991, all London Boroughs and more than 100 other local authorities have taken on responsibility for parking enforcement from the police – many using private contractors for the front-line parking attendant work. Problems have often arisen where contracts have based payments on the numbers of tickets issued, resulting in zealous ticketing. The better way, as demonstrated in Manchester and Sunderland, is for contracts to incentivise ‘correct ticketing’ and the minimisation of enforcement decisions that end up becoming the subject of appeals.

Councils also need to raise their standards in dealing with appeals against tickets issued, with the report suggesting that local authority legal departments play a more prominent role in the process, to increase professionalism. Last year some 45% of appeals made by motorists to the independent parking adjudicators were allowed.

Finally, the report provides councils with a self-assessment method for evaluating the quality of their parking enforcement regimes, which takes account of the perceptions of local residents, businesses and motorists on the subject as well as quantitative and technical measures of performance.

Professor John Raine of the Institute of Local Government Studies, and lead investigator on the study, said: “In our analysis, high quality in parking enforcement is achieved when there is both good compliance with the parking regulations and also public support. Too often councils have been pursuing rigorous enforcement without that vital ingredient of public support. There is much more that can be done to improve communication and build public confidence in the purposes and integrity of the process.
“We hope that local authorities will use the self-assessment method that we have devised in the report to evaluate their current parking regimes and identify the priorities for improvement in their particular areas. The six good-practice councils that were examined in some detail in the study provide many valuable lessons for other local authorities and contractors, and we hope that the research hastens the pace of change for the better.”

Commenting on the report’s findings, NCP Chief Executive Bob Macnaughton, who sponsored the report, said: “NCP welcomes this move to drive the industry forward by defining quality and raising standards in parking enforcement. NCP supports national standards of excellence and we hope that the best practice set out in this report will soon become normal practice all over the country.”

Notes to Editors:
The report, entitled
Local Authority Parking Enforcement: Defining Quality – Raising Standards, by John W Raine, Eileen Dunstan and Theresa Alexandra Parry from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Local Government Studies, is priced £25 and is available from The Publications Unit, School of Public Policy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT

The report was commissioned and sponsored by NCP.

The British Parking Association (BPA) has commissioned a parallel review of the whole policy and legal framework for decriminalised parking enforcement, which is being undertaken by Richard Childs QPM and which is to be launched later this month.

Parking Enforcement Facts:
Local authorities were given powers to undertake their own parking enforcement measures under the Road Traffic Act 1991.
The 33 London boroughs were first to introduce their own parking enforcement measures in 1995, and since then the number of other authorities following suit across England and Wales has been steadily rising.
Some councils run their own in-house parking enforcement services while others use private contractors – the largest companies being: NCP; ACPOA; Control Plus; and Legion Parking.

The School of Public Policy
The University of Birmingham’s School of Public Policy is the largest centre for the applied study of public policy and management in Europe with more than one hundred academic staff from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds. The School is continually engaged with practitioners in the public and voluntary sectors at local, regional, national, and international levels, operating in the vanguard of research on the development of public services. The School wins more commissioned social science research from central and local government and the health service than any other university in the UK. Five specialist departments make up the School, one of which is the Institute of Local Government Studies (INLOGOV), where the particular specialism is local governance and public service management. Throughout its forty-year history, the Institute has been playing a leading role in shaping policy in local government and in developing management practice in local authorities.

The report’s authors
John Raine is Professor of Management in Criminal Justice and Director of the School of Public Policy Graduate School. He has some twenty-five years of’ experience in research and consultancy on judicial systems, local government and public management. He is author of three books and numerous articles on aspects of public management and the administration of justice. He has recently completed a research project on the users’ perspective of the National Parking Adjudication Service and has completed previous studies on parking enforcement for the Lord Chancellor’s Department and the London Parking Appeals Service.
Eileen Dunstan is a Research Fellow in the Institute of Local Government Studies, School of Public Policy. She has worked on a wide variety of public policy research projects. Her previous work with John Raine has included, a study of the enforcement of financial penalties in Magistrates’ Courts in England and Wales for the Home Office, the impact of the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) on the police use of fingerprint evidence (with Morgan, Harris, Burrows), a review of Restorative Justice intervention for the Youth Justice Board and, most recently, a review of the National Parking Appeals Service.
Theresa Alexandra Parry is a lecturer at the University of Birmingham, deputy director and programme manager for MSc programmes in clinical neuropsychiatry and mental health for older adults respectively. Originally a biochemist, she then trained as a barrister and was called to the bar in 1999. She joined the University in 2001, and for three years worked as a policy analyst for the West Midlands Local Criminal Justice Board. Previously she has lectured in law at Stratford on Avon College and for the Open University.

