Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sunderland Case may throw a spanner in the national drive towards Decriminalised Parking Enforcement

The People's No Campaign
25th January 2006

Sunderland case may halt local authorities' drive towards 'cash cow' decriminalised parking enforcement scam
...and contractor NCP Guilty of issuing 'illegal' tickets

In an unfolding case which will have national implications, Sunderland City Council's Decriminalised Parking Enforcement (DPE) regime has now been exposed as an absolute shambles by an internal report.
The investigation, 'Decriminalised Parking Enforcement - Post Implementation Review,' was initiated following a complaint from The People's No Campaign Director, Neil Herron after he and colleagues uncovered massive flaws in the DPE regime.
It was Paul Davies, Head of Sunderland City Council's Internal Audit who then produced the report. which, has taken over four months to compile.

His report highlights massive failings within departments led by Development and Regeneration Director, Phil Barrett and City Solicitor, Bob Rayner and reveals ineptitude and incompetence to a staggering degree and an apparent complacency with regard to the adherence to the necessary legislative requirements. (It is believed that the two gentlemen with the main responsibilities are on combined salaries in excess of £200,000 per annum).

The exposure of this shambolic and spectacular failure to introduce DPE correctly comes at a time when a further 14 applications are before the Department for Transport to add to the 144 Local Authorities who have been granted DPE powers.

Concerns have been raised by The People's No Campaign group and evidence was submitted to the House of Commons Transport Committee in early December 2005.

Concerns include the increasing lawless nature of greedy councils desperate to adopt DPE and forego all the necessary checks and balances and abandon all principles of accountability. Draconian enforcement regimes are now driven by the cash incentive. Collection of unpaid tickets has been handed, in many instances, to bailiffs who have scant regard for procedure. The decriminalisation and therefore the removal of the courts as the 'independent arbiter' of 'process' has allowed local authorities to behave as nothing more than modern day licensed Dick Turpins.

What is alarming is that there is no official body and a lack of Statutory guidance to oversee ANY of these practices.

The National Parking Adjudication Service is not tasked to examine regimes, just individual cases laid before it. However, they can issue 'circulars' to local authorities to advise them of important and significant cases. Their independence is currently being challenged (they receive 60p per ticket issued).

Sunderland City Council in their application to the Department for Transport simply 'reassured' the Secretary of State that everything would be correct and in order at the commencement of DPE.
No-one checked their claims.
No-one checked the signs, lines or Traffic Regulation Orders.
No-one checked the wording of the Penalty Charge Notices.
The recommendations of the independent consultants brought in to advise Sunderland Council were not acted upon. No-one checked and therefore the unlawful, draconian enforcement regime was unleashed upon the City's businesses and residents using NCP as the selected cotractor.

Ultimately the Secretary of State will be forced, either through internal or external pressure, to revoke Sunderland's Special Parking Area and it will be the first council in the country to have its Decriminalised Parking Enforcement powers removed and reinstated back to Police control. Sunderland MP, Chris Mullin is currently awaiting a response from the Department for Transport as to the necessary requirements to begin revocation of the City's Special Parking Area status.

This will be the first real test as to whether they will continue to endorse this lawless assault on the motorist or whether someone is prepared to call a halt on the Government's drive to bring in DPE across the country and examine the legal implications of operating such a system.

The emergency Cabinet Meeting takes place on Friday after the official publication of the internal report.

The fact that the Council 'misled' the Secretary of State is one major issue, but one aspect which we are about to reveal ties in with what we have uncovered nationally (FoI requests in to all DPE authorities) reveal millions of pounds of monies taken from the public unlawfully AND knowingly by the contractors, NCP (National Car Parks)

The line we have uncovered now implicates NCP (recently taken over by 3i Venture Caplitalists for £555m) in what is perceived by many as being a massive fraud.

Sunderland Council became aware that tickets issued on Taxi Ranks made under the 1976 Miscellaneous Provisions Act were not enforceable under DPE powers. It was uncovered in October 2003 in Sunderland. Council told NCP to stop issuing. NCP told Parking Attendants to keep issuing and cancel tickets to anyone who appealed (former Senior NCP attendant made a witness statement to that effect). 78 further tickets were issued AFTER they were told to stop.
We have evidence that NCP continued to issue in other parts of the country in the same circumstance.
We have responses from over 100 Local Authorities, a number of whom have issued in similar circumstances. The amount is close to £1m

At the same time Sunderland Council sought advice on the legality of Blue Badge Holders parking in loading bays. Counsel's advice revealed that Regulation 8 of the Local Authorities Traffic Orders (Exemption for Disabled Persons) (England) Regulations 2000 provides an exemption for Blue Badge Holders. Based on that advice it was decided to issue refunds to Blue Badge Holders who had parked in loading bays (involved going back over all photo records and PAs notebooks).

