Tuesday, September 16, 2008

G24 parking expose in Sun - ANPR for Toys-R-Us Tesco Homebase Boots

Mr King and his firm, which operate number plate recognition cameras at car parks up and down the country, receieve hundreds of complaints EVERY WEEK from angry motorists.

And, in a bizarre twist, employees at the firm tell motorists with complains over tickets that the “director” responsible for dealing with customer services is named Neville Stanley, who Cashflow has learned is a 72-year-old unemployed odd-job man.

Stanley has never been a director of the firm and does not know he is supposed to be boss of customer services at G24.

The only director listed is boss Adrian King.

The firm use Neville’s name so that furious customers who ring up to complain can never be put through.

Complaining drivers receive a standard letter signed by the “Chief Enforcement Officer” with no identity, but when they ring up to ask whom they should write to, they are given the name Neville Stanley.

Customers are told that Neville, who lives in a one-bed flat in Neasden, South London, is “director of customer relations”.

When The Sun rang to speak to him at his office, we were told he was in charge of customer services but was on holiday.

On other occasions, attempts to speak to Mr Stanley failed as we were told he was in meetings or visiting a site.

On one of the occasions he was supposed to be in a meeting, we telephoned him to find him at home at Neasden — alone.

Neville was stunned when approached by The Sun and said: “I am just an odd-job man. I run errands when they want me.”

And he added: “I’ve never worked for the firm full-time and never been a director.”

He also revealed he was only paid £10 or £20 a day when he turned up at the offices — although he said he had not been to Beaconsfield for around six months.

G24 claims a list of well-known High Street names among its customers including TESCO, TOYS ’R’ US, HOMEBASE and BOOTS.

But the firm, which takes in around £120,000 a month in parking fines, is being inundated with complaints from customers furious about penalties of between £25 and £95.

It boasts on its website that its office is in posh Harley Street, West London, but that location is just a mail forwarding address.

Its actual offices are in a small flat above a dry cleaners in Beaconsfield.

But G24 has come unstuck after disgruntled customers heard about a legal loophole highlighted on a consumer revenge site on the internet — resulting in the firm being forced to scrap around 2,000 fines.

The wording of the letter found on consumeraction.co.uk/forum challenges G24 to provide evidence the motorist has actually seen a warning sign on the car park which could be regarded as a contract between the firm and the driver.

It also stresses that the fact the car is registered to the driver does not mean he or she actually parked it.

Owners of cars are under no obligation to tell private car parking firms who was driving the car at the time. A parking industry insider has told The Sun that the firm has not challenged the letters because it cannot come up with any proof.

“They have had to rip up all those tickets because of this letter, which seems to be getting more well known.

“Many motorists just pay the fines without challenging them and others are frustrated by trying to make phone complaints.

"And if they try to speak to Neville Stanley they are always told he is not available.”

The Sun made several attempts to get a comment from Mr King, but he never returned our calls.

Angela Smith, Labour MP for Sheffield Hillsborough, is mounting a major challenge to private car parking firms like G24.

Mrs Smith has written to Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly to highlight her concerns that companies are using heavy-handed tactics to make money and are accessing people’s details via the DVLA.

She said: “I have been aware of several firms who use intimidating language to elicit payment. The amount demanded is often disproportionate and often people are not aware they have breached car park rules until they receive the letter.

“People have been wrongly penalised for not showing their ticket because the automated system could not see it, while others have been sent tickets for parking over the lines by a minuscule amount.

"Signs warning car park users of the rules and regulations are often so small that drivers do not see them on entering.”

Among the firms which Mrs Smith’s constituents have expressed concerns about are G24, operator of the huge Meadowhall Retail Park car park in Sheffield.

The car park is understood to be G24’s biggest earner, helping the firm to raking in nearly £2million a year from motorists.

The Sun

Councils in parking fee setback

Local councils across the UK have been dealt a blow in a long-running legal battle over off-street parking tax.

Nearly £130 million could be at stake in a fight with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over VAT the councils claim was wrongly paid out under EU law.

But in a test case involving four councils, EU judges said they should pay VAT if an exemption gave them unfair advantage over private firms.

The final outcome could impact on what motorists pay for off-street parking.

Off-street parking refers to multi-storey car parks and those attached to shopping centres, for example.

The test case was brought by four the Isle of Wight Council, Mid-Suffolk District Council, West Berkshire District Council and the South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council.

They were selected because they represent the different types of local authorities in the UK, and their claims for VAT refunds on parking charges amount to a total of £1.6 million.

But European judges rejected their argument that the issue should be decided on a case-by-case basis to see if each local authority's off-street parking regime did or did not distort private sector competition.

