Monday, February 26, 2007
Did you ever wonder where Bono was singing about on the opening track on the Joshua Tree album?
Well it is believed that it all stemmed from when he got a parking ticket in Sunderland ... and you can read the lyrics here
Looks like someone has had a ticket in the same place ...
Apology to come and a refund too
Can I refer you to my letter of December 13, headed by you "The little people are hung out to dry"?
The almost three months of silence from the head ombudsman in York was ended by my receiving a letter dated December 8 informing me that she had made an arrangement (contrary to my complaint to her) for the chief executive of Sunderland City Council to look again at my case.
On reflection, he feels the council should have recognised my exceptional personal circumstances: my age and my worry about the medical appointment I was travelling to at the time (May 4, 2005). I was further informed the council will apologise to me and refund the fine imposed on me at the time, and pay me a further £50 in recognition of my time and trouble in pursuing my complaint.
It would appear all the above has come about because of a judicial review in August 2006 which, the ombudsman's investigator informed me, supported my complaint against Sunderland Parking Services who had been using parking charge notices that were not compliant with the specimen in the Road Traffic Act, ie they did not show a date of issue. Should any of your readers be interested in a copy of the judicial review, I will be happy to supply one to The Journal.
Chief Executive response to above letter
Published in The Journal 20 Feb 07
Letter not an accurate reflection of inquiry
Below is an edited extract of a letter from the chief executive of Sunderland City Council to Mr E Brittain, whose letter headlined "Apology to come and a refund too" was carried in Voice of the North on February :
"The judicial review to which you refer (and which did not involve Sunderland) was not relevant to the outcome of your complaint to the Ombudsman.
"That decision did not impact on undated penalty charge notices (PCNs) that have already been issued and on which there was no outstanding appeal.
"In other wordds, PCNs such as yours that had been paid were not affected by that judicial review.
"The Ombudsman confirmed this in her letter to you of December 8, stating she had 'not found maladministration in the way the council dealt with you as one amongst the class of people who paid a PCN that had only the date of contravention.'"
The £80 payment to you was made as a consequence of my review of your particular circumstances. It was not in any way connected with the judicial review, nor was it made because your mitigating circumstances had not been properly considered earlier.
The Ombudsman confirmed this, stating "inquiries have not revealed any grounds for believing that the council acted with maladministration in considering your mitigating circumstances."
Your published letter was not, in my opinion, a fair or accurate reflection of the Ombudsman's investigation into your complaint.
It entirely ignores the credit given to the council by the Ombudsman for its "positive and proactive approach to the review of decriminalised parking enforcement."
It is disappointing to receive such an ungracious response to the council's efforts to remedy your greviances. I am sending a copy of this letter to the Ombudsman and The Journal in order to set the record straight.
Ged Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, Sunderkand City Council, PO Box 100, Sunderland.
Response to Ged Fitzgerald letter
Published in The Journal 23 Feb 07
My letter only stated facts as I know them
The chief executive of Sunderland City Council has accused me of not giving an accurate reflection of the Ombudsman's investigation into my complaint ("Letter not an accurate reflection of inquiry" and "Apology to come and a refund too", Voice of the North, February 20 and 7). My letter to you only stated the facts as I know them.
The Ombudsman and her investigator were fully aware my complaint to her was not about my health on the day a penalty charge notice was placed on my car, but about the non-compliant notices in use by Sunderland Parking Services at the time of my so-called offence.
Not one mention was made in her letter to me, dated December 8 2006, about the judicial review and what Sunderland Council's reply had been.
My dispute with Sunderland Parking Services has never been about money, but about them issuing me with a notice rather than applying compassion and issuing me with a warning, in accordance with the Road Traffic Act. However, due to the absolute intransigence of the parking service, I was forced to amend my claim against them when I got the information about the notice not complying with the law from your newspaper.
Perhaps the chief executive might like to challenge his staff to get to the bottom of this matter. He is the only possible voice the individual has when taking on these councils. As I am only trying to be honest and fair, I trust he will look on my plea favourably.
Published in The Journal 26 Feb 07
We offer our apologies to reader Eric Brittain for printing extracts from a letter which he had not intended for publication ("My letter only stated facts as I know them", Voice of the North, February 23).
An edited version of the letter he wished us to carry is carried below:
I received a letter on February 17 from the chief executive of Sunderland City Council which, apparently, was in response to a letter of mine, part of which was published in Voice of the North ("Apology to come and a refund too", February 7).
It is not my intention to enter into a slanging match, but this gentleman should be the last to accuse me of ungraciousness. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since May 4, 2005, and there is not enough space to tell Journal readers the whole story.
However, I find it most strange after nearly two years of the council refusing my claim on compassionate grounds (which is covered by the Road Traffic Act), it is only when they have been confronted with an alternative claim supported by a judicial review that the chief executive informed the Ombudsman he has now decided to look again at my case and, on reflection, he feels that the council could have recognised my exceptional personal circumstances, my age (79) and my worry about the medical appointment I was attending on May 4, 2005.
I was informed by the Ombudsman the council will apologise to me, refund my fine and pay me a further £50 in recognition of my time and trouble in pursuing my complaint.
Neither the chief executive nor the Ombudsman asked me if I was agreeable to this form of settlement.
If anyone has been ungracious, it is the chief executive who agreed with the Ombudsman the council would apologise, but instead of doing so himself passed the matter back to the customer services department.