Further information:
Rachel Robson – Press Officer, University of Birmingham
tel: 0121 414 6681 / mob: 07789 921165 / email:

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What part of 'No' do these people not understand!

Flag row takes another twist

Northern Echo
11th October 2005
by Dan King

A ROW over a European Union flag taken down from outside a council headquarters has taken another twist - after the authority confirmed it was seeking to put it back up at taxpayers' expense.

Wear Valley District Council was ordered to take down the flag from its base in Crook, County Durham, last month after it emerged that it did not have permission to fly it.
Under the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulation 1992, the EU flag is classified as an outdoor advertisement and requires planning permission.
But now the council has applied for authorisation to restore it - and spent £265 on applying for advertising consent.

Anti-European campaigner Neil Herron said he was unhappy that public money was being used to fund it and that no consultation had been carried out.
"They haven't sought public opinion on this. I do not think many people would want an EU flag being flown.
"I am a Wear Valley rate payer and I object to it. I do not want my money being used by a council for this."

The flag had been on display for several years before political crusader Jim Tague discovered that, under the Freedom of Information Act, the council was breaking the rules.
It was taken down, and The European Parliament office, in London, followed suit shortly afterwards as they removed a large EU flag for the same reason.
Mr Tague said: "That Wear Valley District Council has applied for advertisement consent to fly the EU flag does not surprise me.
"After all, it was proved illegal to fly the flag without prior consent.
"If the council wish to fly the EU flag ahead of the English flag, then they will be challenged.
"We want our flag to fly on a permanent basis, and the EU flag to fly on Europe day, May 9."

A spokesman for Wear Valley District Council confirmed: "The housing department have put a planning application in and the fee is £265.
"There are 21 days in which people can object and we have already consulted residents who will be looking on to it.
"Any objections would be taken into consideration."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

News From the Front Line 10th October 2005

News From the Front Line
10th October 2005

If you ever thought that we were too small to ever make a difference...think again!

Had A Parking Ticket?
Another busy week. Again, illegally imposed Parking Fines allowed us to add to the body count. This time Rochdale Council drop the clanger.
Read here how, as a result of a ticket to supporter Wayne Farrington, we exposed another Council. Manchester Evening News
Town's parking ticket 'blunder'
and the Accrington Observer
Smell of Blood in the water...another victory coming

Locally we forced the admission out of Sunderland City Council that they had unlawfully issued tickets to Disabled Badge Holders in Loading Bays...and this will have national implications as it appears as though every local authority may be guilty of this one.
The press release went out in order to force their hand
Sunderland City Council's Parking Regime in its final hours...Grim Reaper spotted and they responded with Media Statement by Sunderland City Council: Parking
The story was covered in the Newcastle Journal
Parking fine refund fight continues
and the Northern Echo
Illegal parking fines could cost city council up to £2m
and in the Sunderland Echo
City in fine mess ignored advice

As the whole issue of decriminalised parking grows the more and more it will be exposed. We have made a submission to the House of Commons Transport Committee which can be read here
What is being uncovered will also have very serious implications for the Government and agencies concerned with he oppression of the motorist.

Bill of Rights wins again
On the bigger picture regarding the use of the Bill of Rights as a defence against unlawfully imposed fines, Sunderland City Council finally drop their pursuit of Robin De Crittenden whose only defence was the Bill of Rights in association with the Metric Martyrs Judgment. The Council decided not to pursue Robin as 'it is not in the public interest.'
Another Bill of Rights Victory...This time in Sunderland

Meanwhile, the BBC attempted the stitch up on 'You and Yours' with a pre-recorded piece from Herron and a rebuttal by a 'lawyer' that we would have no chance with the Bill of Rights Defence in court. Shows we are getting close if they are now looking to squash any resistance as it grows.
Parking Fines and Bill of Rights issue on Radio 4

EU Flags
Our little EU Flag victory in Wear Valley (read here ) has others following the lead here
Watch this space as we get more victories coming in.

