Saturday, September 29, 2007

£millions more Scottish parking tickets set to be cancelled

Press Release

Parking : Immediate

£Millions more in Scottish tickets to be written off in new parking fine mess...
as Parking Campaigner exposes council's use of unlawful documents.

On Friday the Scottish Parking Adjudication Service (SPAS) confirmed to Neil Herron of Parking Appeals that all current parking appeals have been adjourned pending a ruling by the adjudicators. The imminent landmark decision is expected to cause more embarrassment for the majority of Scottish councils who have been using non-compliant notices and it is likely cost them a great deal of money as they cannot legally pursue notices which are unlawful.

This further embarrassment comes off the back of a SPAS recent ruling in Aberdeen a couple of weeks ago where unlawful signs are set to force the council to write off many parking fines and follows last year's very high profile ruling by the High Court regarding the validity of Penalty Charge Notices. The knock-on effect of that decision, known as the Moses v Barnet case, was that where councils had been using non-compliant Penalty Charge Notices they had to write off £millions and could not legally pursue Penalty Charge Notices that they knew to be wrongly worded.
Edinburgh alone was forced to write off £6.5m and Glasgow and Aberdeen suffered similarly.

Neil Herron of Parking had prepared a case for Mary Watson against Perth and Kinross Council which was to be heard before a SPAS Parking Adjudicator on 3rd October and raised the point that one of the notices received by Mary Watson was not correctly worded and therefore was unlawful, striking down the case. SPAS confirmed in writing that Mary's case had been adjourned, along with all other pending cases, and the adjudicators were looking at similar wrongly worded notices in all other appeals. They will be giving a ruling soon but it is expected that all non-compliant notices will be struck down forcing councils once again to write off many more millions. 's Neil Herron whose online Parking Appeal company has exposed a great deal of this unlawful activity by councils across the country and who has saved motorists tens of millions of pounds states:

" The law is quite clear. A Notice to Owner and Notice of Rejection must state that an appeal can be made 'before the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the date of service of the notice ...' but many local authorities either state a period of 28 days or simply state 28 days from the date of the letter. Therefore, by failing to take into account the 'service' of the document which is usually 5-7 days by second class post, the appellant could be potentially prejudiced by this shortened period in which to make representations.
We raised this point in Mary's case but it looks like all pending tickets are set to be struck down and the embarrassed councils forced back to the drawing board to do what the law requires.
We have repeatedly exposed such activity across the country and the website goes from strength to strength. It is not difficult for councils to get the law right, and after all, this is what they claim that the motorist should do. However, in their attempt achieve the rich rewards that decriminalised parking enforcement brings to a council they have taken shortcuts, and now they are paying a very heavy price indeed."

He goes on to state:

"If local authorities have been using documents which are not legal then no financial liability arises. They must therefore refund all the motorists who have paid as the income has been unlawfully derived. The knock-on effect will travel south of the border and affect many councils in England. However, once again the Scottish Parking Adjudication Service puts the National Parking Adjudication Service to shame as NPAS have been allowing such unlawful documents to pass through with the adjudicators either turning a blind eye or sitting in blissful incompetence due to their ignorance of the law. SPAS once this has been brought to their attention has acted immediately and adjourned all cases in order to make a landmark ruling."



Neil Herron
0191 565 7143
07776 202045


For Mary Watson contact Neil Herron.

Notes for Editors:

Neil Herron is the campaigner who successfully led the Metric Martyrs Campaign and also the No Campaign in the North East referendum. He began campaigning against the lawless nature of Decriminalised Parking 3 years ago and created the website to share the information 'that the authorities do not want you to know.'
To date the campaigning activities have saved £hundreds of millions as unlawful activity by councils and enforcement contractors are exposed.

He has featured in two Trevor McDonald Tonight specials on parking and the award winning BBC Documentary has recently seen NCP removed from the City of Sunderland, losing their £1m a year contract.

Last month's ITV 'Driving Me Crazy' programme showed Herron getting £25k worth of tickets cancelled for Southampton resident Daniel Mumford ... because the council were using unlawful documents.

SPAS is the Scottish Parking Adjudication Service and handles the appeals for Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and Kinross, Dundee and Aberdeen who are currently the only councils in Scotland issuing Penalty Charge Notices under the Road Traffic Act 1991.

Scottish Parking Appeals ServiceJ FloorArgyle House3 Lady Lawson Street EdinburghEH3 9TH Tel. 0131 221 0409Fax. 0131 229 7189

Press Coverage on previous Refunds / Cancellations in Scotland

Council's legal error wipes out £300,000 in unpaid parking fines.

Council writes off £6.5m in 'unlawful' parking fines

Landmark win over parking ticket

Council could lose more than £3m in road sign blunder

A quiet life but for the Gypsies and Angelina Jolie

As if things weren't hectic enough!

Last week I was contacted by a group of South Shields residents (two of whom were former neighbours) to see if I could help them resist a proposed development which would create a blot on the landscape in South Shields. The Shields residents smelled a rat when they found out that the Gypsies Green Stadium running track had been provisionally sold by the council, without a great deal of public consultation to a developer who wished to build a five storey hotel block.

Rumour also has it that there may also be a conflict of interest with one of the senior South Tyneside members.

As a property developer myself I was keen to see what was proposed but when you consider that the uninterrupted views of the coastline at the terminus of the Great North Run - currently unhindered by the sunken stadium - were in line to be replaced by a five storey hotel block, then the sympathy went immediately to the residents.

