Sunday, April 26, 2009

NCP Services driven into the red as debts pile up

NCP Services driven into the red as debts pile up
Simon English

NCP Services, the parking-tickets and car-clamping business owned by private-equity house 3i, has plunged into a loss after running up hefty debts.

Accounts just filed at Companies House show that the firm has accrued losses of £23 million, partly thanks to a £103 million debt pile.
It is paying almost £10 million a year just to service this debt.

A note in the accounts reveals that it recently agreed revisions to its senior debt facility, although the company strongly denies suggestions it was close to breaching any of its covenants.

The company was spun out of National Car Parks in 2007 and relies largely on contracts from local councils such as Westminster. It has deals with 60 councils at present.

Alongside the traffic-wardens business, it operates six London bus routes and runs a debt-recovery arm.
A new management team was parachuted in last year to overhaul the company, since when it claims to have turned in a strong performance.

Chief financial officer Steve Dolton said: "We have refinanced on excellent commercial terms. We have turned the business around and are looking to expand. The business is extremely solvent."
The company has just bought 17 new buses - a sign of its own confidence in the future, says Dolton.
Contracts with Camden and Westminster are up for tender next year, with NCP optimistic that it is in a good position to retain the business.
"I would say our relationship with our customers is very good," says Dolton.

The debt is equally held by Royal Bank of Canada and Lloyds Banking Group. Dolton says the banks are happy with the finances and are not applying any pressure for an early repayment of the debt.
A hedge against interest-rate movements cost the firm £2.9 million.
According to the accounts, the highest-paid director - assumed to be chief executive Mark Underwood - got £450,000 last year.
He joined the company last June from the Geo Group.
NCP Services was founded in 2000 to take advantage of the increasing demand for parking enforcement services from local councils.
It is majority owned by private-equity house 3i, while management has a minority holding.
Former parent company NCP is now owned by Australia's Macquarie Bank, which bought the business from 3i in 2007 for £790 million.

The traffic services business has faced trade union disputes in the recent past, with GMB in particular riled by what it sees as asset-stripping and profiteering by 3i.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saved from a driving ban by a burger and a boffin

I hope you are outraged by the statements by the Police and the Safety Camera partnership. We used to live in a country where you were innocent until proven guilty by a court!
Dr. Phillip Tann's GPS tracking device could have proved that the journey was impossible in the time between the two speed camera flashes ... yet 'back office procedural issues led to them dropping the case.' How convenient. Is the back office fit for purpose or have others suffered similar injustices?

'Speeding' woman is let off by police
Apr 16 2009
by Sam Wood
The Journal

A HUNGRY woman caught speeding twice by the same camera in just over three minutes, despite stopping off for a McDonald’s in between, has been let off her fine and penalty points by the police.

On August 22 last year, Gill Whitmore was twice clocked by a mobile camera going at 38mph in a 30 zone on Ryhope Road in Sunderland.
She had travelled a distance of around three-quarters of a mile up and down the road and bought a snack at the Drive Thru hatch in three minutes, 23 seconds, according to the police speed gun.
Miss Whitmore, a single mother from Waldron Square in Hendon, contested the tickets and points.
And Northumbria Police have now written to her to say they have decided to let her off with a warning.
The 45-year-old, who works as a kitchen assistant at South Moor Secondary School, said: “It’s such a relief seeing these charges dropped. I have been beside myself with worry.
“The journey in between the two speed camera flashes could not have been done in the timeframe indicated by the police evidence and I can now stop worrying. It is just impossible that I could have driven that distance and been to McDonald’s in that amount of time.
“I had nipped out to get some food for my kids and then I decided to get a sausage and egg McMuffin from McDonald’s.”
The police said the dropping of the ticket was nothing to do with the timing of the offences, or because of problems with the camera.
Pamela Oliver, co-ordinator of Northumbria Police’s Fixed Penalty Unit said: “These particular cases were dropped due to a back office procedural issue. They were not dropped because of any doubts over the timing of the offences, which were initially raised and investigated.”

The letter from police to Miss Whitmore said: “Following consideration of this matter it has been decided a warning is an appropriate action in the circumstances. However the details of the offence have been recorded.
“No further action will be taken. However the same lenient steps will not be taken in future.”

Last night Neil Herron, who has tested the route with special tracking equipment designed by Dr Phillip Tann, whose speeding case was dropped by Sunderland magistrates in 2007, said:

“These allegations have not been proven in a court of law and the police should not be issuing such threatening and intimidatory communications. It is outrageous that they have set themselves up as judge and jury. Is it any wonder that motorists are becoming increasingly sceptical that speed cameras are nothing more than a stealth tax.
“How many other motorists are afforded the ‘luxury’ of a warning instead of a fine and points?”

Jeremy Forsberg, of the Northumbria Safer Roads Initiative, said: “The cameras have not been proved to be at fault this case, they are still very reliable. Hopefully Miss Whitmore will be more careful in future.”

Friday, April 17, 2009

Invention to reduce parking tickets for the pub trade

Hopefully people can now see that the intention and ultimate aim is to create an intelligent, interactive parking environment based on co-operation and efficient kerbside management rather than draconian enforcement for revenue generation. Hopefully other councils will now start to recognise that commercial vehicles should not be bearing a Penalty Charge Notice cost burden simply for going about their daily business in the most expedient fashion.

