Sunday, October 05, 2008

Councils cannot keep unlawfully derived parking ticket income

In the article below the council deftly avoids the issue of refunds.
The Traffic Order is the legal document which allows the council to levy the charges. Quite obviously, because of the suspension and the need to create the new order and the offer of refunds, the original order was not valid ... therefore no financial liability can arise. Should the council not volunteer to refund monies then an objection to the council's accounts can be made.

However, it appears as though the council is set to do the decent thing for which they should be praised. This is precisely what happened in Sheffield.

If they decide not to then it is likely that legal action will follow.

‘Unjustly enriched council cannot keep parking fees’
By Colin Parker
Get Surrey

PARKING authorities in Guildford may not be allowed to keep the £2.8m they have received in on-street parking fees since 2004, according to an appeals expert.

Neil Herron, who runs the website , said that under auditing laws local authorities were not allowed to keep money gained illegally.

He added it was not enough for councils to offer refunds only if evidence was produced, rather they should contact anyone who has paid money to offer them their cash back.

Last month, Surrey County Council (SCC) discovered a legal blunder in its on-street parking order that meant fees had been invalid since 2004.

Mr Herron said he has been contacted through his website by Guildford motorists seeking information on the town’s parking mishap.
“If they are taking this money then they have been unjustly enriched and so they cannot keep that money,” he claimed.
“They should speak to anyone who has paid and offer to give them back the money voluntarily.”

Guildford Borough Council said a total of 24,000 on-street parking fines related to pay and display had been illegally handed out to motorists in Guildford since 2004.
As of last Monday, the borough had received a total of 47 letters concerning penalty charge notices and 16 on pay and display ticket refunds.
Some letters stated multiple claims.

The authority is working on refunds with the county council, who will consider the claims.
It is estimated the local authorities are losing about £2,200 for every day free parking has been in operation.

SCC, which has accepted full responsibility for the mishap, has now changed the faulty paperwork that led to the free parking in the town.

It has confirmed motorists can go about paying for parking in the same way as before, and added there will be no increase in charges and residents’ parking will remain unaffected.

David Munro, the executive member for transport, said: “We can assure everyone we are now committed to getting things back to normal so motorists, residents and others have a parking system that meets all their needs.”

The authority must now advertise the changes for three weeks, until October 24, after which SCC’s Executive will rubber-stamp the new order at the beginning of November.

A spokesman for SCC said: “We took careful legal advice before making the decision to suspend charging and we continue to follow this advice."

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