It appeared, yet again, that here was a council looking at a short term finacial gain and prepared to ride roughshod over the views and concerns of local residents.

I agreed to turn up to what turned out to be a very well attended public meeting at the New Crown Pub and gave them a hand to start the campaign. Anyone wishing to support their very worthy cause can visit Gypsies Green to sign the petition and follow events.

So far local MP David Miliband (looking every inch the playboy) who is rumoured to have once visited South Shields is currently distracted.

Oh, and why the picture of Angelina Jolie?

Well, it is reported in the Times of India that jet setting Miliband is all set to meet Hollwood heartthrob and UN goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie in New York. More ...

I am sure that he can't wait to get back to South Shields to engage with his constituents rather than making a Brad Pitt of himself.

However, as he is a keen blogger, perhaps you should all drop him a note by posting on his blog here.

Meanwhile, the Gypsies Green Action Group were top of the news in the press and the broadcast media today and with the Great North Run this weekend the hard copy petition should do well.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wardens warned to behave

In an article in the Sunderland Echo tonight entitled 'Wardens warned to behave' the council claims that it has deliberately delayed hiring parking wardens in a bid to train staff before they take over the running of the department.

The report goes on to say that the council has finally decided to strip NCP of its on-street responsibilities. This comes after the award-winning BBC Inside Out Documentary which exposed NCP Attendants making racist and abusive comments and bragging about taking bribes and falsifying documents.

But the quote from Council Leader Bob Symonds has more spin than a Shane Warne googly. He states (with a straight face)
"The people who were identified in the programme have already left the company through various avenues."

Well, Mr. Symonds let us look at the various 'avenues' which the NCP employees strolled down and which are most certainly not the tree-lined, flower blossom ones you seem to allude to:

Contracts Manager ... Sacked for Gross Misconduct.

Assistant Contracts Manager ... Sacked for Gross Misconduct. Pending employment tribunal for unfair dismissal.

Training Officer ... Sacked for Gross Misconduct. Lost tribunal for unfair dismissal.

Supervisor ... Sacked for Gross Misconduct. Lost employment tribunal for unfair dismissal.

Senior Parking Attendant ... resigned first day back after long period of sick leave and therefore avoided disciplinary proceedings.

5 x Parking Attendants ... sacked for gross misconduct including falsification of documents and accepting bribes as well as drinking on duty. Aware that two took cases to employment tribunals and lost.

I have not named names because, although the behaviour and comments from the PAs was reprehensible, some of the NCP employees provided convenient patsies and scapegoats by deflecting the spotlight from the council's failings.

But we are still waiting Mr. Symonds ... the council kept the money from all the tickets issued by the above. The ones who have been sacked for falsifying documents, taking bribes and so on ... alleged criminal acts which cost the men their jobs, but the council keeps the money. If this was a novel it would be too far fetched to be believable!!

Sunderland Parking Shambles will cost someone's life

As mentioned in the post below but one the time has come for the Department for Transport to intervene before Sunderland City Council's failure to even understand the most basic of traffic sign legislation leads to a fatality.

The Chief Executive, the Leader and portfolio holder have all been put on notice and the Police, press and media and Department for Transport along with the Government Office of the North East informed that the inability of council officers to understand and follow the law could potentially have very serious consequences.

Whilst the leader of Sunderland City Council, Bob Symonds (above) maintains that the Decriminalised Parking Enforcement regime remains 'legal, robust and enforceable' the following series of photographs willl allow the layman and expert alike to reflect on the comments of Mr. Symonds.
Perhaps imagine a child lying under the wheels of a car after running out across the pedestrian crossing shown below may be the sobering image that will shake this council into realising how their incompetence and reckless indifference to the law could force them to confront their failings.

Following the law with regard to proper road signing is not just about being able to stick tickets on cars which can be appealed and cancelled if the signs are wrong. There are reasons why the officers at the Department for Transport spend so much time drafting the legislation.

First a little reminder of the law

- Loading Bays to Diagram 1028 series MUST be a minimum of 2.7m wide

- The 'Loading Only' legend MUST be on the outside of the bay.

Not quite the case there then.

- The Loading Only legend is INSIDE the bay.

- The bay is only 2m wide, BEHIND the zigzags.

- There is a bay behind the zig zags on opposite sides of the road either side of the crossing.
Not only illegal but downright dangerous ... an accident waiting to happen.

- the zig zag restriction runs 'edgeback to edgeback' therefore the council are actually inciting motorists to commit a criminal offence by parking in the zigzags, behind the zig zags or overhanging the zig zags.

- the serious safety issues arise from restricted visibility for motorists and pedestrians alike caused by vehicles parked in the unlawfully marked, illegal loading bay.

And the photograph above shows what happens ... a car swerves to avoid a vehicle. Now just imagine a seven and a half tonne wagon either side of the crossing and a child running out and a driver's vision obscured.

Now Mr. Symonds, chant that mantra again ... "the lines and signs are legal, robust and enforceable."

As John Munns of the Department for Transport stated in an e-mail after being shown these pictures (he did qualify it first by saying that he couldn't comment on individual cases ... but I think the Department's general rule can be accepted as being applicable)

"The combination of these regulations is not always obvious but we now understand that the zig zag should always follow the kerb-line including into any bays . Loading bays minimum width in TSRGD is 2.7m - unless it conform entirely to diagram 1032 in TSRGD. The Signs regulations always have the "loading only" legend outside the bay - authorised exceptions are very , very, raree (sic). "

On your head be it Councillor Symonds.