Please visit where you will see that we adhere to the principle that democracy is not a spectator sport!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Town's parking ticket 'blunder'

Town's parking ticket 'blunder'
Manchester Evening News
Wednesday 5 October 2005
Katie Hopton

CELEBRITY lawyer Nick Freeman has some free advice he says could help thousands of motorists beat a parking charge.

The solicitor, who has earned a small fortune finding loopholes in the law for the rich and famous, says parking bosses in Rochdale have made a legal blunder in the wording of parking tickets.

Mr Freeman claims tickets issued by the council since July last year have been wrongly addressed and are open to a legal challenge.

He is encouraging motorists who have been given the tickets to demand their money back. It is believed the alleged blunder has been made on thousands of tickets.

Under a new parking enforcement regime, introduced in Rochdale in July last year, penalty charge notices should be issued to the owner of the vehicle. But the council has continued to issue tickets addressed to the driver. Mr Freeman said anyone who has received the wrongly addressed tickets should be refunded.

"If the council has been enforcing fines from tickets that are out of date they must refund," said Mr Freeman, who counts David Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson among his clients.

"They are also liable for any damages incurred. I think this is a case of trying to take advantage of Joe Public.

"They should contact the council and say `I want my money back'."

Parking campaigner Neil Herron has uncovered similar blunders over the wording of tickets in Sunderland and Blackburn.

Mr Herron said at least one motorist in Rochdale has successfully challenged the council there over a wrongly-worded parking ticket.

He said that parking enforcement was "decriminalised" under new rules brought in last July and that meant that the owner of a car was liable, rather than the driver.

Mr Herron said: "Under the new decriminalised parking enforcement, the driver is no longer liable if they fail to pay the ticket.

"The authorities will demand payment from the owner. But the notices in Rochdale have all been to the driver of the vehicle. All the tickets in Rochdale since the decriminalised parking enforcement was introduced have been invalid. The old tickets have been carried over into the new regime.

"The ticket has to say owner, no ifs or buts."


Motorists issued with a parking ticket are fined £30. If the money is not paid within 14 days it goes up to £60 and then £90.

Claims that thousands of tickets are invalid could now trigger a huge number of appeals to the council from motorists and if their appeals are upheld tens of thousands of pounds would have to be repaid.

Council parking boss Kevin Mayor said: "Since decriminalised parking was introduced in Rochdale, the ultimate liability has always been with the registered keeper of the vehicle. There has never been a fixed legal wording of notices.

"Last month Rochdale Council was asked by the National Parking Adjudication Service to make minor changes to the wording of our penalty charge notices. We acted immediately. "Penalty charge notices issued before this time have been accepted by the National Parking Adjudication Service."

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Vaux Site...Sunderland Council and 'Who Built the Arc'

There is a rumour running that Sunderland Arc...who have grandiose plans for places they don't own now intend to try and 'steal' the Vaux site (owned by Tesco's) because they have found a 'key tenant' allowing them to finance the deal, and for the Council to CPO the site from Tesco who bought it for £9m after it lay derelict for ages.
The key tenant is allegedly Sunderland City Council who could, and should, have bought the site in the first place. The rumour is that they intend to move from the Burdon Road site where they currently reside.

You just couldn't make it up!

Smell of Blood in the water...another victory coming

We are about to force another local authority to hand back hundreds of thousands of pounds to motorists after unlawfully issuing parking tickets.
Didn't think it would be long before the lawyers began circling...there is a smell of blood in the water.
Read here how we began breaking the story after being contacted by Wayne Farrington

Rochdale Observer
4th October 2005
Parking blunder sparks fine mess

A LEADING lawyer has urged motorists to demand their money back from Rochdale Council after it emerged that thousands of parking tickets may be invalid.

Nick Freeman, the ‘solicitor to the stars’, whose clients include David Beckham, Sir Alex Ferguson and EastEnders’ Steve McFadden, says the way in which the council has collected its parking fines since it took over control of parking enforcement is open to legal challenge.
Under the new decriminalised parking enforcement regime introduced in Rochdale in July last year, penalty charge notices should be issued to the owner of the vehicle.

But the council has continued to issue tickets addressed to the driver.