I have nothing to hide and would be prepared to hand over my file on this distasteful episode to anyone who is interested in fairness and justice for the individual.
In conclusion, I have no reason to be grateful to Sunderland Parking Services for the refund of my fine after almost two long years of being ignored by them.
Friday, February 23, 2007
The latest appellant came into the office the other day. Could have sworn I'd seen him somewhere before.
He had received a parking ticket outside the Council Offices while attending the very same offices to pay another fine.
The Blue Badge Holder did not see any signs.
He has an NPAS hearing coming up but he is worried that if he attends and wins and then does not park in that location on 24th August next year and commit the contravention then a paradox will be created.
Last Updated: 1:51am GMT 21/02/2007
A blueprint drawn up by the Department for Transport showed it could cost £62 billion to set up and £8.6 billion a year to run.
Every motorist could end up paying nearly £300 just to cover the expense of collecting the charge, according to the department's feasibility study. Details of the study emerged as the Prime Minister signalled his intention to press ahead with road pricing in the teeth of fierce opposition.
More than 1.5 million people have signed an online petition against the policy, which it describes as "sinister and wrong".
In a newspaper article yesterday, Mr Blair, who will be emailing everyone who signed the petition, said: "The focus on this issue that the e-petition has brought about will help improve our understanding of the problems and the realisation that there are no cost-free answers."
But critics continued to attack the scheme as it emerged that hundreds of law-abiding motorists had been monitored by police in London using congestion-charging technology.
It added to the fears of motoring and civil liberties groups about the routine monitoring of drivers under the proposed measures.
The disclosure of the DfT's feasibility study showed it had looked at an array of road pricing options, including a comprehensive scheme in which more than 30 million cars on the nation's roads were tracked.
Other options included making drivers pay to use the outside lane on motorways, which would be separated from the rest of the carriageway.
Urban charging schemes were also examined — from a variation on the one in operation in London, to a version of that running in Singapore where cars are charged for crossing a certain boundary.
The study looked at the equipment that would need to be installed in a car. The cheapest option, at about £15, would be a transmitter capable of being read by a roadside gantry. A more sophisticated unit, costing £175, would enable a car to be tracked within what the study describes as "500-metre square cells".
The most sophisticated device giving an accurate picture of a car's journey would, at 2004 prices, cost anywhere from £100 to £525, with a further fitting fee of £100.
Even foreign cars arriving in Britain would be expected to have equipment installed and a temporary account set up, according to the paper.
The DfT even calculated that 15 per cent of motorists would require "debt management" and debt collectors would be needed to deal with three per cent of drivers. Much of this work would be co-ordinated by an enforcement agency and a fraud detector would also be engaged.
Under a comprehensive pay-as-you-drive system, the information would be sent to what the DfT describes as an 'on-road service provider" that would draw up the bills. Payment would be handled by call centres and there would be a direct debit option.
Douglas Alexander, the Transport Secretary, has pledged that the data would not be shared with other organisations but civil liberties groups have voiced fears.
Michael Parker, spokesman for NO2ID, said: "This sort of tracking represents an enormous threat and eventually people will become almost anaesthetised to their every step being tracked. It is tragic that a Government is prepared to think about this sort of thing."
Motoring organisations were equally alarmed.
"In terms of value for money you would have to have a phenomenal rate of return to invest £8 billion to run the scheme," said Paul Watters, the head of roads policy at AA Public Affairs.
"Can you imagine the size of the call centre and billing centre that would be needed to run this?"
Environmental groups maintained their support for the principle of road pricing. Jason Torrance, Transport 2000's campaigns director, said: "The Government must answer concerns about road pricing by announcing that any future scheme would give people real travel choices, with increased investment for public transport to tackle climate change."
The Motorist needs a voice a little louder than the Motorists Voice spokesman who cowered in the presence of Paxman last week on Newsnight.
Thank you for your email about road pricing.
It might be useful if I explain for you in more detail what our position on this is.
We believe that some degree of road-pricing or an increased use of tolls on our roads is likely to be a part of the strategy of any Government for tackling congestion on our roads. We are happy to see the development of local road pricing schemes in cities as long as they are welcomed by local communities and not imposed by central Government.
We are also ready to see charging used to fund improvements to our transport network, as happened with the M6 Toll but would not want to see premature moves to an untested national scheme, and we believe that road-pricing should be used to manage demand for road space and generate additional transport capacity, rather than to price people off the roads altogether. We are awaiting further recommendations from our Quality of Life Policy Group and our Economic Competitiveness Policy Group on this subject.
We accept the principle of road-pricing in some situations. We also accept that we will be inheriting some schemes in development in 2009. We would not enter Government with the intention of scrapping such schemes, and it is a possibility that a Conservative Government would add to these schemes.
Although road-pricing, allied to improvements in public transport, could help to reduce carbon emissions this is not its primary role; primarily, road-pricing is a congestion management tool.
We are looking at road-pricing in terms of improving the management of existing capacity, and then increasing capacity, not in terms of raising revenue for unrelated purposes. We would also look to improving alternative transport systems as part of our approach to tackling congestion.