However, many, in fact most, local authorities are not aware of this exemption and continue to issue such tickets...including, it appears, those operated by NCP who are aware of the Sunderland situation. I am sure that many Blue Badge Holders will welcome this unexpected windfall.
Again, we have the responses from all the DPE local authorities and the amount of revenue generated from Code 25s runs into many millions. The task of identifying and refunding Blue Badge Holders who have been wrongly ticketed for parking in loading bays will be an enormous, and costly, one for the local authorities.
Currently the Department for Transport is stonewalling the question.

However, the big one is this, and this is where the allegations of fraud (Obtaining Money by Deception under the 1996 Theft (Amendment) Act and the 1968 Theft Act) comes into play.
Sunderland City Council became aware on 16th May 2005 after NPAS Circular 04/05 (MacArthur v Bury) that the wording on their tickets didn't conform to statute (Section 66(3)c 1991 RTA)
On 16th May 2005 Head of Transport sough advice from City Solicitor
On 14th June 2005 Assistant Solicitor recommended tickets be changed immediately.
On 16th June 2005 NCP were told to add 'Date of Issue' to their electronic version of the ticket.
This has only just been done Dec / Jan.
The consequence is that NCP were issuing tickets for six months KNOWING that they were illegal. They had been informed.

What is being highlighted here with the Sunderland case is the absolute lawlessness of the DPE regime in this city. This situation is not unique to Sunderland and is being replicated right across the country.

There is a solution, and it is the only solution.
The Special Parking Area / Permitted Parking Area for Sunderland must be revoked and parking control must revert back to Police control. That is the only way that public confidence can be restored. Failure to do so will result in contempt for an unworkable and unacceptable system which will be challenged at every turn and lead to a massive and continuing administrative nightmare for the Council.
Sunderland Council are attempting to stop massive blood loss from multiple amputations with a packet of elastoplasts. The time has come to end the suffering.


Neil Herron
Campaign Director
0191 565 7143
0191 514 4606
07776 202045 and


In the case of Rochdale Metroploitan Borough Council, 28,260 Penalty Charge Notices were issued with wording which did not conform to statutory requirements. There had been over 50 appeals to the National Parking Adjudication Service before the error was discovered.

The National Parking Adjudication Service (which purports to be independent but receives 60p from each ticket issued) received a total of £45,000 from Sunderland. To date it has heard over 250 appeals and has not once indicated that the wording on the tickets was unlawful...Question has to be asked again as to why this evidence was not even checked and flagged up earlier. This undoubtedly brings NPAS into disrepute.

The lack of scrutiny of Decriminalised Parking Enforcement by the Department for Transport is also leading to the setting up of private companies who are now operating similar schemes on private land, including large retail parks, and accessing the DVLA data base purporting to be parking companies and effectively demanding money with menaces. Numerous examples are coming in to this office every day.

Notes: The Campaign
The People's No Campaign is a growing 'umbrella' campaign group opposed to all forms of unacceptable and unaccountable governance.
Exposure of the 'out of control' Decriminalised Parking scam which the Government and Department for Transport fails to recognise can be viewed here.
Exposure of the false 'independence' by the National Parking Adjudication Service can be viewed here.and here

Recent news on how local authorities are defying the law to rake in millions here
More can be seen at

The People's No Campaign has grown out of the Metric Martyrs and the North East No Campaign (massively defeated Prescott in the 2004 Elected Assembly Referendum).

The group also created the No Campaign against the European Constitution.

Neil Herron along with Steven Thoburn were European Campaigners of the Year in 2001 with the Metric Martyrs Campaign beating Head of the European Central Bank, Wim Duisenberg, and his launch of the Euro Notes and Coins.

'Decriminalised Parking Enforcement: Post Implementation Review' ... e-mail us at and we can provide a pdf version of the report.

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