Rochdale Council has now changed the wording on tickets and says tickets issued before have been accepted by the National Parking Adjudication Service.
But Mr Freeman, dubbed ‘Mr Loophole’ after successfully representing various celebrities in a number of high-profile motoring offence cases, said: “If the council has been enforcing fines from tickets that are out of date they must refund.
“They are also liable for any damages incurred. I think this is a case of trying to take advantage of Joe Public.
“They should contact the council and say ‘I want my money back’.”

Although council chiefs say the previous wording is acceptable to the national organisation in charge of such matters, motorists’ campaigner Neil Herron claims to have successfully had thousands of parking fines overturned after he discovered a blunder in parking systems in Sunderland and Blackburn.

He claims that at least one motorist in Rochdale has not had to pay up after challenging the council over the wording of tickets.
He said: “Under the decriminalised parking enforcement, the driver is no longer liable if they fail to pay the ticket.
“The authorities will demand payment from the owner.
“But the notices in Rochdale have been to the driver of the vehicle.
“All the tickets in Rochdale since the decriminalised parking enforcement was introduced have been invalid.
“The old tickets have been carried over into the new regime.
“The ticket has to say owner, no ifs or buts.”

Motorists issued with a parking ticket are fined £30. If the money is not paid within 14 days it goes up to £60 and then £90.

Claims that thousands of tickets are invalid could now trigger a huge number of appeals to the council from motorists and if their appeals are upheld tens of thousands of pounds would have to be repaid.

Earlier this year, Kevin Mayor, the council’s parking boss, revealed that 26,000 fixed penalty fines were expected to be issued in Rochdale in 12 months, netting almost £½M.

Commenting on the latest controversy over parking tickets, Mr Mayor said: “Since decriminalised parking was introduced in Rochdale, the ultimate liability has always been with the registered keeper of the vehicle. There has never been a fixed legal wording of notices.
“Last month Rochdale Council was asked by the National Parking Adjudication Service to make minor changes to the wording of our penalty charge notices. We acted immediately to amend the wording, which now follows the adjudicator’s recommendation.
“Penalty charge notices issued before this time have been accepted by the National Parking Adjudication Service. It is hoped that the amendments will make the notices clearer to motorists.”

A spokeswoman for the National Parking Adjudication Service said it is an independent tribunal and cannot give legal advice.
Katie Hopton
First published by the Rochdale Observer
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Another Fine Mess

by Jeremy Wicking
Local Government Reporter
Sunderland Echo
Wednesday 05th October 2005

For the second time in two months council admits it got it wrong over parking charges

Parking bosses have landed themselves in another fine mess by slapping tickets on disabled motorists cars parked in loading bays.
Sunderland Council is now trying to trace 182 motorists to refund fines - a move that will cost about £60,000 - after admitting for the second time in two months that it got it wrong over parking charges.

In August, the council said it was going to have to issue refunds to motorists who had parked on taxi ranks.
The council has admitted that is knew nearly two years ago that it could be wrong and has just taken more legal advice. A investigation is now under way and will report to a council scrutiny committee.
Campaigner Neil Herron believes the whole switch from police to decriminalised council warden enforcement was illegal because the proper legal measures were not put in place.
A council spokeswoman said the review had revealed that more action over parking had to be taken.
She said that in October 2003 wardens with National Car Parks (NCP), the council's parking partner, were told to stop issuing penalty charge notices to drivers in taxi ranks.
"In August 2005 a decision was taken to reimburse those penalty charge notices. The majority of motorists affected have already been reimbursed and we continue to take steps to contact the remainder.
"In October 2003, NCP parking attendants were also instructed not to issue penalty charge notices to Blue Badge holders parking in loading bays , following advice sought from the Department for Transport. While there has been uncertainty around the complexity of the law in this regard, the council has now obtained clear counsel's advice to the effect that there is an exemption for Blue Badge holders parking in loading bays. As a result, the council will be refunding those penalty charge notice payments made by 182 motorists."
The spokewoman said that it had now also emerged as part of the review how recommendations from a consultants report in 2001 were not followed up.
She said: "The review will identify why this was the case. In the meantime, a new exercise to identify any current discrepancies is being undertaken as a matter of urgency. If it becomes apparent that any penalty charge notices have been issued incorrectly, the council will take action where appropriate to remedy the position."
Officials with the DVLA had been contacted and any disabled drivers who believed that they had been affected should call the council immediately on 553 1521.