David Cameron's Office House of Commons London SW1A 0AA
From: Anne Palmer [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 12 February 2007 23:09
To: CAMERON, David
Cc: Anne Palmer
Subject: Road Charging
I have just watched the evening news and our Secretary of State for Transport and Secretary of State for Scotland , the Rt Hon Douglas Alexander, appears to be unaware of "road charging" for the UK and seems somewhat surprised at the number of votes against Road Charging for this Country. With the greatest respect, I place here where I get news for what is to happen eventually in the UK against the wishes of a great many people. People ARE beginning to bother to vote and stand up for themselves because the politicians are not looking after them..
EU: New European road charging interoperability project launched
eGovernment News – 14 October 2005 – EU & Europe-wide – Interoperability
Road Charging Interoperability (RCI), a project financed by the European Commission, aims to demonstrate how any road charging transaction in Europe can be carried out with a single set of in-vehicle equipment.
The RCI project, which started in June 2005 and will end in May 2008, is funded through the European Commission’s Directorate-General Energy and Transport. It will address the issue of interoperability of road charging between European countries, and trial and demonstrate interoperability between six neighbouring countries – Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
To this end, RCI will develop an open, integrated framework enabling road charging interoperability at the technical level based on the key existing and planned road charging deployments in Europe.
The RCI consortium brings together almost 20 partners and is coordinated by the European Road Transport Telematics Implementation Coordination Organisation (ERTICO) – a public/private partnership pursuing the development and deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems and Services (ITS).
Project partners met with European Commission representatives in mid-September 2005 to discuss and update a set of project objectives and to define a clear work approach. According to ERTICO, the project’s objectives are as follows:
· Specify the RCI prototype that can operate in any of the existing RCI road charging environments.
· Implement the specification and build one or more prototypes.
· Test the prototype(s) in field trials at six sites: Austria (Europass), France (TIS), Germany (Toll-Collect), Italy (Telepass), Spain (Via-T) and Switzerland (LSVA)
· Support additional test sites representing other key deployments such as Norway (Autopass), Portugal (Via Verde) as well any key deployment within new Member States such as Slovenia.
The main result of the RCI project will be a set of validated proposals that will help the European Commission define the European road charging service.
According to the directive on the interoperability of electronic road toll systems in the Community adopted in April 2004, a European electronic toll service shall be created to ensure the interoperability of electronic toll systems at technical, contractual and procedural level.
The decisions relating to the definition of the European electronic toll service shall be taken by the Commission, assisted by an Electronic Toll Committee representing the Member States, by 1 July 2006.
© European Communities 2005
Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.
The views expressed are not an official position of the European Commission.
Disclaimer Further information: · News release and project presentation by Ertico · Directive 2004/52/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the interoperability of electronic road toll systems in the Community, and corrigendum · Towards interoperable electronic toll systems on the roads of Europe, article published by the eGovernment Observatory on 25 April 2003
Latest eGovernment News
eGovernment News - October 2005
eGovernment News - EU & Europe-wide
eGovernment News - Interoperability
Treat the motoring electorate with contempt and they will come back and bite at the next election.
Hyndburn Council has told Parkwise bosses to remove the borough's logo from its tickets and literature in protest at the way the scheme is run.
And it has ordered its own officers to look at the possibility of setting up a separate parking warden scheme to monitor its three Accrington car parks in Abbey Street and Crawshaw Street and close to the station.
Parkwise is a parking enforcement partnership between Lancashire County Council and the county's district and borough councils.
Its NCP management team for Hyndburn would continue to oversee the issuing of tickets on the borough's streets after the proposed breakaway because the county council has responsibility for highways.
Drivers in Accrington town centre have been hit with £30 fines for incorrectly displaying disabled badges, exceeding parking restrictions by minutes and closing vehicle doors while unloading goods.
Hyndburn Council leader Coun Peter Britcliffe said: "I have been contacted by many residents complaining about fines, particularly disabled drivers who have put their badges upside down and got a ticket.
"It seems very unfair. It is heavy handed and over eager.
"People who get a ticket for being two minutes late back to a short-stay bay assume the fine has come from Hyndburn and that is not the case.
"I have had numerous people coming to me, often quite angry, thinking that Hyndburn Council has fined them.
"The use of our logo on their literature, therefore, concerns me and I have asked for it to be removed.
"I also believe that we would be capable of setting up our own system.
"I think the time has come for us to part ways."
Accrington resident Andrew Bridge, who got a Parkwise ticket in January while banking charity money in Haslingden, backed the council's plans. Mr Bridge, of Balmoral Road, said: "Before the current arrangement parking attendants applied common sense.
"They would uphold the law but they would also give a driver a bit of leeway.
"Now it is all about targets and making money."
Coun Colette McCormack was fined after closing her car doors as she unloaded goods outside her Warner Street business.
She said: "I was told it looked like I was parked rather than unloading.
"Parking attendants should operate with more discretion."
A spokesperson for Parkwise said: "We believe the scheme is running well in Hyndburn.
"The council has been signed up since Parkwise was launched and can opt out of the partnership if it wants to.
"We are aware that the council is writing to us and if it has any issues it wants to raise we will discuss them."
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Feb 21 2007
By Jamie Oliver, Crewe Chronicle
CREWE and Nantwich MP Gwyneth Dunwoody has backed the decision to put up Polish road signs to help migrant drivers in South Cheshire.
And she says Cheshire County Council is fully within its rights to erect them.
Highways bosses have spent hundreds of pounds putting up eight diversion signs on the A534 at Faddiley and the A49 to Ridley to help bemused Polish drivers.