Dark Clouds over Sunderland ... Tory victory in by-election could scupper Gordon Brown's early election plans

As Labour led Sunderland Council lurch from crisis to crisis like the Titanic looking for icebergs the local by-election result last night could shatter Gordon's chance to go to the country early with a snap General Election.

Rumour has it that 25th October has been pencilled in but with the EU constitution spectre looming and now this body blow in the Labour heartlands would GB's GB want to go down in the history books as the shortest serving PM?

With the boundary changes in Sunderland Sunderland Central would be a marginal seat ... now there's a sobering thought for the incumbent MP Chris Mullin. Local press report below ...

Tory victory in by-election
Sunderland Echo
28th October 2007

By Marissa Carruthers
A Tory victory on Wearside today cast doubt over whether Gordon Brown will call a snap General Election.
All eyes were on Washington as Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats battled it out at the ballot box to win a seat in Washington East. More ...

Letter to Sunderland City Council's Chief Executive ... Compensation to NCP, Unlawful signs and safety hazards

As Sunderland City Council continue to claim that their Decriminalised Parking Enforcement Regime is 'legal, robust and enforceable' and as they pay £73,000 compensation 'by agreement' to NCP for terminating their contract early one really has to look behind the smoke and mirrors.

This is a council desperately trying to cover up matters when the most honest thing to do would be to say 'mea culpa' and pay back the money. The short term pain would be in the long term gain ... but no, this is Sunderland where the defence of the indefensible 'til the death seems to be engrained and enshrined into the body politic.

If NCP had not been operating their contract correctly and had brought the City into disrepute as a result of the BBC Inside Out programme then the contract should simply have been terminated without compensation.

However, they (NCP) have been given a sweet pay-off and NCP have also been allowed to keep the lucrative off-street part of the contract.

One insider from NCP reminds us however that NCP was fully aware of the non-compliant signs, lines and Traffic Orders in the City as far back as 2003 and such was their concern that on three separate occasions the firm offered to pay for a full review. The Council kept telling NCP that the regime was 'legal, robust and enforceable.'
The insider also told us that the council didn't properly monitor the contract and many NCP concerns were never actioned, just covered up. Under no circumstances must the public be told.

Remember how they were first caught out after issuing illegal tickets in taxi ranks. See here

Director Phil Barrett said:
"It is an anomaly relating to the implementation of just one aspect of the city's parking system."

Now over two years later perhaps the only anomaly that could be found is something that has been done right!

Now it has also been exposed that the Council lied about the lines and signs and TROs to the DfT in order to get DPE powers and operate a parking enforcement regime where they were allowed to keep the money one must also question what else has been covered up. Only a full external investigation will reveal the extent of the deception which goes across all council departments. One can make excuses for incompetence but when incompetence is exposed and then covered up and no restitution of unlawfully derived monies then what follows is deliberate. Some would call it fraud, some misconduct in public office, some deception. Whatever it is called it is behaviour which falls far short of what is expected of a public official.

Perhaps the Crown Prosecution Service definition of Misfeasance needs closer scrutiny. It can be seen here

As the corrective works on the lines and signs now starts to approach seven figures (although the council even refuses to disclose the amount to the opposition groups) and is still ongoing we can perhaps see the real reason why the report identifying the flaws was never acted upon. It would have meant massive initial expenditure to begin DPE, something which would never have got past the councillors.

Perhaps now, and before more damaging revelations are published, it is time to request the intervention of the Department for Transport to put matters right before the Secretary of State and the High Court is forced to do so.

You can read the open letter to the Chief Executive here

The next post will show how serious signing flaws have the potential to cause something far more damaging than a parking ticket.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

NCP and Council rub their hands at parking fine revenue

As motorists get hammered in Worthing and businesses begin to suffer at the hands of 'cash is king' parking enforcement contractors NCP whose 'ruthlessly efficent ticketing operatives' will be accused of driving away customers and harassing businesses the council, traders and motorists may wish to view the following YouTube clip

Some of those councils who once saw Decriminalised Parking Enforcement as a 'nice little earner' are now counting the cost after failing to follow the law... and as the public becomes better informed and the mistakes and cover-ups are exposed DPE is going to become ' a plague on all the councils.'

Worthing parking fines: £24,000 in one week

MORE than 800 drivers have been fined a staggering £24,000 for illegal parking in Worthing in just seven days – the first week the new parking attendants started imposing penalties.
If this rate continues, the annual fines haul will be well over £1million.

A total of 831 drivers were each fined £30 last week, following a seven-day "honeymoon" period for motorists after the new local authority parking scheme was launched in Worthing.
More ...

Car Cloning nightmare scenario for motorists

The BBC reports that more than 40,000 number plates were stolen in 2006 and the Police are calling for a number plate revamp because of the rising problem. Read the report here

Why has it suddenly become 'profitable' to steal number plates?

Quite simple really ... £120 parking fines and speed cameras costing people's jobs ... 4 x 34mph results in loss of job, loss of home, break up of family. Compare that to the consequences of being caught with a cloned car.

So, it is not just 'criminals' who are now taking the risk. More and more people are being driven to such extreme measures because of the escalation in motoring penalties for an ever growing number of offences and contraventions.

A cloned car gets free parking and never needs to pay a speeding fine. It never gets done for entering a bus lane or a yellow box junction. However, the owner of the cloned vehicle is thrown into a nightmare scenario of having to prove that they were elsewhere when a photograph of 'their' vehicle was captured.

Compare the chances of being stopped by a traffic policeman with being ticketed remotely and you will see why the amount of cloned vehicles is escalating to astronomical numbers.