£2million may have to be paid back
COUNCIL bosses in Sunderland could have to pay back more than £2million in "invalid" parking fines, a campaigner has claimed.
Neil Herron says that 60,000 tickets issued to motorists by Sunderland Council could be unlawful because the correct procedures were not followed when it applied to the Government to take over parking enforcement from the police.
The council is investigating why some of the measures recommended for the new parking system by outside consultants were not introduced.
Now Mr Herron, political campaigner and former "Metric Martyr", says that the city centre's entire decriminalised parking system could be illegal because measures that the Deoartment of Transport were told were in place had not been introduced.
He said that beause the traffic orders are incorrect, all the tickets issued are invalid.
A council spokeswoman said it was "undertaking a review of all aspects of its decriminalised parking system".
She added that if it became apparent that any penalty charge notices were issued incorrectly, the council would take appropriate action to remedy the situation.

Parking fine refund fight continues

The Journal
Wednesday, October 5, 2005
By Chloe Griffiths

Council pledge to pay back motorists' tickets

A North-East council embroiled in a long running battle over illegal parking fines has admitted they will be reimbursing more motorists.

But political campaigners insist the move is still far too little, far too late.

Sunderland city council has admitted collecting £21,000 from illegally issued parking tickets nearly two years ago, after failing to put proper rules in place.

The problem began when the council took over parking enforcement from the police. It is now conducting an internal investigation into its system and is adamant it is rectifying the mistakes.

It has also admitted it failed to take the advice of an external consultant who highlighted problem areas back in 2001.

Activist Neil Herron, who uncovered the loopholes, argues a full independent investigation is necessary and the council's system should be revoked, as errors are still occurring.

Mr Herron said: " There have been far too many tickets issued unlawfully and far too much public money is involved for them to carry on. Even now there are missing signs and insufficient signs which will lead to more problems."

The council, however; insists it is now resolving the problems through the ongoing investigation.

In a statement last night the council said: " Sunderland city council is undertaking a review of all aspects of its decriminalised parking system.
" As the review progresses, immediate action is being taken where necessary to rectify, clarify or update legal or operational aspect part of the system."

The first element of this review has focused on tickets issued for parking in taxi ranks by unauthorised attendants.

The council say it has now reimbursed the majority of those affected, but Mr Herron argues that at a council meeting last week only 88 of the 700 drivers fined had been given their money back.

The council has also admitted it will now refund 182 blue badge holders who parkd in loading bays.

The statement said: "Whilst there has been uncertainty around the complexity of the law in this regard, the council has now obtained clear counsel's advise to the effect that there is an exemption for blue badge-holders who parked in loading bays.

Mr Herron, however, questions the number of motorists they are refunding.

He said: " From February 2003, the council issued between 150 and 200 tickets a month for this offence. Have they now examined all the attendant's photographic evidence to find which ones had blue badges? I think it is more likely they are just responding to those motorists who ring in to complain.

" Millions of pounds have been overcharged in a system where the incentive is profit. This is a desperate attempt to remedy their mistakes, but it is far too little,"

Illegal parking fines could cost city council up to £2m

The Northern Echo
Wednesday October 5, 2005
by Mark Summers

A council will have to pay back more than £2m to motorists it allegedly "fined" illegally for parking infringements, the campaigner who uncovered the situation claimed last night.

Penalty charge notices issued by Sunderland City Council are invalid because it did not follow the correct procedures when applying to the Government to take over parking enforcement from the police, according to anti-European Union campaigner Neil Herron.

Mr Herron, who discovered the blunder, claimed last night that 60,000 notices could be unlawful and that the Labour-run authority would have to refund £2m to the drivers who received them.

The council has admitted that it did not implement meaures recommended in 2001 by outside consultants it hired to advise on the new system, introduced in 2002. It has launched an investigation into why this has happened.

It has admitted collecting almost £28,000 from drivers who parked in taxi ranks, without having the power to do so, and almost £6,000 from disabled badge holders who parked in loading bays, even though they are exempt from the restrictions.

Mr Herron, who had been campaign advisor for Metric Martyr greengrocer, the late Steve Thoburn, said the entire decriminalised parking regime in the city centre could be illegal as measures it told the Department of Transport were in place had not been carried out.

