Sunday, June 22, 2008

At what point will the Police act? This time Southwark Council accused...

This "Dishonest and deceitful" claim by a Councillor is another case adding to the pending tidal wave of corrupt activities by local councils. We have many more lined up, some which will run into £millions.

The Police cannot continue claimimg that this is a 'civil' and not a criminal matter. It is only a matter of time before they, and the Government are forced to hold a Public Inquiry into what is rapidly becoming a national scandal.
Note the statement that it is 'normal practice' across London to accept payments for 'spoiled' PCNs ... perhaps anyone as concerned as I am at this 'normal practice' should raise the matter with their own council.

Southwark News
20 June 2008
By John Prendergast

DRIVERS IN Southwark were allowed to pay parking fines they shouldn't - as the council maintained a practice they claimed to have abandoned more than eighteen months ago.

The 'News' reported in February that the council's parking enforcement agency, APCOA, were collecting fines on void tickets and not refunding money to honest people who paid them.

In their response a council spokeswoman claimed the practice had been abandoned eighteen months ago, but the 'News' has learnt that 157 tickets, coining the council £7,180, have been collected on since that date, including one as recently as January this year.

The council has said that although they instructed APCOA to cease the practice in August 2006, the contractors didn't follow the orders and continued to collect on tickets drivers should not have been paying. From September 2006 to April 2007 a Freedom of Information request shows that 136 tickets were collected on and none were refunded.

In the 2007/08 year a sea change seems to have started to occur with 21 payments collected on and fifteen refunded.

Southwark's opposition Labour spokesperson for Transport, Cllr Barrie Hargrove, said: "This is genuinely outrageous. Taking people's money for invalid tickets is one thing, but telling the public that you've stopped doing it when you quite clearly haven't is another matter entirely. It's dishonest and deceitful, there's simply no other way of putting it."

A Freedom of Information request by the 'News' in February revealed the practice had garnered the council £39,540.
The information regarding the continued practice was gained by Cllr Hargrove, who added: "Lib Dem council leader Nick Stanton now has to answer whether he knew that his spin doctors were telling fibs about this or if they'd been telling barefaced lies to him as well. Either way, when the council's been so dishonest, how can we believe that he won't re-authorise the practice in the future?"
The practice occurs when parking wardens issue a ticket but make an error on the form, therefore making it invalid according to strict parking regulations. However, despite entering the tickets as void on their computer system, the ticket will be set to active once again should the driver then pay the ticket. If the driver ignores the ticket then they are not chased for payment.
Since its articles in February the 'News' has made two attempts to gain information to publish, so drivers can appeal fines and get money back. On both occasions we were not permitted to have the information. We once again made a further request but were told it would not be released.
In response to the continued collection of invalid tickets, a council spokeswoman apologised for stating the practice had ceased. She said: "While it has been normal practice across London to accept payments made for 'spoiled' penalty charge notices (PCNs), we decided to end it in Southwark in 2006 and instructed our contractor to cease the practice. " We later discovered that our contractor had not followed our instructions, so we took action against them and the practice officially stopped in April 2007. The council has since taken steps to make sure this never happens again. We are confident that this issue has now been addressed and would like to apologise for the confusion our earlier statement around this matter may have caused.
She added: "A parking enforcement system is the most effective means of providing equitable use of limited parking space across the borough, and we believe that our policy is firm but fair."
APCOA were contacted directly for a response, but declined to make any further comment on the situation.

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