As a consequence of this an increasing number of unsuspecting motorists will be receiving parking and speeding fines through the post that they knew nothing about and for which they will have to expend a great deal of time and cost having to deal with, causing a great deal of stress and inconvenience. Experience has shown in relation to parking that councils often ignore such representations but in reality they must now be forced to provide more evidence and not be so cavalier in their approach to cloning representations.

Watch this space as this problem grows.

The DVLA are aware that the current registration system is massively flawed and no longer fit for purpose and that the plates should be for the owner and not the vehicle. Every time a car is purchased the plates are transferred from the owner's vehicle to the newly acquired one and this can be done at a local office without having to deal with Swansea. The big problem is the political one which is to accept that the thousands of jobs in Swansea dependent on the DVLA may no longer be necessary.

However, there is one simple solution ... more Police in patrol cars watching for 'dangerous' drivers who can then be stopped, details and identities checked and confirmed both of the individual and the vehicle. A speed camera has never caught a criminal with a cloned car and never stopped someone doing 70mph in a 30mph and pulled them over to prevent them driving in such a fashion, asnd someone with such a flagrant disregard for the law may well be engaged in other forms of criminal activity.
"Can we check the boot of your car Sir?"

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Information, public documents and Freedom of Information

A little tale for all those seeking documents from public authorities.

I was contacted by a member of the public asking if I could assist in getting a Traffic Regulation Order for him ... as the local authority were refusing him access to it.

I contacted the local authority and they attempted to claim that I would need to make an FoI request. I pointed out that as the document (the TRO) has penal consequences which also offered time limited discounts then to withold such documents could be seen as an attempt to compromise ... and initiate a complaint of maladministration causing an injustice.

The Traffic Orders arrived by return. You would think that the next time common sense would prevail and there would be no need to go down the same route, but no, we are dealing with public officials who seem to have had the common sense gene removed.

Thus, the following letter was despatched ...

Dear Mr. xxxxxxxxxx,
Yet again may I remind you that these are public documents with penal consequences. Therefore, if you wish to adhere to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act your actions could prejudice an appellant.
If you wish to continue sending 'standard' FoI responses to information requests then I will need to escalate this matter to a formal complaint as it should not need repeating every time a request is made.
Yours sincerely,
Neil Herron

The document arrived by return!

It's a fine day in Caermarthen

How's this for having a 'fine' day out?

The driver objects to receiving a ticket and tries to hand it back to the Parking Attendant. The ticket drops to the floor and the driver drives off. After tracking the "registered keeper" from the DVLA database, the council are also now sticking "the unnamed driver" with a littering fine as well.

Here is where this Judge Dredd form of justice starts to fall to bits.

The driver may or may not be the registered keeper, so who dropped the ticket? Under the 1991 Road Traffic Act the Registered Keeper is responsible for the parking ticket. However, it will be the driver who is being made responsible for the littering fine. Good job he didn't sit down and have a fag in a public place to calm his nerves.

Read the BBC Report here.

However, back in November 2006 after pressure from ourselves and local taxi driver Steve Dunn the council were forced to admit that they had been issuing illegal Penalty Charge Notices.

Read the press report here... and it appears as though their tickets may still be illegal. We are awaiting a response from the council to a Freedom of Information request. More on Parking Appeals.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Taking back control ... how appropriate

Now parking enforcement is to be totally in the hands of those who are really responsible for the Sunderland Parking fiasco.

Another full page in the Sunderland Echo. What is now being exposed is the aftermath of what can happen when a local authority jumps into Decriminalised Parking Enforcement with two feet but without ever bringing their parking restrictions up to the level required by law and without ever giving consideration to what effect that draconian enforcement would have on the city and the business community.

In this instance it also threw the focus onto NCP although they were not the target of our complaint. Ours was that the council was acting unlawfully in that they were enforcing restrictions that were not lawful. NCP however, were also aware of this fact as they offered on 3 separate occasions to pay for a full review of the lines and signs. The council refused.

Sunderland Council officers had previously lied in their application to the Department for Transport to get DPE.
They claimed that all the lines and signs and Traffic Orders would be correct by the time DPE began in 2003. They never acted on the consultants report ... to do so would have flagged up to the councillors that hundreds of thousands would have to be spent putting matters they kept it hidden.

The Council then did the deal with NCP who were rewarded with a lucrative contract approaching £1m per annum.

Loadsa tickets. Loadsa money. NCP happy. Council happy.

But when NCPs management began questioning the legality of what the council was telling them to do they were reassured by council officials and told not to worry, Herron doesn't know what he is talking about.

After all, who would ever try and bring down a whole city's regime over a £30 ticket? And for all those who say it will lead to parking anarchy ... well, don't shoot the messenger. Those of us who are not prepared to accept an injustice and who are not prepared to stand by and watch abuse of office and abuse of ordinary members of the public by civil servants who are neither civil and who forgot a long time ago that they are servants of the people will continue to expose and uncover.

Meanwhile, thank you to those who continue to have a conscience. Keep the information coming and it goes without saying that identities will be protected and information treated in the strictest confidence.

Anyone concerned about their jobs just visit this site ... Public Concern at Work

We know that the real culprits who have covered up and deceived the public have yet to have their day of reckoning. It is only a matter of time. In other local authorities golden handshakes and early retirement has been offered before the firestorm hit. In Sunderland we have witnessed what some officials and media commentators have dubbed 'a siege mentality.' Well, if we ain't going to have 'mea culpa' and refunds we will have to keep pushing until the High Court and the Minister are forced to intervene.