He said consultants produced a report detailing 1,000 errors in the preparations that needed to be corrected before the new regime was approved by the Government.

Mr Herron, who has 30 parking tickets against him, said: " Because the traffic orders are incorrect, all the tickets issued are incorrect. Because the Secretary of State has been misled, the whole regime doesn't exist and all the tickets are invalid. The council says it has issued 60,000 tickets. At an average of £40 per ticket, that is more than £2m."

A council spokeswoman said it was "undertaking a review of all aspects of its decriminalised parking system. As the review progresses, immediate action is being taken where necessary to rectify, clarify or update legal or operational aspects of the system."

She said the majority of motorists who parked in a taxi rank had already been reimbursed and it is trying to contact the remainder. The council will be making refunds to 182 disabled badge holders who received notices for using loading bays.

" It has become apparent that any penalty charge notices have been issued incorrectly, the council will take action where appropriate to remedy the situation," said the pokeswoman.

The review would also identify why measures proposed in the consultants' report were not implemented.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

City in fine mess ignored advice

The Journal
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
By Ross Smith

Council failed to act on expert's parking report

The North council at the centre of a storm over parking fines has admitted failing to take advice from experts hired to make sure its system worked.

Sunderland Council says it is investigating why measures recommended by consultants Faber Maunsell in 2001 were not implemented.

The company was hired to advise the council when it took charge of its own parking enforcement from police four years ago.

The authority ran into trouble last August when it admitted having collected more than £27,905 from motorists who parked on taxi ranks, despite having no legal powers to do so.

Sunderland has now confessed it also incorrectly collected £5,862 from disabled badge holders who parked in loading bays, despite the fact they are exempt from this restriction.

Both anomalies were discovered in autumn 2003, but the public were not told and refunds not offered for more than 18 months. Campaigner Neil Herron, who uncovered the errors, also claims the entire parking regime in the city centre could be unlawful due to a lack of relevant traffic orders, though the council denies this.

But the authority is carrying out an urgent review of the parking system since the problems came to light.

Yesterday, a council spokesperson admitted: " In 2001, an external consultant's report detailed a number of areas requiring implementation or validation of parking restrictions in the city at that time.

" During the council's review it has become apparent that not all of these measures were actioned.

" The review will identify why this was the case. In the meantime, a new exercise to identify any current discrepencies is being undertaken as a matter of urgency." A statement from city solicitor Bob Rayner, treasurer Keith Beardmore and director of development and regeneration Phil Barrett said "senior management" had not been told about the problems until last August.

The council says it is trying to track people who have paid fines through the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to refund them.

Mr Herron said: "We said earlier that the taxi rank issue was the tip of the iceberg. It looks like Sunderland is well on course for a collision."

He believes the failure to implement Faber Maunsell's recommendations could render the whole system unlawful.

"All enforcement activity should be suspended immediately pending an external investigation," he said.

Another Bill of Rights Victory...This time in Sunderland

Sunderland City Council has decided not to pursue Robin De Crittenden for a Penalty Charge Notice issued in Sunderland some 18 months ago.

They decided it is not going to be in the public interest to pursue the case. Enjoy the story below:

SUNDERLAND SUMMARY AT 5TH OCTOBER, 2005...Case Against Robin De Crittenden

1. 2nd April, 2004 – Sunderland Claim for payment of a Parking Fine returned to The Chief Executive Officer of Sunderland, with copy of Declaration of Rights.

2. 13th August, 2004 – Advice issued by City Solicitor (Elaine Waugh) that on receipt of my letter at 1. An Opinion has been obtained from ‘Leading Counsel’, to confirm that the City has authority to proceed against me, under the provisions of RTA 1991 –


a) the Declaration of Rights applied to ‘criminal matters only’, &/or
b) that a repeal of the relevant section of the Bill of Rights was the ‘implied’ intention of Parliament in the enactment of RTA 1991.

3. 3rd March, 2005. Advice to CEO Sunderland that an expected response to an
earlier letter had not been received from him - with the further advice that the Sandwell Council had issued a press article making full reference to an Opinion
obtained by Sunderland from ‘Leading Counsel’ (as given at 2.above).

Copy of the Opinion provided by ‘Leading Counsel’ requested, because it was clear that Sunderland had shared this Opinion with Sandwell and thus entered the Opinion into the Public Domain.