Labour MP Mrs Dunwoody, also chair of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, said: 'Cheshire County Council is showing a commendable sense of responsibility and I just cannot see why people are getting their knickers in a twist over this simple matter.
'There was a clear and urgent need for these temporary signs to deal with a situation before someone was involved in an accident - and not after.
'The county council has a responsibility to ensure the safety of motorists and I am grateful we have an authority in Cheshire with the common sense to put safety before bureaucracy.'
'It is highly unlikely that the signs are illegal because of the juxtaposition of the two languages and I am perfectly willing to take up the matter with the Department of Transport immediately.
'Until we can be sure of the nationality of every driver on our road network, it is far better to take direct action that to wait for someone else to add to our accident statistics.'
But the signs have been criticised by some road users and councillors. Crewe and Nantwich borough council-lor Stan Davies, whose ward covers Faddiley, said: 'It is barmy that these signs have been put up, and it puzzles me why the Polish have been singled out on this.
The county council deny the Polish road signs are the result of 'political correctness'.
The county says many of the 3,000 Poles living in the Crewe area work at local companies but cannot yet read English and the situation has not been helped by many Polish lorry drivers using Cheshire's A-roads as a shortcut from the M6.
The county has consulted with the Government office for the North West which clarified it is principally a matter for the county council as the local highways authority to determine.
County engineer Steve Kent said:
'They have agreed on our behalf to look into the issue of formal authorisation for the signs.
'As the authority responsible for the A49, it is our duty to make a judgement having balanced a particular safety issue against strict adherence to national guidelines.
'We are of the firm opinion that in this instance the safety benefits take precedence.
'Furthermore, while the signs do not strictly follow national guidelines in terms of metric measurements, we do not believe they are un-lawful.'
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Christopher Booker's Notebook
By Christopher Booker, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 1:17am GMT 19/02/2007
As the Downing Street petition saying "no to road charging" breaks all records by soaring past the 1.5 million mark, one crucial factor gets overlooked. Our Transport Secretary, Douglas Alexander, may say he "welcomes a debate" on what, last May, he called his "personal priority", but he knows full well that in this respect we have little choice.
Regardless of how many people log on to the Downing Street website to say that they don't want it, we are committed to basing any road charging scheme on the EU's Galileo satellite system. The only trouble is that the EU is making such a shambles of it that it is highly unlikely to be in place before 2020, if they can get it to work at all.
The reason that Mr Alexander describes charging motorists for using the roads (at up to £1.34 a mile) as his "personal priority" is that three years ago Brussels issued EC directive 2004/52 on "the interoperability of electronic toll collection systems", to ensure that all the EU's planned road charging schemes are similar. But herein lie two practical difficulties.
First, Brussels is committed to drawing up a "technical standard", to which all national systems must conform, and so far, due to the huge technical problems involved, there is no sign of it emerging. A second problem is that the EU scheme is to be based on Galileo, its rival satellite system to the US Navstar. And Galileo - to which UK taxpayers have already contributed £200 million in development costs - is itself a shambles.
Despite the fanfares which greeted the launch, courtesy of a Russian Soyuz rocket, of the EU's first trial satellite last year, it is now clear that Galileo's future is fraught with difficulty. Within a few years Russia and China will join the US in having their own global positioning satellite systems, free to users all over the world. Galileo alone will depend on charging users for an encrypted signal, and since Cornell University last year cracked its operating code, the commercial future of the system looks increasingly uncertain.
As Galileo's development bills soar, it cannot even be guaranteed to become operational, although Mr Alexander has already promised £2.5 billion to local authorities by 2015, under his Transport Innovation Fund, so long as they agree to charge for road use. Our Government is thus locked into a hugely unpopular and complex project which we cannot have any assurance will work.
Mr Alexander obviously cannot tell us this, because it would be too embarrassing. Instead he tells us we can have a "debate", to which he has absolutely no intention of listening. But the chances that we will get our EU road charging system even by 2020 (it was originally promised for 2012) become slimmer by the day. If it wasn't all so time-wasting and dishonest, it would be quite funny. As the Downing Street petition saying "no to road charging" breaks all records by soaring past the 1.5 million mark, one crucially important factor gets overlooked. Our Transport Secretary Alastair Darling may say he "welcomes a debate" on what he last May called his "personal priority", but he knows full well we have very little choice in the matter.
Regardless of how many people say on the Downing Street website they don't want it, under EU policy we are committed to setting up a satellite-based system for taxing motorists - the only trouble being that the EU is making such a shambles of it that it is highly unlikely to be in place before 2020, if they can get it to work at all.
The reason that Mr Darling describes charging motorists up to £1.34 a mile for using the roads as his "personal priority" is that three years ago Brussels issued EC directive 2004/52 on "the interoperability of electronic toll collection systems", to ensure that all the EU's planned road charging schemes are similar. But herein lie two practical problems.
First, Brussels is committed to drawing up a "technical standard", to which all national systems must conform, and so far, so huge are the technical problems involved, there is no sign of this emerging. A second problem is that the EU scheme is to be based on Galileo, its rival satellite system to the US Navstar. And Galileo - to which UK taxpayers have already contributed £200 million in development costs - is itself in a shambles.