The final verdict now rests with the UK's High Court, but the European judges' ruling increases the chances that HMRC will win the case and councils will have to carry on levying - and paying - VAT on their off-street parking services.

But if they are excused from paying VAT on off-street parking ticket sales, their profits could be increased by more than 40%.

Under EU rules any supply of goods or services by a "taxable person" is subject to VAT.

The rules say public authorities are not considered "taxable persons" in respect of revenue-raising activities they carry out as public authorities - unless there is a risk of a "significant distortion of competition" with the private sector.

Historically, local authorities in the UK have accepted they pay VAT on off-street parking income.

But in 2000 the European Court ruled in a Portuguese case that off-street parking provision by a public authority was not necessarily subject to VAT, triggering demands by 127 UK local authorities for repayment from HMRC of £129 million.

The claims were refused by HMRC but on appeal, the VAT and Duties Tribunal examined the four test case regions individually and ruled they should be exempt from VAT on off-street parking.

HMRC appealed to the High Court, arguing the examination should not be carried out on a "authority by authority" basis but on a general nationwide assessment of the potential impact on the private sector parking operators.

The High Court sent the issue to Luxembourg for ruling on what the EU law means.

The case is now set to return to the High Court, and as the European judges pointed out, if public authority parking revenue becomes VAT exempt, the remaining three-quarters of the UK's local authorities are likely to add their claims to those already lodged.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Essex - Thurrock - Problems with appeals process

Any Council outside London issuing tickets under the Traffic Management Act 2004 should have joined a new joint committee PATROL AJC to enable access to adjudication services via the Traffic Penalty tribunal (TPT) (used to be known as NPAS).

The closing date for joining the committee was at the beginning of June, however Thurrock appears to have missed the boat and confirmed this on 06 August in cabinet papers approving the decision to seek authority to become a member of PATROL AJC.

These papers also confirmed only 1 appeal to the adjudicator had been received which the Council had not contested. What the report doesn't say is that the Council couldn't contest the ticket at adjudication because it had no extant arrangements in place to do so. Therefore every ticket issued by the Council (between implementation of TMA & joining the PATROL AJC) has contained potential prejudice to the recipients by claiming there was the opportunity to challenge the ticket by adjudication, in reality no such right existed.

Other Councils legal opinion on implementing the PATROL AJC arrangements specifically point out the potential legal risks of not joining the committee in time

Coventry City Council 20 May 2008 Appointment to the Parking and Traffic Regulation Outside London Adjudication Joint Committee "Failure to join the new joint committee by 02/06/08 will mean that the enforcement authority will have no adjudication arrangements in place to enable anyone receiving a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) to appeal against the Council's decision to reject any formal representation. This would be in breach of the legislation and ultimately could render invalid any PCN that was issued after the 2nd June 2008. “

Luton 06 05 08 TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT ACT 2004 - ADJUDICATION JOINT COMMITTEE "Not to participate in the proposed new joint committee would leave the Council in breach of its legal obligations under the 2004 Act to make provision for an effective and impartial adjudication service. "

Nottingham 14 05 08 Traffic Management Act 2004 PATROL Adjudication Service "If this Agreement is not signed, by the date referred to in 6 above, then Nottingham City Council will be without an Adjudication Service and therefore challenges to the tickets that are issued by the Authority cannot be resolved. Nottingham City would then have to cease enforcement until an Adjudication service had been secured."

Like all aspects of TMA 2004's implementation it has all been a bit last minute & rushed & mistakes have & continue to be made.

it is still unclear whether Thurrock has succeeded in joing PATROL AJC yet, in the article below it claims arrangements will be in place from the 18th August. Independent confirmation is required.

The Thurrock Gazette ran the story - Parking tickets wrangle

THURROCK Council traffic chiefs could be left red-faced after a parking blunder might see them have to repay any fines issued to motorists in the borough since April.

That bill could be as high as £150,000 based on the average number of tickets issued by the authority’s traffic officers.

The potential blunder came to light when Thurrock Council’s Cabinet were asked to approve membership of a new traffic parking authority PATROLAJC at a meeting last week.

The Council took over responsibility for issuing tickets when parking offences were decriminalised in April, but they should have signed up the PATROLAJC at the time in order to ensure the legality of any tickets issued.

Anyone issued with a ticket has the right to appeal, initially to the Council, but then to the independent PATROLAJC.

Now parking campaigners say that because Thurrock has not signed up to the new body, anyone issued with a ticket could not appeal, therefore the ticket was not legally enforceable.