4. 21st March, 2005. Letter issued by City Solicitor (Elaine Waugh) which served to
deny all access to the Opinion given by ‘Leading Counsel’, on the grounds of
‘Legal Professional Privilege’ –

This same letter specifically denied that the Opinion of ‘Leading Councsel’ had
been shared with Sandwell Counsel &/or any 3rd Party.

However, this letter admitted that an officer of Sandwell MBC had made contact with the Head of Transport & Engineering in Sunderland, because of my own asssertion to Sandwell that the Declaration of Rights could not be breached by the enactments of any parliament at any time.

(It appears that during all/any relevant conversation/s, the officers of both Councils confused the Declaration of Rights with the Bill of Rights, & that any Opinion of ‘Leading Counsel (commissioned by Sunderland) was devoted to refuting argument addressing the Bill of Rights but NOT the Declaration of Rights, which was sent to Sunderland at 1. above)

For whatever reasons of their own, the Sunderland Council agreed to provide Sandwell with a copy of the letter addressed to me on 13th August, 2004 – and thus, by their own statement to me, provided Sandwell with the entirety of the ‘key’ information that contained within the relevant Opinion.

In consequence, it can now be argued that if all ‘key’ information has been provided both to me and to Sandwell, then there can be no good reason for all ‘non-key’ information to be withheld.

What then is it, that now serves to prevent the entirely of the Opinion from being disclosed? What is it that is still being guarded from the public eye?

5. 8th September, 2005. CEO City of Sunderland was placed on formal notice of an intention to secure a Judicial Review, because the City of Sunderland had failed to pursue &/or to formally withdraw from the parking claim made against me.

6. 13th September, 2005. Councillor Mahmood Hussain, ‘Cabinet’ member for Sandwell made a public announcement( on Radio 4 WM) that his Council relies upon the content of the Sunderland Legal Opinion to maintain its own case against me, in all pursuit of an alleged parking offence that occurred in 2002.

7. 14th September, Mr Nigel Summers, CEO Sandwell Council was asked to provide copies of all Sunderland material now in the possession of Sandwell, including all notes of all telephone conversations conducted by Sandwell and Sunderland, in all of their contact with each other.

8. 14th September, 2005. Letter issued to CEO Sunderland City Council, making 2nd formal request for a copy of the Opinion commissioned by Sunderland and provided by ‘Leading Counsel’ – it being apparent that when the content of this Opinion is now being published ‘to the world’ by a Sandwell Cabinet Member using public radio for the purpose, then Sunderland has an obvious duty to provide me with the required material, under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

9. 26th September, 2005.
Letter issued by Sunderland City Solicitor (Elaine Waugh)
to confirm that the City of Sunderland has deciden NOT to enforce the Penalty Charge Notice issued against me.

10. 30th September, 2005. Letter issued by Sandwell Council denying that a copy of the required Opinion (of ‘Leading Counsel’) is held by Sandwell – and FURTHER denying all access to all Notes held by Sandwell and dealing with
Sunderland contact/s– this last denial relying upon an exemption granted at Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2000, wherein exemption is provided for purposes of law enforcement.

It is significant that ‘Sunderland-related material’ is now confirmed in its existence by the given reliance on exemption provisions!

11. 3rd October, 2005. Letter issued by Sunderland City Solicitor (Elaine Waugh)
refusing to provide the Opinion of ‘Leading Counsel’. For the same reasons as
given previously.

12. 5th October, 2005. City of Sunderland was advised that a Section 3 Review of the refusal to provide the required Legal Opinion is now required - and that the address for the Freedom of Information Commissioner is now required.

Failure to provide the required information by e-mail (in re Commissioner FOI) then resulted in a telephone call of reminder, during which Elaine Waugh advised an ‘opinion’ that there is likely to be a formal review of her decision( not to provide the required Opinion of ‘Leading Counsel’); such review to take place during this afternoon.


5th October, 2005.

Sunderland City Council's Parking Regime in its final hours...Grim Reaper spotted

Press Release
4th October 2005

Sunderland City Council's Decriminalised Parking Regime on the Verge of Collapse
Over £2,000,000 obtained unlawfully will have to be paid back to motorists.

Following on from the admission by Sunderland City Council (August 2005) that they had unlawfully issued Penalty Charge Notices to motorists on Taxi Ranks further pressure has resulted in the admission that they had also unlawfully targeted Disabled Badge Holders...and they had known about it since 2003.