Despite the fanfares which last year greeted the launch of the EU's first trial satellite last year, courtesy of a Russian Soyuz rocket, it is now clear that Galileo's future is fraught with difficulty. Within a few years the US, Russia and China will all have their own global positioning satellite systems, free to users all over the world, Galileo alone will be dependent for its viability on charging its users for using an encrypted signal, and since Cornell University last year cracked its operating code, the commercial future of the system looks increasingly uncertain. As its development bills soar, it cannot even be guaranteed ever to become operational, although Mr Alexander has already promised £2.5 billion to local authorities by 2015, under his Transport Innovation Fund, so long as they agree to charge for road use.
Our Government is thus locked into a hugely unpopular and complex project which we cannot have any assurance will work. Mr Alexander obviously cannot tell us this, because it would be too embarrassing. Instead he tells us we can have a "debate", to which he has absolutely no intention of listening. But the chances that we will get our EU road charging system even by 2020 (it was originally promised for 2012) become slimmer by the day. If it wasn't all so time-wasting and dishonest, it would be quite funny.
Feb 14, 2007
A pensioner was yesterday ignoring the door to bailiffs after refusing to pay her council tax in protest against regional assemblies.
Widow Elisabeth Beckett, 82, claims the North-West Regional Assembly, which covers Cumbria, is part of an attempt to break up the country at the behest of the European Union.
Mrs Beckett owes Eden District Council more than £1,800 in unpaid tax since beginning the protest last year.
Her initial plan was to withhold the portion that would go to the assembly. But when the authority refused to specify that on her bill, the retired farmer began to boycott all payments.
After a court ordered her to pay the tax, she said she is now being pursued by bailiffs for the sum.
Mrs Beckett, of Front Street, Alston, claimed: "What the regional assembly is intended to do is take small bits of England, combine them with Brussels and have no English parliament. It's effectively treason.
"This has made me into a criminal. It is the sort of law that dictators make. I'm sitting here with my curtains and shutters drawn. It's a horrid experience. Why do the Government do this?"
Eden Council enforcement manager Spike Johnson said: "I cannot talk about individual cases.
"We would only employ bailiffs as a last resort. Eden District Council tries to work with individuals rather than taking the dogs out."
Monday, February 19, 2007
By Alison Little
Deputy Political Editor
Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money will be spent on policing new “no smoking in public” rules.
Critics said there would be a town hall Taliban – an army of undercover officials with power to enter pubs, bars and offices.
They will be able to photograph, film and slap instant fines on offenders, part of “heavy-handed” plans by Labour to create a police state. ...Read full story here
At a meeting of ministers in Brussels yesterday it was decided that police across the EU should have access to Britain's DNA, car registration and fingerprint records.
All member states will have access to other countries' DNA and fingerprint data, as well as direct online access to vehicle registries.
The exchanges could be up and running as early as next year and might eventually lead to the creation of a single Euro-wide database.
Police in one country will be able to find out whether another has data matching the profile of a suspected offender.
Gerard Batten, a London UKIP MEP, said: "This is the thin end of the wedge and will lead to a European-wide database including all personal details including DNA. It is the beginning of an Euro-wide, Big Brother state."
Army of spies will police ban on smoking in pubs
By Alison Little
Deputy Political Editor
(c) 2007 Express Newspapers
Critics fume at £30m bill to train 'town hall Taliban'
MILLIONS of pounds of taxpayers' money will be spent on policing new "no smoking in public" rules.
Critics said there would be a town hall Taliban ? an army of undercoover officials with power to enter pubs, bars and offices.
They will be able to photograph, film and slap instant fines on offenders, part of "heavy-handed" plans by Labour to create a police state.
Local authorities in England have been given a total of £29.5million for this year and next to help prepare for the ban.
Thousands of council staff will be involved in enforcing the public smoking ban which comes into force across England on July 1.
Scotland introduced the law last year and it will be implemented in Wales and Northern Ireland in April.
Lighting-up will be outlawed in virtually all enclosed public places including pubs, bars, restaurants and workplaces.
Yesterday it emerged the Government has given councils cash to train anti-smoking officials to enforce the rules so that police time is not taken up.
The enforcers will have the power to impose £50 on-the-spot fines on illegal smokers and prosecute businesses who will be liable for £200 fines for not displaying no-smoking signs and penalties of up to £2,500 if they refuse to enforce the ban.
A Government-funded course will initially train 1,200 council officers in England in the next few months, who will in turn brief other staff who will join them on patrol.
Conservative shadow local government minister Eric Pickles said: "These proposed heavy-handed surveillance and zealous inspections look like a wholly disproportionate response ? a municipal sledgehammer to crack a nut.
"People want their council tax to be used to clean the streets, collect their rubbish and keep the streets safe. They don't want it spent on bankrolling a town hall Taliban."
Simon Clark, director of smokers' lobby group Forest, said the scheme would be a waste of public money, adding: "The idea of getting public officials to snoop on people is distasteful and disproportionate."
A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association described the plan as heavy-handed and elaborate, adding: "In Scotland, there have been just 11 fixed penalty notices issued to premises in the last 10 months, with many councils having issued none at all."
John Whittaker, chairman of the anti-Brussels UK Independence Party, said: "Every time this government introduces new proposals we descend deeper and deeper into a police state. People don't need all this nannying and bullying.
"As has been shown in Scotland, where the ban is already in force, smokers will abide by the new rules without heavy-handed bureaucrats harassing them. This scheme is not only an insult to people's intelligence it also involves public money - which could be used in so many better ways - literally going up in smoke."