In a report to the Cabinet officers admit that they could not contest the one appeal they have received and the alleged offender was reimbursed.

Now the Council could face a backlog of appeals according to campaigner Simon Aldridge of Parking Appeals Ltd (www.parkingappeals.co.uk).

He said: “In essence every ticket Thurrock has issued taking responsibility for tickets has contained potential prejudice for the recipient, in that each ticket claims to offer the recipient the opportunity to appeal to an independent adjudicator. In reality no such opportunity exists.

“I think the public have been misled here by the Council which should have – and still should - suspend enforcement pending an agreement being entered into to provide the public with an adjudication service.”

Senior councillors did back the application to join PATROLAJC at their meeting last week, but Mr Aldridge says there is still good reason for anyone who has been issued with a ticket recently to make a legitimate claim to get their money back.

A Council spokesperson said: “Thurrock Council is aware of its responsibilities under the Traffic Management Act 2004 to have an independent adjudication service in place to consider appeals.

Appropriate arrangements have been approved by the council and will be in place as from Monday, August 18. “The Council does not accept that the parking tickets are invalid as suggested by Parking Appeals Ltd.”

Somerset - Traffic management Act PCN found unenforcable

Taunton Deane Council has become possibly the first Local Authority to lose an adjudication due to its tickets not complying with the requirements of the new act.

Anyone with a similarly worded ticket from Taunton Deane (issued prior to the date of the adjudication 06 August 2008)can appeal on the same grounds and quote the case reference as a persuasive argument. (see Information - Key Cases - Taunton Deane v Saxton). It may also prove worth checking any other Somerset District tickets to see whether they contain the same errors).

The Council should drop all pending tickets knowing they have a fatal flaw but will it?

The Somerset County Gazette broke the story & the BBC also ran it.

The Traffic Penalty Tribunal, concluded the penalty charge notice was “defective and cannot be enforced”.

Mr Saxton said: “I won because the council didn’t give the full information it should have on the ticket.

“Every ticket issued locally must be the same, so they must be illegal as well - there must be any number of people who could get their money back.”

Adjudicator Deborah Gibson found in Mr Saxton’s favour because the ticket did not carry a statement saying the council would consider representations made by the recipient before an enforcement notice was sent to the vehicle owner.

She added that it was insufficient to simply imply that those representations would be considered.

A Deane spokesman said officers were surprised by the decision as they believed they had followed the guidance for councils.

She added: “We’ll take this decision into account in any cases where enforcement action is being taken.

“We’ll also review the wording on the penalty notice.”

BBC reported

A council has been forced to reword and reprint its parking tickets after a court ruled its previous wording was incorrect.

Motorist Paul Saxton took his case against a parking ticket issued by Taunton Deane Council to arbitration.

He won the case because the tribunal ruled the ticket was invalid because the wording 'did not comply with current legislation'.

The ruling means many people recently ticketed may now be exempt from fines.

Mr Saxton had pulled into a taxi rank in Taunton to take a phone call when a warden dropped a ticket through his open window.

John Lewis of Taunton Deane Council said : "The adjudicator has ruled that the ticket was defective in Mr Saxon's case and the penalty tribunal has said that each case is looked at on its merits so we will be looking at each case individually."

The council has now reworded its tickets but it may have to write off thousands of pounds in unpaid fines.

Solicitor Tim Hayden told BBC News: "I think those who have currently got parking tickets could appeal and could lead that on the wording that this judgement has provided."

Ealing Council and its unlawfully marked bays

Last week the Ealing Times ran a story about Ealing Council admitting technical errors with the markings of its parking bays as the reason for the Council pulling out of an adjudication hearing.

This week the Council has responded with an arrogant refusal to change its unlawfully marked bays.

This kind of scenario is exactly where the problem lies & isn't isolated to Ealing. No due diligence on the part of the local authority & now it has publicly stated its intention to continue to enforce unlawful restrictions in the full knowledge of its actions being likely to bring the Council into serious disrepute amongst the public, but more seriously how long will it be before this becomes a police matter?

Ealing Times - Council refuses to correct parking bays

EALING council says it will not change parking bays in line with Government regulations.

Last week the Ealing Times exposed the fact a number of parking bays around the borough do not conform to Department for Transport (DfT) regulations, set out in a handbook issued to all councils.

In a front page story, the Ealing Times reported the confusion that could be caused with the bays after Ealing Council pulled out of an appeal hearing over a parking ticket due to a ‘technical problem’ with the bay concerned.

Since then the paper has been inundated with calls from people across the country saying they have suffered a similar problem where they live. Bays used extensively in the borough for residents parking and pay-and-display which do not have individually marked spaces inside them, should only be marked at either end with a single line. But some in Ealing actually have double lines.