Sunderland Echo
25th September 07
A car parking fiasco which brought shame to the city is to take a new twist.
SUE WATSON looks at plans to bring the long-running problems to an end.
Ever since an undercover investigation ( see here here and here) revealed serious misconduct within Sunderland's car parking attendant ranks, work has been under way to undo the damage.

The BBC Inside Out documentary, which was broadcast across the nation 11 months ago, showed NCP attendants making racist remarks and mocking disabled drivers.

They even told an undercover reporter that they had "tortured" drivers on Villette Road in Hendon, caused criminal damage to vehicles, while also accepting drinks in return for not issuing parking tickets.

The programme came after a series of blunders in enforcing parking rules across the city, including Sunderland Council having to refund thousands of pounds to drivers after dishing out invalid fines.

This week, the council will meet to discuss plans to bring the car parking contract under the authority's control – at a cost of £285,341.National Car Parks (NCP) took on a seven-year contract to oversee Wearside's parking in 2003 after the council took over enforcement from Northumbria Police.
But the BBC documentary last October alleged there was bribery, illegal ticketing, favouritism, vandalism and racism within NCP, including one attendant even describing slashing a man's tyres after he complained.

An investigation followed, resulting in five parking attendants being dismissed.

However, council chiefs have revealed they plan to terminate NCP's contract in a bid to restore the public's crumbling confidence.

The authority will have to pay NCP £73,591 to halt the contract early, a one-off cost of £44,750 to transfer the service and £167,000 a year to run it.

In his report to a cabinet meeting this Thursday, Phil Barrett, director of development and regeneration, said council staff would not just dish out fines, but would also promote awareness of parking laws.

But the move to bring the service under council control has not been welcomed by everyone, with some saying the authority has a huge mountain to climb to restore confidence.

Conservative opposition leader Coun Peter Wood said there was still a lot of questions to answer about how they would run the service, particularly considering its track record on other traffic matters.

He added: "The point is, will it lead to a better service for the people in the city? I will be asking for reassurances about that.

"There are a lot of questions that need answering – such as are we sure all the signs and yellow lines are legally correct now?

"I have big reservations about the directorate taking control, they are really going to have to prove themselves.

"The directorate was initially responsible for many of the problems in the first place. There is big disappointment with NCP, there's no doubting that, but does it follow the council will do any better?"

Neil Herron, a parking campaigner who uncovered many of the council's parking flaws, is still appealing on a number of fines slapped on his car by the council.

He said: "The tickets which have been issued unlawfully, illegally and by parking attendants sacked for gross misconduct must be refunded.

"By doing all this, Sunderland is admitting they got it seriously wrong.

"It was the council itself who got it wrong in the first place. Removing the control from NCP is not going to make the situation any better if the signs are still wrong."

However, Mr Barrett said: "The new arrangements will contribute to making the city's streets safer and more accessible to highway users.

"The new parking service will promote compliance rather than simply practise enforcement.

"It is proposed that the council publishes a parking charter which will inform the public in a clear and transparent way of the criteria to be used in assessing compliance with waiting, loading and parking restrictions."

The council aims to take over the contract from December and has said it would take on about 15 extra NCP workers to form a new parking services department at the civic centre.

Mr Barrett added: "Effective communications will be important to ensure that service improvements are understood and a new image for parking is established in the city."

The purpose of Thursday's cabinet meeting is to consider the implications of transferring the on-street and surface car parks' Decriminalised Parking Enforcement (DPE) service to the council.

Members are being asked to recommend the proposals be given the go-ahead.

The Department of Transport is consulting on the next phase of the Traffic Management Act 2004 which would provide additional powers to local authorities, which could be introduced from March 2008.

New measures could include changing the name DPE to Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) and parking attendants could be renamed Civil Enforcement Officers.

Also, special parking areas and permitted parking areas could be called Civil Enforcement Areas.

The council's proposal for the city is to establish a Parking Services Section, which will be required to undertake regular liaison with all highway users including emergency services, bus operators, taxi operators and the Physical Disabilities Alliance.

In the report to the cabinet it states the primary function of the service will be to patrol the city's waiting, loading and parking restrictions.

It is also proposed to develop service delivery in a range of areas including tackling abuse of the blue badge scheme and inappropriate parking at schools.

The service will also give parking advice and information, basic first aid, contribute towards community safety and assist with special events.

Last Updated: 25 September 2007 9:45 AM

Parking: City in Control ... Sunderland Council to terminate NCPs contract but council yet to utter 'mea culpa'

Well, as councillors voted last November to do it 'within 6 months' they are only going to be 7 months late.

However, the BBC 'Inside Out' Documentary which can be viewed here provided the scapegoats that the council desperately needed. Their Decriminalised Parking Enforcement regime in tatters with the BBC recording the fraud and cover-ups they were up against it ... then NCP's Parking Attendants were cast as the villains. This smokecreen bought time for the council who then attempted to cover-up, remove evidence and correct what they had told the Department for Transport was correct in 2003.

I nearly choked laughing at Director of Regeneration Phil Barrett's statement that 'the council would not just dish out fines it would promote awareness of parking laws.'
Well, Mr. Barrett, after all the mistakes ...
- no traffic orders for taxi ranks, wrongly marked bays, officers lying to the Department for Transport, misrepresenting the Government Office of the North East's position in response to letters in the press and covering up errors and keeping monies unlawfully derived and much, much more who is it that is going to give you the advice?
... it is clear that no-one at the council understands parking law

Last time the Council brought in Stephen Sauvain QC in an attempt to save the council's skin.
How much public money is now going to be used to defend the indefencible?
Is Mr. Sauvain up for the fight or has his advice sent alarming bells ringing?