But council chiefs denied it was a plot to spy on people. One source commented: "Just because officials might not be going in with flashing lights and clip boards does not mean they're 'undercover'."
Local Government Association chairman Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart insisted: "Councils have no interest whatsoever in snooping on people. Their only interest is in making sure that businesses, landlords, and smokers understand what the smoking ban means when it comes into force, and showing those who flout the law that their actions have consequences. "Experiences in Scotland, where a similar ban was introduced last year, have shown the vast majority of smokers are responsible and respect the new law. No doubt the same will be true in England."
Ian Gray, for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and chief trainer for the government course, said: "I expect most councils will take a softly, softly approach at first. But there will be some occasions where action has to be taken and I am sure the officers will not shy away from that.
"These officers do not have to identify themselves when they go into premises and they can even film and photograph people to gather evidence although this may not be appropriate in many cases."
Councils are gearing up for the ban.
Nottingham is considering involving street wardens to keep an eye out for offenders.
Liverpool will have a core team of about 20 but put 200 on patrol in the first few days after the ban comes in.
Andy Hull of Liverpool City Council said: "We want to make our presence felt from the start, and while we will probably just issue warnings on the first day, we won't be afraid of making an example of people or businesses if they try to make a stand."
And "shop a smoker" hotlines are being established.
The Department of Health said: "The Government's intention is to create a supportive environment where people are encouraged and supported to comply with the new laws. Enforcement will be supportive and non-confrontational.
Christine Melsom, founder of the anti-council tax group IsItFair, said that new offences should be dealt with by police.
Informal Meeting of Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs: Home affairs ministers back initiative to create a pan-European network of police databases for more effective crime control
At the informal meeting of EU home affairs ministers in Dresden today, the Federal Minister of the Interior, Dr Wolfgang Schäuble, presented an initiative to transpose the Prüm Treaty into the legal framework of the EU by drafting EU legislation using the exact wording of the Prüm Treaty.
The treaty, which was signed by seven European states (Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and Spain) in the town of Prüm, provides for greater cross-border cooperation of police and judicial authorities, particularly in combating terrorism, cross-border crime and illegal migration. The core element of the treaty is the creation of a network of national databases to step up the exchange of information. By now, four additional Member States (Finland, Italy, Portugal and Slovenia) have declared their intention to accede to the treaty. Germany and Austria have already begun to check the contents of their national databases against each other.
Minister Schäuble commented as follows: “With the initiative we hope to transpose the wording of the Prüm Treaty into EU legislation to make the added value provided by the treaty available to all 27 EU Member States. Our aim is to create a modern police information network for more effective crime control throughout Europe.
“The special value of the treaty lies in the substantially improved and efficiently organized procedures for the exchange of information. Promising results have been achieved after the initial implementation phase, which demonstrates that the Prüm Treaty contributes significantly to strengthening internal security in Europe.
“For example, under the treaty Austria and Germany have been able to check the contents of their national DNA databases against each other since early December 2006. This is the first time that two countries have granted each other access to their national police databases using a hit/no hit method. In just six weeks, when German untraceables were checked against the Austrian database, 1500 matches were found, and when Austrian untraceables were checked against the German database, 1400 matches resulted.
“On the basis of these results, where untraceables could be matched with a person in the database, police investigators are now able to match hits with unsolved crimes. Thus, it can be expected that Germany and Austria will be able to solve unsolved crimes and prosecute and punish the offenders.
“These figures are proof that the idea behind the Prüm Treaty to create a network of existing national databases is a simple, yet very effective means to fight cross-border crime and international terrorism. The exchange of information under the Prüm Treaty also extends to granting other Member States access to national fingerprint files and motor vehicle registries. We want to gradually begin with sharing such information already in the first half of this year.
“With a view to more effective crime control in Europe, all European states should participate in the Prüm Treaty. Therefore, I am pleased that the proposal to transpose the Prüm Treaty into EU law, which was submitted informally by the German Presidency together with the other Prüm signatories and the European Commission today, has been so very well received. With this in mind, we want to take up formal discussions at the next meeting of justice and home affairs ministers in Brussels on 15/16 February.”
In addition, the treaty entered into force in Austria and Spain on 1 November 2006, as it did in Germany on 23 November 2006. Luxembourg ratified the treaty at the end of December. The other signatories are also making efforts to have the treaty ratified by spring 2007.
On the basis of the treaty, the participating states may now give one another automated access to specific national databases. This amounts to a quantum leap in the cross-border sharing of information. For example, the contracting states have full and direct online read access to vehicle registration data held by their partners. The contracting parties give one another access to their DNA analysis files and dactyloscopic (fingerprint) files in what is called a hit/no hit system. Police services may launch a query in the data system of a contracting partner to find out whether it contains data concerning a specific profile, and are automatically informed of the result within a matter of minutes. Further information, such as personal data, may be communicated in the course of mutual legal assistance.
The treaty also contains provisions concerning the exchange of information relevant for counter-terrorism and data concerning travelling violent offenders. To prevent terrorist offences, personal information about potential perpetrators of terrorist attacks may also be communicated. The treaty allows the authorities to exchange information on travelling violent offenders, such as hooligans, in the context of major events (for example football matches, European Council meetings or other international summits) in order to prevent criminal acts.