However, despite clarification from a DfT spokesman that these types of bay should be marked with a single line, as shown in the diagram taken from the handbook, Ealing Council is refusing to make the simple change.

Claire Parker, a spokesman for the council, said: “Ealing’s controlled parking zones are clearly marked and we will continue to enforce them.

The council has no intention of spending taxpayers’ money on re-drawing zone lines when the present bays are entirely clear.

“The possible changes being called for by the Ealing Times would significantly reduce parking capacity across the borough. Bearing in mind the huge demand for parking in this borough this does not strike us as entirely sensible.”

However, the owner of the TicketFighter website, who works in the industry, said the claims that changes would be very costly or reduce the number of spaces are “nonsense”. He said:

“All the council needs to do to bring these bays into line with regulations is to get rid of one of the lines, that can be as simply as painting over one.

“It does not have to be costly and it certainly would have no effect on capacity, these claims are nonsense. “I don’t understand why paid professionals in the parking department have been unable to look in a book and spot there was a problem.” He continued:

“If the council continues to take money from people in these bays they could be open to legal action and the police should look at what has been going on. “People who have been ticketed in these bays and had their appeals rejected before should ask the council for a full refund.”

Is this where your parking fine money goes?

The Parking 'Industry' as they now call themselves has become a lucrative business. Under the guise of 'keeping the streets clear and the traffic moving' parking enforcement has become a nice little earner for local councils. So much so that the 'industry' is now worth over £1.2 BILLION a year!

So what do your councils do with your £60 fine money for being a minute late back to your meter or for being an inch over a white line, or for dropping someone off and getting caught by CCTV?

Well, you could ask how much public money has been spent on your council's officials attending glitz and glamour functions such as the one described below which takes place at the Cafe Royale tonight ... for the launch of their Parking Awards Ceremony.

The Parking Review website states:

"For one night only, the Café Royal will be transformed into a glamorous 1940s Hollywood movie set for the launch party of the British Parking Awards 2009.The awards seek to identify and reward well-designed and managed parking facilities and the people behind them, and the standard of next year's entries promises to be higher than ever.

So, why not join us as we kick-off the industry's most prestigious celebration of all that is good in parking? With lively mix of glitz, glamour and clapper boards the evening offers a unique occasion to entertain clients, meet fellow parking professionals and to reward staff.

Tickets cost £75+VAT per person. Groups of 10 can attend for a discounted rate of £700 + VAT. Places are going fast so don't delay."

Parking Campaigner Neil Herron of www.parkingappeals.co.uk states:

" Is it any wonder why the public has such a low opinion of parking enforcement. They have wised up to the fact that parking is now seen as an 'industry' where everyone connected, has a beneficial financial interest. This is why it is seen as a stealth tax on the motorist and this 'industry' is out of control, unregulated and unaccountable. The question has to be asked 'How many council officials will be present, who paid and how much has it cost the taxpayer?"

Thursday, September 04, 2008

You can do it the easy way or the hard way ...

As peoples' frustration over parking enforcement continues some are driven to desperate measures to get that ticket cancelled...

May we humbly suggest that an easier solution would be to contact Parking Appeals.co.uk
;-) and we will show you how to successfully appeal with a lot less effort.

Parking protestor wins appeal
Woodford Green Guardian
4th September 2008

AN irate motorist who chained herself to the railings of a vehicle pound after being fined £250 has won her parking appeal.

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi was angered when officials gave her the bill but instead of stumping up the cash she decided to chain herself to the pound's railings. More ...

Now she has been told that her appeal has been successful and she does not have to pay her fine.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Scrap Hospital parking charges

Petition - To Scrap Hospital Parking Charges In England

Car parking at most Welsh hospitals will be free from 1st April 2008.

The Welsh Assembly Government's Health Minister Edwina Hart has confirmed the move, the first of its kind in the UK, which will see charges scrapped or reduced.
The Scottish Paliament have announced that they too are to scrap charges
Sign the petition here

Have you been clamped or fined in a hospital car park?

Have you been clamped or find whilst parking in a hospital car park?

If the answer is yes then BBC current affairs would like to hear from you.

We are making a five part series about the NHS for BBC 1.

One of the programmes looks at hidden charges, and more specifically, parking charges and fines whilst on hospital premises. We would be very interested in talking to people who have been clamped and/or fined with a view to featuring their story in our series.

At this stage all we really need to do is to find out a bit more about what happened to you. So if you would like to share your experience please could you contact

Peter Hall on : 07932 041852 / 020 800 85964

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