If the regime is 'legal, robust and enforceable' as Leader of the Council Mr. Symonds keeps chanting then why not publish the eminent QCs opinion ... then we would all have no doubt whatsoever that 2m wide loading bays behind zigzags are lawful and not a threat to public safety. We would tell the Department for Transport that the e-mails telling Sunderland that their bays do not comply with the law are merely the rantings of 'mad officials.' After all, a 'reasonable man' knows that something which looks like a loading bay or a yellow line should suffice, a view also promoted by NPAS, whose adjudicators appear to be a familiar with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions as I am with the Chinese version of War and Peace.

So, what is it going to be?

'Mea Culpa' by Sunderland Council or death by a thousand cuts and the High Court?

The report below is the beginning of the collapse of the Castle of Lies.... and to all the other campaigners out there opposed to the draconian way that parking enforcement is being carried out and opposed to councils 'doing deals' with private enforcement contractors whose main ethos is 'cash is king' ... this is what can be done.

Now the councillors who were deceived in the first instance by council officers into thinking that DPE was 'a nice little earner' (it would not have been viable if the real cost of correcting all the lines and signs had been known and would never have been approved) ... are looking at the catastrophic political damage they have suffered and continue to suffer because of the ineptitude and deceitfulness of council officers.

There is much, much more to come and until Sunderland puts up its hands and says we are very, very sorry instead of attempting to bring in more and more 'experts' to try and prove even the Department for Transport wrong then the pain and torment is only going to get worse.

Sunderland Echo

24th September 07

A controversial car-parking contract is set to be brought under the control of Sunderland Council at a cost of £285,341.
The city's parking system came under intense scrutiny after attendants were filmed making racist and abusive comments, later broadcast in a documentary.

The programme came after a series of blunders in enforcing parking rules across the city, which led to Sunderland Council having to refund thousands of pounds to drivers after dishing out invalid fines.

NCP took on a seven-year contract to oversee parking in 2003 after the council took over enforcement from Northumbria Police.

But now council chiefs have revealed they want to axe NCP's contract, at a cost of more than £285,000, in a bid to restore the public's crumbling confidence.

The authority will have to pay NCP £73,591 to terminate the contract early, a one-off cost of £44,750 to transfer the service and £167,000 a year to run it.

In a report to council chiefs, Phil Barrett, director of development and regeneration, said council staff would not just dish out fines, they would also promote awareness of parking laws.

He also asks the cabinet to approve the move at a meeting on September 27.

He said: "New management arrangements will be required to develop and promulgate a new culture within the service to ensure that public confidence in parking is secured.

"The new arrangements will contribute to making the city's streets safer and more accessible to highway users.

"The new parking service will promote compliance rather than simply practise enforcement.

"It is proposed that the council publishes a parking charter which will inform the public in a clear and transparent way of the criteria to be used in assessing compliance with waiting,
loading and parking restrictions."

Last year, after a series of flaws were unveiled, the council was forced to hand back more than £30,000 in unfairly administered fines.

The BBC documentary that followed, alleged there was bribery, illegal ticketing, favouritism, vandalism and racism within NCP, leading to a number of dismissals.

The council aims to take over the contract from December and has said it would take on about 15 extra NCP workers to form a new parking services department at the civic centre.

Neil Herron, the parking campaigner who uncovered many of the council's parking flaws, is still appealing on a number of fines slapped on his car by the council.
He said: "The tickets which have been issued unlawfully, illegally and by parking attendants sacked for gross misconduct, must be refunded."By doing all this, Sunderland is admitting they got it seriously wrong."

Last Updated: 24 September 2007 11:13 AM

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hackney Council lifts 'Hunting' ban

Another visit for Colin Hunt last week as Hackney Council seem intent on persecuting another market trader to the point of extinction.

To get to Colin's stall in Ridley Road Market, Hackney the Trading Standards officers have to walk past a number of other traders from all sorts of diverse ethnic backgrounds selling goods by the pound and Manchester United and Arsenal and other premier league paraphernalia at prices and quality that I am sure that the clubs would not be happy with.

Stepping past the live Giant African land snails the size of size 10 boots being sold as food and sidestepping all sorts of dried animals that would not be out of place in a museum, and holding your nose at the 'unusual' smells from the various butchers some of whom refrigerate the carcasses but some of which have various animal parts strewn across tables open not only to the elements, but also to the various airborne wildlife you eventually come to Colin's stall.

The Council Officers would have needed to turn more blind eyes than a Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Peters and Lee concert could ever muster to avoid the flagrant public health and trading standards offences but when they get to Colin's pitch their vision miraculously returns.
Not only that, but the Council seems to have a personal vendetta not just against the Metric Martyrs but also yours truly.
Trading Standards officers had also been handing out rather misleading leaflets as we previously reported here but it now appears that it is more sinister than that .... and it wasn't just Hackney who were given such notices with which to attack the Metric Martyrs and Neil H ... a story which Christopher Booker reports in this week's Sunday Telegraph 'Pounds, pints and a personal vendetta.'

Did NPAS 'assist' Allerdale Council? You decide

Allerdale Council 'amended' their Notice to Owner on 13th June 2007.

They claim that the original Notice to Owner was 'valid' but required some 'minor' amendments.

Not sure why a legal document needs to be corrected to make it more correct.

However, the 'minor' amendments as they call them were to make a non-compliant notice into a compliant one.