Furthermore, the Prüm Treaty is a means to improve police cooperation by operational measures. The treaty provides for various types of joint operations such as joint patrols and cross-border intervention to avert immediate danger, and for granting executive powers to police officers of other contracting states. For example, police officers from another Member State may be deployed to enhance security at large-scale public events such as the European Football Championship or an EU summit, while being granted the same rights and duties as police officers from the host country.
A positive aspect worthy of particular mention is the comprehensive range of modern data protection regulations.
As the drafters of the Prüm Treaty sought to further develop European cooperation, the treaty was designed with its transposing into the legal framework of the EU in mind.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Following Cheshire Council's attempt to enter the Guiness Book of Records for the highest scrabble score we remind them of the law.
Read the story here as to how another Council Official has been reminded of what he is paid to do and which laws he must obey.
The polite request below, if it is not complied with, will be followed with a harder punch...
Letter to Cheshire County Council
Cheshire County Council
15th February 2007
Dear Mr. Anderton,
I understand from the article on page 5 of today's Daily Express that you are the council officer responsible for the commissioning of the signs shown in the article.
No doubt you will be aware of the requirements of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 and it should not be the responsibility of a member of the public to remind you of the legal signing requirements.
Please confirm that all unlawful signs showing metric distances will be removed immediately. Please also provide the legal authority which allows you to sign in Polish and provide copies of any Department for Transport Special Authorisations for such non-prescribed signs.
You will be aware that the Highways Act 1980 does not permit unlawful signs to be placed on or near the highway.
I would be grateful if you could provide the cost ( please treat as a Freedom of Information Request if necessary) of all signs commissioned by Cheshire County Council's Highway's Department:
(i) in Polish
(ii) containing metric distances,
and copies of all communications (written, e-mail and telephone) with regard to this matter for the period covering the last three months.
I look forward to your response and please confirm that you will instruct officers to remove all non-compliant signs forthwith and provide the Chief Executive and County Solicitor with a copy of this e-mail.
Metric Martyrs Defence Fund
12 Frederick Street
Tel. 0191 565 7143
Mob. 07776 202045
cc. Greg Swift, Paul Broster, Daily Express Newsdesk
cc. Newsdesk, Cheshire News
cc. Cheshire County Council Chief Executive
cc. County Solicitor
cc. John Gardner, British Weights and Measures Association
Just remember the arrogance of the Council's when they were told over twelve months ago that their actions were unlawul.
Just remember their continued pursuit of motorists in may local authorities across the country despite being aware that their tickets were wrong.
Just remember the councils that refused to acknowledge the MacArthur Circular from NPAS.
Now perhaps the way that they treat the public will change ... and perhaps the next time they think that the 'little guy' cannot take them on or that the law does not apply to them just remember the six and a half million reasons below ...
The Edinburgh Paper
FINE PERFORMANCE: The News revealed last year that tickets issued up until June 2006 were "illegal"Picture: Colin Hattersley
UNPAID parking fines totalling around £6.5 million have been cancelled by the city council following a legal blunder.
Transport chiefs have been forced to stop chasing Edinburgh's worst parking cheats, leaving the authority with a massive financial black hole.
But while those who used underhand techniques to dodge parking fines are now off-the-hook, the council insists that thousands of residents who did pay fines they did not legally have to will not receive a refund.
Campaigners today urged people to mount legal challenges to win back their cash.
The Evening News revealed late last year that all parking tickets issued up until June 2006 were technically "illegal", because they did not bear both the date of issue and date of the offence as required by UK law - regardless of the offence.
It emerged today, following a Freedom of Information request, that all debt owed prior to that date has now been wiped clean.
Sheriff officers are being told to stop chasing all outstanding offences dating back to decriminalisation in 1998 - understood to total around 70,000. The council has also abandoned pursuing 4327 fines it had not yet passed to sheriff officers.
Having failed to pay the £30 on time the vast majority of the motorists involved had seen their outstanding fines rise to £90.
That means motorists such as Scotland's biggest parking cheat - Tollcross handyman Sandy Gillespie - who has bragged of running up £80,000 in unpaid fines, will no longer be chased for the money he owes. Last year, former council leader Donald Anderson vowed to pursue him for "every penny".
Opposition politicians today said the situation was "very disappointing", and warned of "financial chaos" if all fines have to be refunded, but a council spokeswoman defended the local authority's position.
"Tackling persistent offenders such as those who keep flouting parking rules is something we take very seriously," she said.
"Our tickets were based on guidelines issued by the Department of Transport, which were taken in good faith and were believed to be correct, along with other councils.
"However, this has proved to be wrong and we have taken external legal advice, which has forced us to write off a number of unpaid tickets issued before June 1 last year."
The issue was first raised by the Evening News last May, when one of the UK's leading parking campaigners - Barrie Segal - highlighted an obscure point of law that Edinburgh's tickets failed to comply with.
At the time, the council expressed full confidence in the set-up - but still changed the wording on tickets within a week. All current tickets are now compliant with the law.
Edinburgh parking chiefs do not believe motorists who paid their tickets are due any cash back because they have effectively accepted their guilt, although the legal position remains unclear.
A family in London has already won back all the money they paid out in fines after mounting a legal challenge.