The future is to work towards good practice on all sides but to do that there needs to be a massive overhaul of the system. One of the first steps is reported below:

North invention to make life easier for pub trade
Apr 16 2009

by Andrew Mernin,
The Journal
VEHICLE-tracking technology designed by a North East scientist will now be used in London’s pub trade to help stop beer delivery drivers getting parking tickets.
Last year, North East inventor Dr Phillip Tann and Neil Herron – a well-known regional campaigner for motorists hit by parking and speeding fines – launched Fleetm8 on the back of Dr Tann’s groundbreaking vehicle- tracking system.

The technology allows users to track the location of any vehicle and also its historic location, enabling fleet operators to view performance and make decisions in real time.
It has since won a deal to be trialled on buses in India as part of a £17m government transport project and has now been adapted for use in the pub trade and will be trialled in the capital by the City of Westminster Council.

The South Tyneside business came up with the new system after discussions with the Brewery Logistics Group in which they bemoaned the fact that, in central London, there is limited car parking and kerb space to facilitate delivery lorries.

This means that drivers are often forced to park in contravention of a parking or loading restriction, which leads to hefty fines – the annual cost to BLG members is around £3m.
With Fleetm8’s technology, a message will be sent to Westminster Council ahead of a driver’s delivery to a particular pub to request short-term exemption from parking restrictions outside the premises.

This will automatically be granted through a server held at the council, who will create a temporary, ‘virtual’ loading bay outside the pub and will also alert parking attendants in the area, via their handheld computers, not to issue tickets to the delivery vehicle.
To quicken the delivery time, the intelligent system will also send a Bluetooth message to the pub alerting staff to open the cellar doors ahead of the vehicle’s arrival.

Neil Herron, who has become recognised nationally as a campaigner for parking disputes under his organisation Parking Appeals, said the trial in London showed forward-thinking on behalf of council bosses.
“We approached them with the idea of trialling new technology which could assist the brewers making deliveries more efficiently by reducing the kerb time and reduce their administrative burden for dealing with parking tickets by producing an exemption scheme for firms adhering to a set protocol and using the new technology.
“We are working on the project with Tradeteam who are part of DHL and who deliver beer to many of London’s pubs.
“Once we have created the model it can then be expanded to other sectors of the freight transport industry and applied in other local authority areas.”

Dr Tann’s vehicle-tracking technology first gained national recognition in 2007 when he used the device to avoid a speeding ticket.
Northumbria Police claimed he was doing 42mph in a 30mph zone, however, Dr Tann’s vehicle was fitted with a prototype GPS tracking device which proved otherwise.

The inventor said the deal with Westminster Council could help fuel more far-reaching interest in the system in future.
“This new development will add value especially for those firms operating in the London area. We are really pleased that our North East- based company is being used to solve a London problem and anticipate a great deal of interest.”
The technology has been backed by £60,000 in funding from Newcastle-based North Star Equity Investors (NSEI) which specialises in early stage, high-growth opportunities.
The investment is part of the company’s £12m Proof of Concept fund which targets the pre-seed stage of investment, supporting entrepreneurs with up to £90,000 in investment.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Councils launch parking website ... but they have missed a vital piece of information for the motorist

Doesn't seem to be anything on the site pointing out to the motorist in the clearest terms that PATROL is paid for at the rate of 60p per Penalty Charge Notice and that the PATROL Joint Committee (the councils) appoints the adjudicators and is responsible for their remuneration. It also fails to point out that Manchester City Council is the lead authority.

The next blog post will reveal the answers to some Parliamentary Questions.

At all times what must be borne in mind is that under Article 6(i) ECHR you have the right to be heard by an independent tribunal and that that it is a breach of Article 6 if it is perceived that the tribunal is not independent.

Councils relaunch new and improved parking information site
Hannah Wooderson for
in Communities , Local Government
6th April 2009

A group of over 200 councils have come together to re-launch their public information website today (Monday 6 April)

The 200+ councils make up the Joint Committee of England and Wales for the Civil Enforcement of Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London. Their new-look PATROL site has been improved to take into account the 12-months of user-feedback received since its launch last year, when the Traffic Management Act 2004 came into effect.

PATROL aims to be a one stop shop for motorists, providing clear and accessible information about parking and bus lane regulations, and guiding people through the ensuing, and often complex, enforcement process – a subject of great interest to local residents.The site promotes a ‘pay it or challenge it’ theme, encouraging people to either challenge a notice they believe they have received unfairly or pay early to avoid a larger fine. It also features a useful flowchart, so that people can easily identify where they are in the process.

PATROL, and the Joint Committee which sponsors it, is an excellent example of partnership working from councils. The group is committed to working together to provide consistent information to motorists. The site has a search option, so people can identify whether their local council is part of the scheme, and also includes direct links to local information via council websites, to enable them to check whether particular circumstances apply to their locality.

Chair of the PATROL Joint Committee, Councillor Ken Gregory said: “The PATROL website is an excellent example of how collaboration and partnership working between councils can succeed. The main aim was to present complex information about the enforcement process which is common to all councils and translate this into clear information for motorists. We’re pleased to have received such a lot of useful feedback from motorists and have taken these views on board to inform the redesign.”

PATROL also has a general information section, which provides a series of simple hints and tips for avoiding Penalty Charge Notices.PATROL’s Head of Service, Louise Hutchinson, said: “The PATROL Joint Committee is committed to providing a single point of access for motorists, and we hope that the new-look website will help us to build greater public understanding of parking issues, traffic management and motorists’ rights.”

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