How did they become aware?

They only found out when we introduced it as evidence into an NPAS case, Hodgson v Allerdale, some weeks earlier.

Allerdale were 'assisted' by the adjudicator who did not rule on the evidence supplied in relation to the validity of the notices and strike them down as the Chief Adjudicator did in Aylesbury Vale v Lukha but decided in favour of the appellant on a technicality with regard to the display of a Blue Badge.

Subsequently, this decision allowed Allerdale to change the notices without having to write off all outstanding tickets as they would have had to if the adjudication had been on the points raised.

Once you realise that NPAS get 55p per ticket and such a decision could also compromise their revenue stream then their claim to be independent and impartial leaves a lot to be desired and as more and more evidence builds up it is only a matter of time before this organisation falls.

Christchurch Council ignores the law for parking bays

Christchurch Council thinks it is above the law despite losing an adjudication case at NPAS.

Disabled Bays MUST comply with the requirements of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 otherwise they are not legal.

Below is a letter sent off to the Council and we eagerly await their response:

Freedom of Information Officer
Civic Offices
Bridge Street
BH23 1AZ
United Kingdom

24th September 2007

Dear Sir / Madam
Freedom of Information Request
The following story appeared in the local press.

"A MOTHER-of-two is claiming costs from Christchurch council after an adjudicator ruled that signage for a disabled parking space in Christchurch High Street is "ambiguous" and "does not comply with regulations."A thick blue line painted by the council on the road in front of the parking bay was also held not to appear in the Department of Transport's regulations for traffic signs."

The article later goes on

"Bob Baker, the authority's transport and highways chief, said: "We will be amending the sign to make it absolutely clear to anyone failing to see the 700mm thick blue line in future that this really does indicate that parking is only for drivers with a disabled badge between the hours of 10am and 4pm."

Therefore, I would like to know the following:

1. The number of bays marked in such a fashion across the borough.

2. The date that the Council applied to the Department for Transport for Special Authorisation for the use of such a non-prescribed sign.

3. The number of Penalty Charge Notices issued in these bays and the value of income derived from those PCNs for the last three years.

4. Copies of all communications (written, telephone and e-mail) regarding this specific matter both internally between council departments and externally between other councils and agencies including NPAS and the Department for Transport.

5. Confirmation that ALL monies unlawfully derived from areas marked with non-prescribed and therefore unlawful signs will be refunded. Perhaps a reminder to the legal department that if an order is not in force then no contravention can occur and a traffic sign shall be as prescribed unless authorised by the Secretary of State:

Statutory Instrument 1996 No. 2489
The Local Authorities' Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996

Traffic signs
18.—(1) Where an order relating to any road has been made, the order making authority shall take such steps as are necessary to secure—
(a) before the order comes into force, the placing on or near the road of such traffic signs in such positions as the order making authority may consider requisite for securing that adequate information as to the effect of the order is made available to persons using the road;

Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984
64. General provisions as to traffic signs.

(1) In this Act “traffic sign" means any object or device (whether fixed or portable) for conveying, to traffic on roads or any specified class of traffic, warnings, information, requirements, restrictions or prohibitions of any description—
(a) specified by regulations made by the Ministers acting jointly, or

(b) authorised by the Secretary of State,
and any line or mark on a road for so conveying such warnings, information, requirements, restrictions or prohibitions.

(2) Traffic signs shall be of the size, colour and type prescribed by regulations made as mentioned in subsection (1)(a) above except where the Secretary of State authorises the erection or retention of a sign of another character; and for the purposes of this subsection illumination, whether by lighting or by the use of reflectors or reflecting material, or the absence of such illumination, shall be part of the type or character of a sign.

I would be grateful for an acknowledgement and an indication as to the timeframe for your response.

Yours faithfully,

Neil Herron
12 Frederick Street

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Scottish Council cries crocodile tears over Scottish Parking Adjudication Service ruling

Aberdeen Council got its signs wrong ... and therefore cannot pursue the money from outstanding fines. Furthermore, as the signs have never been legal people are entitled to request their money back.
More ...

The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 describes what signs can be used. If you create a sign which is not as prescribed then you must seek Special Authorisation from the Secretary of State.

Not rocket science is it?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Losing Weight

Is this a sign?

The Times

PARIS A 118-year-old cylinder that has been the international standard for the metric kilogram is mysteriously losing weight.

It now weighs 50 micrograms less than dozens of copies made from the same material.

It is kept in a triple-locked safe in Sèvres.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hackney Trading Standards Officers seize imperial scales

Two Trading Standards Officers believed to be Russell Fielding and Audrey Lee from Hackney Council Trading Standards Department in the company of PC Andy Stafford.

It is quite disturbing that paid public officials could be dressed in such a casual fashion whilst conducting official business.
A report on the events of Thursday 13th September 2007 will follow.

Hackney Council letter 'blames' Metric Martyrs and Neil Herron

This is the letter that was handed round Ridley Road market, Hackney by Hackney Council officers in mid May 2007 after the announcement from the European Commission which led to the front page headlines in the Express and the Mail that imperial measures have been saved.
What do you think?
A proper use of public money to target an individual?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Victory for the Metric Martyrs ... but what next?

Finally, it seems an ounce of common sense has been applied and the European Commission announces "Not us Guv."

Telegraph here

However, Commissioner Verheugen has other things on his mind at the moment as reported here

But a bigger scandal looms on the horizon. After statements from the European Commissioner in which he blames British officials for prosecuting the Metric Martyrs, claiming that the Commission had not banned market traders and small shopkeepers from using non-metric measures:

" That is very much a local issue which has nothing to do with the EU. As far as we are concerned people trading in loose goods, in markets and local shops are not obliged to show even metric units."

