Wednesday, November 26, 2008

EXPOSED ... Ealing Council knew its junctions were illegal and still banked £1m

How many times did the cock crow?

How many denials have been issued?

More than 30 pieces of silver involved here ...
This will serve as a message to all councils, council officials and councillors out there.

This is not a game. Parking and moving traffic enforcement is not a revenue raiser and you cannot 'disregard' the law when it doesn't suit or when it impacts on the council's cashflow and budget. You cannot take money from the public to which you are not entitled.
It is one thing to be incompetent and get the law wrong. It is a very, very different situation to continue to take money in the full knowledge that such actions are unlawful.
The piece below is the result of the fantastic and determined work by Parking Appeals' Yellow Box expert Jim Douglas.

Taylor apologises over Southall box junction enforcement scandal
26th November 2008
By Alex Hayes

A COUNCILLOR has apologised after it was revealed officials knew six box junctions were unlawful five months before they were removed.

Councillor Phil Taylor gave the “unreserved apology” after it was revealed a council official was told by email in June by the Department for Transport (DfT) the six box junctions were too big.
However, thousands of tickets were handed to drivers until the DfT spoke to the council again at the beginning of November, and enforcement stopped.

The amount taken in fines on four of the boxes in South Road and High Street, Southall over that time could amount to nearly £1m.

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, the Labour transport spokesman, said: “There is damning evidence to show the council has failed to act after it knew the truth.

“In June they said they did not need permission from the DfT for these junctions, but then went and asked anyway.
“They were trying to deflect blame from themselves and push it onto the DfT. I gave Cllr Taylor the chance in private and in a Full Council meeting to suspend these junctions until the DfT ruling was in, but he declined both times.
“Now it turns out someone at the council knew the entire time. Cllr Taylor has accused me of being inflammatory, but the really inflammatory thing her is people were forced to pay when the council knew they were not legal.”

The row over the junctions blew up after a series of victories for drivers at appeal hearings at the parking adjudicator which started at the end of 2007.

However, at an appeal hearing on October 29, where a bus company was handed £700 in costs, a lawyer from the council was still claiming they had not heard back from the DfT.

Cllr Taylor, who is in charge of parking services, said he had not been shown the June email until today (yesterday).
He said: “We will be refunding everyone ticketed at the affected yellow box junctions since June 20.
“At the beginning of November we immediately suspended the junctions following advice from the Department for Transport.
“I believed that this was the first time the Council had been given this advice or the decision to stop enforcing them would have taken in June.
“I am furious that this email was never brought to my attention and I have ordered an immediate investigation on how this could have happened.”

Parking campaigner Neil Herron called for resignations, and for every penny taken from drivers since the bays started to be enforced to be paid back.

He said: “If this had happened at any private institution heads would roll.
“I think there should be resignations on the table after this.
“The question now should not be who do we repay, but how fast can we repay everyone who has ever been caught on these junctions.
“These people are public servants yet their attitude has been to deny everything and refuse to listen to advice.
“It's not what the public expects.”

Over the last two years more than £3m has been taken from drivers on the six wrongly-marked junctions, with £1.2m being taken since April this year.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Motorists in line for £3million refund after councils admit handing out illegal parking tickets

Motorists in line for £3million refund after councils admit handing out illegal parking tickets
By Daily Mail Reporter 24th October 2008

Motorists are entitled to millions of pounds in refunds after several councils admitted handing out illegal parking tickets.

The climbdown follows an investigation of local authorities around the UK which revealed the extent of unlawful parking restrictions.

Now thousands of drivers who received fines as long ago as 2004 can get their money back after councils agreed to refund more than £3million in penalties.

Motorists are set to receive up to £3million in refunds after several councils admitted handing out illegal parking tickets
The decision comes after a landmark legal challenge over the use of parking tickets as a 'stealth tax'.

Last month, 'metric martyr' Neil Herron - who led the campaign to stop the prosecution of British shopkeepers who were using imperial measurements - lodged legal papers at the High Court challenging millions of parking tickets.

Mr Herron believes that many are invalid because of flaws in the regulations which cover controlled parking zones.

And because of errors in the marking of lines and the wording of signs, many motorists have been fined unjustly, he claimed.

Metric martyr: Neil Herron believes many parking tickets are invalid
Although the court battle is still ongoing, his investigation - using freedom of information requests - has prompted action from several councils.

The largest rebate came from Surrey County Council which has agreed to refund motorists up to £2.8million because its CPZ regulations were incorrectly drafted in 2004.

Any motorist who got a ticket within that zone from 2004 to September 2008 is entitled to a rebate.

Earlier this year Sheffield Council agreed to refund £350,000 to 13,500 motorists for poor signage at bus and tram gates in Hillsborough.
Lancashire City Council is also under pressure to pay back fines after it emerged that white lines may not have been painted properly.

In South Tyneside, motorists fined for parking in incorrectly marked loading bays are getting their money back. And Harrow Council has been forced to cancel 3,400 tickets due to an error in their format.

Police are also investigating Leeds City Council, which is alleged to have fined motorists even though it knew its parking restrictions were not legal. The council denies this.

Since 1999, when the Government gave councils responsibility for handing out parking tickets - instead of the police - the number of fines has risen almost tenfold

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