However, an even more serious problem is the fact failed to implement the recommendations made in the report that they had commissioned from independent consultants Faber Maunsell in 2001 in order to ensure that all the necessary requirements were in place in advance of the application to the Department for Transport for Decriminalised Parking Enforcement. Therefore, the Secretary of State appears to have been misled when Sunderland City Council 'reassured' him in their application that all the necessary requirements would be in place before the commencement of DPE.
If the application was incorrect then the DPE regime can not be legally 'in force.'

Neil Herron states, "What this means is that every one of the 60,000 Penalty Charge Notices has been issued unlawfully and all monies will have to be refunded. Not only has this council been incompetent, there have also been deliberate attempts to conceal and cover up. The whole DPE regime must be suspended immediately pending the outcome of an external investigation. I would demand that the same amount of effort to go towards refunding the monies as went into the pursuit of the motorist in the first place. The arrogance of Sunderland City Council officials in initially denying any wrongdoing has meant that this whole debacle has now escalated into one which will have very serious consequences for council officials and city councillors alike. They have chosen to repeatedly ignore and dismiss advice and evidence not only from myself but also from other members of the public including Captain David Green who brought all this to their attention many years ago."

Sunderland City Council has also stated that they will not be pursuing Neil Herron for all his tickets, only sample ones.
Neil Herron states, " Bring it on. I will make a prediction that they will not pursue me for any."

Sunderland City Council has also decided to drop any proceedings against Robin De Crittenden who used the Bill of Rights defence against a PCN.

Copy of Sunderland City Council's Press Statement can be read here.

STOP PRESS: At 11.05am today in Frederick Street a Parking Attendant flatly refused to put a ticket on Neil Herron's vehicle which was parked on a yellow line. Looks like the game's up.



Neil Herron

0191 565 7143
07776 202045

Media Statement by Sunderland City Council: Parking

October 3 2005

Review of Decriminalised Parking Zone -
Media Statement

Sunderland City Council is undertaking a review of all aspects of its decriminalised parking system. As the review progresses, immediate action is being taken where necessary to rectify, clarify or update legal or operational aspects of the system.

The following facts relate to areas which have been actioned to date:

· In October 2003 NCP parking attendants were instructed to stop issuing penalty charge notices (PCNs) to motorists parked, albeit illegally, in taxi ranks because they were not authorized to do so. In August 2005 a decision was taken to reimburse those PCNs. The majority of motorists affected have already been reimbursed and we continue to take steps to contact the remainder.

· In October 2003 NCP parking attendants were also instructed not to issue penalty charge notices to Blue Badge holders parking in loading bays, following advice sought from the Department for Transport. Whilst there has been uncertainty around the complexity of the law in this regard, the Council has now obtained clear Counsel’s advice to the effect that there is an exemption for Blue Badge holders parking in loading bays. As a result, the Council will be refunding those penalty charge notice payments made by 182 motorists.

The Council is in touch with the DVLA to obtain contact details of affected Blue Badge holders. Any Blue Badge holders who believe they may be affected should contact the Parking Services Team on 0191 553 1521.

The decriminalised parking regime has been welcomed by disability groups. There are 56 on street designated disabled bays and all on street parking bays are available for Blue Badge holders free of charge. There are other kerb-side spaces available which are much more accessible than under the previous regime.

Blue Badge holders are respectfully reminded that guidance given with the badge requests them to avoid parking unnecessarily in loading bays as clearly this could have an impact on business and service traffic movement.

Whilst in Sunderland instructions were issued to stop issuing tickets back in 2003, it is understood that in many areas of the country, because of the uncertainty around this part of the law, penalty charge notices are still being issued to Blue Badge holders parking in loading bays.

· In 2001 an external consultant’s report detailed a number of areas requiring implementation or validation of parking restrictions in the city at that time. During the Council’s review it has become apparent that not all of these measures were actioned. The review will identify why this was the case. In the meantime a new exercise to identify any current discrepancies is being undertaken as a matter of urgency.

If it becomes apparent that any penalty charge notices have been issued incorrectly, the Council will take action where appropriate to remedy the position.

Media Contact:

Corporate Communications Team

0191 553 1136
0191 553 1139

Out of hours: 07949765426

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