So, in light of this statement by our masters in Brussels and those, it was claimed in the Metric Martyrs Judgment that Brussels has 'legislative supremacy,' you would think that our own 'mad officials' would see sense and call off the dogs?

Perhaps the thing that you would least expect would be that some council official would go out and seize someone's scales ... well...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Parking to cost more in city of Sunderland

Big hole in Council finances due to parking shambles ... solution .... hike up parking charges to drive people out of the city. What is clear is that none of the councillors have ever been in business.

Sunderland Echo
Wednesday July 25, 2007
Businessman fears shoppers will transfer to out of city retail centres
Sue Watson
Parking charges are set to rise across Wearside, it was revealed today.
The new fees, set by Sunderland City Council, come into force next month, and in most areas the prices will rise by 10p per hour, although in some cases the fare is being hiked up 10p for every 30 minutes.
But some campaigners fear the price rise will be an added reason for people not to shop or do business in the city.
Neil Heron, a businessman who has fought against parking tickets, said: "It is a very short-sighted measure. Parking at The Galleries in Washington and at the MetroCentre is free, so people can go and spend money without having to pay parking fees or having to clock-watch for fear of getting a huge fine."

On-street parking in Bridge Street, Foyle Street, Frederick Street, Norfolk Street, High Street West, St Thomas Street and West Sunniside will increase from 50p per 30 minutes to 60p.

Parking in Villiers Street and Charles Street, a total of 18 spaces, will increase from 40p per hour to 50p.

And, to park in one of the 11 spaces in Laura Street will cost 80p per hour compared to the 70p charge now.

However, three of the city's car parks will see no changes to their parking costs – St Mary's, which has 480 spaces; Central, which has 391 spaces and Gorse Road, where there are 54 car parking spaces.

Sunniside's 653 space car park will see prices increase from 60p to 80p per hour Monday to Saturday from 8am to 6pm, 30p to 40p per hour from 6pm to 8pm and on Sundays and Bank Holidays the charges will rise from 30p per hour to 40p per hour up to a maximum of £1.

At the Civic Centre car park, which has 630 spaces, the charges will rise from 60p to 70p per hour Monday to Saturday, 8am to 6pm.

The cost of parking at Boughton Street will rise from 70p per hour to 80p per hour and at Tavistock Place and Nile Street the cost will increase from 60p per hour to 70p.

Car park charges in Tatham Street, Charles Street and West Wear Street will go up by 10p per hour from 40p to 50p.

The new parking measures will come into place on Monday, August 13.

A spokesman for the Sunderland City Council said tariffs are set to ensure a reasonable turnover of car parking spaces which supports the viability of the city centre.

Increases are also made to cover costs involved in maintaining and operating car parks.

Coun Joe Lawson, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation, said: "Parking has an impact on a range of urban policy goals involving transport, environment, economy and land use.

"The review of parking charges will assist in achieving the aims and objectives contained within the Parking Strategy and the Local Transport Plan."

The last major review of parking charges in the city was undertaken in January 2005 when the majority of parking charges were reviewed.
Last Updated: 24 July 2007 3:47 PM

Friday, September 07, 2007

Letter to Sunderland Echo

Rob Ford
The Letters Editor
Sunderland Echo

Dear Sir

In addition to Eric Brittain's open letter to Sunderland City Council's Chief Executive '(What's Going on? ... Echo Letters 7th August) there is more information to add.

On 16th June 2005 the Council's Assistant City Solicitor instructed NCP to change the wording of the Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) 'without delay' following information the council received from the National Parking Adjudication Service. The PCNs were not changed for at least 6 months and Sunderland issued, processed and banked the money from over 12,000 non-compliant PCNs in the full knowledge that they were unlawful.

On 2nd August 2006 a High Court ruling meant that if a PCN was non-compliant, ie. did not have the 'Date of Issue' (as in Sunderland's case before November 2005) as well as the date and time of the contravention then it was 'non-compliant' re-iterating the advice Sunderland had received a year earlier. If the PCN was non-compliant then, as Justice Jackson stated, 'no financial liability arose.'

Sunderland claim that if a motorists paid a non-compliant PCN then they 'accepted' the contravention.

However, a recent Local Government Ombudsman decision has changed this. On 25th April 2007 in response to a complaint the LGO wrote to Mr X in Bolton who had paid a non-compliant PCN stating that he could appeal against the PCN to the National Parking Adjudication Service even though he had paid it. In light of the new evidence (the High Court decision) the LGO told him to write to the Council seeking a refund of the £30 paid and request that the Council should issue a Notice to Owner which could then be appealed.

Mr. X did just that and was reimbursed the £30 by the Council who duly issued a Notice to Owner which can now go through the appeals process ... and Mr. X can apply the High Court ruling against the non-compliant PCN.

Therefore, the same rule will apply in Sunderland if you were issued with a PCN before they were changed on or around November 2005. Anyone wishing for a copy of the High Court decision and the Local Government Ombudsman letter can e-mail me at

Meanwhile, I wish to add to the 'open letter' to the Chief Executive. In the Sunderland Echo (23rd November 2006) it was reported that councillors voted unanimously to remove NCP from the on-street contract after a BBC programme exposed racism and corruption. We are now 9 months down the line with NCP still issuing PCNs on street. I would be grateful if the Chief Executive could explain.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron

12 Frederick Street

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