Oh no you're not, warns campaigner Neil Herron
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
by Ross Smith
Council chiefs at the centre of a row over parking rules last night said they had been vindicated by a probe by the District Auditor.
David Jennings said he will not pursue Sunderland Council through the courts over its accounts for 2004-5, despite the fact it included money wrongly collected from flawed parking tickets.
He had been asked to intervene by campaigner Neil Herron after the council admitted it would have to pay back £34,367.36 collected from fines it had no power to hand out. Mr Jennings' report says that the inclusion of this money in the accounts, despite some council officials being aware of the errors, was "contrary to law".
But he said it would "not be proportionate" to apply for a court declaration confirming this because of the relatively small sum involved and the actions taken by the council to address the problems.
The report says the district auditor is "concerned about the timeliness" of action taken by the council to rectify problems with traffic orders, signs and road markings raised in a consultants' report commissioned in 2000. Many of these had still not been dealt with by the time the flaws in the system first came to light in August last year.
But Mr Jennings wrote: "I am now aware of steps taken by the council to prevent a recurrence.
"In particular, the council has informed me it intends to commission an external review to ensure that all aspects of its revised decriminalised parking enforcement scheme (including road signs and road markings) have been properly implemented once the remedial action referred to above is complete."
He said that the problems identified do "not mean that the decriminalised parking regime established in Sunderland is unlawful."
Sunderland Council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald said: "We satisfied with the conclusion reached by the district auditor. This decision vindicates the approach the council has taken."
But Mr Herron said that the district auditor had chosen not to look at the wider issues, and that a similar investigation may be required into this year's accounts after the council issued thousands of tickets without a date of issue, despite having been told that they should include one.
Mr Herron said: "This most certainly does not clear Sunderland Council and there is more to come to light that could leave the district auditor needing to revisit this whole matter.
"The scale of problems is a great deal more serious than this report would lead us to believe."
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
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