Campbell Deane, of the Scottish legal firm Bannatyne Kirkwood France, said the most likely scenario in Edinburgh would see the council choosing not to contest any claims - given the relatively low cost of a refund - although he thought many residents would be put off starting a legal fight over just £30. However, he said if the council chose to mount a challenge in court - and lost - a written judgement could force the local authority to pay back millions of pounds to motorists.
Mr Segal, who runs the AppealNow.com website, said today: "I think the council should pay back all the tickets - they say people have accepted their guilt, but how can you [be guilty] if the fine was never valid?"
Tory transport spokesman for Edinburgh, Councillor Allan Jackson, said today: "It's very disappointing to find out today that the council has been wrong, and a substantial amount of money can no longer be pursued."
The Road Traffic Act of 1991 says parking tickets must carry both the date the offence was committed and the date the fine was issued. This is important because fines in some parts of the UK - such as London - can be sent out in the post by officials studying CCTV evidence at a later date.
Although all tickets in Edinburgh are handed out at the same time as the contravention, until June last year there was no specific reference to the "date of issue" on the city's parking tickets.
This was amended following an Evening News story.
In recent months, a High Court judge in England ruled that tickets issued by Barnet council in London were not valid. Independent Scottish parking adjudicators then wrote to councils across Scotland to warn that all parking appeals would be successful if two dates are not on the penalty notice.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
07th February 2007
By Steve Farrell
A speed camera boss has finally admitted his equipment is capable of getting speeds wrong if guidelines are not strictly followed.
The boss of the firm which makes laser detectors used in speed camera vans was cornered into admitting how a handheld version of the device, called an LTI 20.20 Ultralyte, can give incorrect reading.
This came to light during a court hearing at Preston Crown Court on January 19, 2007.
Frank Garratt admitted the speed meter can make a host of errors including ‘slip’ error. This is where the operator doesn’t hold it steadily and the laser signal slips along the surface of a vehicle rather than bouncing continually off the same spot.
He said the errors could occur when guidelines set out by the Association of Chief Police Officers and manufacturer were not followed.
See the full investigation in this week’s MCN, available from February 7, 2007.
Click here to read the full transcript of Garratt’s crown court cross examination.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Driver who successfully challenged the accuracy of a police speed gun has told of his relief at overturning his conviction. Full Story
On Radio Belfast in the morning...they have just gone Decriminalised and the motorists are far from happy.
Sunday 4 February 07
Thousands of motorists around the country are having their parking fines overturned following a precedent-setting High Court case which determined that tickets issued by one London council were invalid. Full story
Cambridge Evening News
01 February 07
A council could be forced to cough up millions of pounds to thousands of motorists who were issued with invalid parking tickets. Full story
10 Victoria Street,
18th January 2007.
Dear Sir / Madam,
I would be grateful if you could confirm the following:
(i) Do you, and / or individual Police Forces, have a record of crimes committed in this country by EU Nationals? If so, how many EU Citizens convicted of crimes in this country have been convicted of criminal offences in another EU Member State and was this information readily available to the arresting Police Force?
(ii) Do you, and / or individual Police Forces have a record, or are you routinely supplied with information, of every sex offender or criminal released from prison in any one of the 26 other Member States of the European Union to enter into the Police data base?
(iii) Do you have a set of guidelines, or any policy documents available with regard to advising Police Forces as to how CRB or CIB checks can be performed in relation to EU citizens who, under the free movement of people, are legally entitled to live and work in this country whose details may be presented to a local Police force for checking by a prospective employer?
(iv) If there are no guidelines, and if EU workers cannot CRB be checked then has ACPO made the Home Office and the Minister aware of this? If so, could you please provide further details including dates and copies of any communications?
(v) If no checks can be performed, or checks would be dependent on information from other EU Member State records systems then it could be that unchecked persons could be / have been placed in positions of employment with vulnerable persons. Is ACPO aware and is anything been done to address this, or is it a case of checking only AFTER a crime has been committed and a suspect apprehended?
I would be grateful if these questions are not within ACPO's remit then you could advise as to the agency who would be able to provide further illumination.
As you will no doubt appreciate, the consequences of not adding 27,000 crimes committed by Britons abroad to the National Data Base is a serious one indeed, but there appears to be no consideration (or admission) of the fact that under the 'free movement of people' arising from various Treaty agreements, some 400m+ people can walk unchecked and unchallenged through passport control with the same status as a British citizen yet their criminal records remain anonymous to both officials at the point of entry and Police forces in the locality where they live and work.
I would appreciate a response as a matter of urgency.
12 Frederick Street
Tel. 0191 565 7143
Monday, February 05, 2007
They lost the case against Mark xxxxxx and requested a review. It was rejected by NPAS but they kept issuing.
Parking Attendants were told by NCP and the Council to 'keep issuing.'
NCP claimed that the reason they were not issuing was because the machine was broken, however a source within NCP confirmed that the machine had simply been turned off.
Finally it appears that the Council are admitting that they do not have a valid Traffic Order for the location.
They have cancelled the Herron tickets ... but have you had one here?
If so then you are entitled to your money back. Sunderland City Council had no legal authority to levy fines or charge for pay and display tickets ... the TRO was wrongly drafted.
If you have paid for a pay and display ticket at this location then you are entitled to ask for your money back.
If Sunderland City Council refuse then you need to make a formal complaint and then complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.
If you believe that the ticket was issued by the Council knowing that there was no valid TRO in place then a complaint needs to be made to the Police.
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