Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Traffic Order Mix-Up Drivers to get money back ...

Another shot across the bows of all the councils out there who think that they are above the law and can keep unlawfully derived income.
The arrogance of some councils is giving the rest, those who strive to do the right thing, a bad name.

No TRO or an incorrectly drafted TRO ... then you have taken the money unlawfully. 'It was only a typing error' is not an excuse. Just remember the arrogance and lack of compassion shown to Disabled Badge Holders for not setting the time clock correctly.

Poetic justice I think some would say. Not many tears being shed for parking managers and councils who have blundered. However, the officers and councils that go into denial perhaps best check the content of the 2006 Fraud Act and the CPS definition of Misfeasance in Public Office. It's only a matter of time.

Drivers wrongly fined in traffic order mix-up to get money paid back
Express and Echo
Saturday, August 01, 2009,

THOUSANDS of pounds collected in parking fines are set to be paid back to city drivers, the Echo can reveal.

Penalty tickets were issued to drivers in three large parking zones in the city before the council discovered that the areas weren't covered by the relevant traffic order.

The mix-up, first highlighted by the Echo, means Devon County Council will now pay back the cost of fines dished out to drivers in Pennsylvania, Duryard and the Regent's Park residents' parking zones between May, 2008, and February this year.

The problem came to light after an investigation by Percy Prowse, county councillor for Pennsylvania and Duryard, who found that the correct traffic orders were not in place.

Cllr Prowse said: "I am pleased that drivers are to get the money back and the county council is duty bound now to write to the residents, every permit holder, and rectify the situation. I think the money to be repaid will run into thousands of pounds."

Cllr Prowse added: "When the old traffic orders were revoked, the new scheme was not properly advertised and you can't just add roads on that have been left out."

A spokeswoman for the council said: "Devon County Council will refund penalty charge notices incorrectly issued in the Pennsylvania, Duryard and Regent's Park resident permit zones.
"These zones were omitted from the Devon County Council (Traffic Regulation and On-Street Parking Places) Order which came into force on May 5, 2008.
"This mistake was corrected when a new order was introduced on February 2, 2009, and the resident permit restrictions on street are currently enforceable."

She added: "Anyone issued with a penalty charge notice for not displaying a residents' parking permit, between May, 2008, and February 2, 2009, in the affected streets may be eligible for a refund and should contact Exeter City Council with details of the vehicle and penalty charge notice."

The streets affected were: Regent's Park — Bicton Place, Cavendish Road, East Avenue, Mont Le Grand, North Avenue, Polsloe Road (between Park Road and Heavitree Road), Regent's Park and South Avenue. Duryard — Cowley Bridge Road (between New North Road and Station Road), Dunvegan Close, Elmbridge Gardens, Harefield Close, Kilbarran Rise, King Edward Street, New North Road (between Streatham Drive and Cowley Bridge Road), Streatham Drive and Streatham Rise. Pennsylvania — Brodick Close, Clevedon Close, Culverland Close, Higher King's Avenue, Hill Close, Hoopern Avenue, Lower King's Avenue, Maryfield Avenue, Pennsylvania Road (between Union Road and Higher King's Avenue), Sylvan Road and Union Road, (north side only).


Payback for parkers ... Sunderland Echo



Payback for parkers
Sunderland Echo

29 July 2009
by Tim Booler

Thousands of motorists could get refunds from city centre parking tickets, it was claimed today.
Campaigner Neil Herron says up to 5,500 individuals and businesses could benefit after penalty charges in Sunniside and Park Lane Shopping Village, Sunderland, were scrapped by an independent adjudicator.


Mr Herron represented estate agent Brendan Hackett, who won his appeal against Sunderland Council after parking attendants incorrectly slapped £40 tickets on his car in a pay- and-display area near his office in Frederick Street, on four occasions up to February.

Adjudicator Mark Hinchcliffe noted that the council's Parking Charter says commercial vehicles can have 20 minutes' observation – to see if they are loading or unloading – before a ticket can be issued, but this did not happen.


Mr Hackett said: "Often we have to pop into the office to pick up case files and we were aware that there was an exemption for loading, but it seems that the Civil Enforcement Officers had been told to ignore this and issue instant tickets." "I am pleased that everyone else ticketed illegally will now be able to ask to have their money refunded."

In his ruling, Mr Hinchcliffe questioned the council's policy, adding: "It is hard to understand why in Sunderland some motorists have to pay to park in pay-and-display bays and some don't, depending on what their purpose is."It will, perhaps, be seen that this exemption makes proper enforcement of the on-street pay-and-display parking restrictions very difficult indeed."


Mr Herron, from High Barnes, labelled the council's parking policies "shambolic" and added: "It's a pretty fundamental thing when financially penalising motorists to at least read your own legal documents."You couldn't make a bigger blunder than creating a charter for the public to follow, then deciding not to follow it yourself."

The former market trader urged everyone who has ever had a code five or six penalty notice in one of Sunderland's 13 pay-and-display areas in the last two years to write to the council and request a refund. He also said anyone who did get cash back to make a donation to a good cause, such as the Grace House Children's Hospice Appeal.


Mr Herron also claimed hundreds of drivers ticketed in Derwent Street are due their money back, after winning an appeal against a penalty charge of his own there. It was overturned because a parking bay failed to comply with a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO).

Burney Johnson, head of traffic at Sunderland Council, said: "In pay-and-display bays if loading and unloading is not obvious then observation periods are not normally undertaken. "It is up to the motorist to discharge the onus of proof that they were actually loading and unloading. "

NB. Mr. Johnson really needs to read the Parking Charter, the TRO and the adjudicators decision which stated that 'as there was no observation the appellant does not need to be put to further proof. Looks like this is set to be escalated should the council wish to maintain this position.

As there was no observation period recorded in the Civil Enforcement Officer's notebook, the adjudicator did not consider that there was any justification for putting the appellant to provide further proof and the appeals were allowed."The council's civil enforcement officers have now been requested to ensure that observation periods are carried out."

Mr Johnson said the adjudicator noted the Derwent Street ticket appeal was won on a "somewhat technical basis" as the council had inadvertently refered to an incorrect item number in the TRO.
NB. The 'somewhat technical basis' is a Sunderland City Council phrase to replace the more colloquial term ... 'cock-up.'


Payback for Parkers ...Another Front Page

Another Victory for Motorists as 'bungling' Council breaches its own Parking Charter

At a Traffic Penalty Tribunal in Sunderland on 21st July 2009 representations were made by Neil Herron, who runs a national parking ticket appeals company http://www.parkingappeals.co.uk/ that his client, local Estate Agent Brendan Hackett was loading / unloading in the on-street pay and display bays (on-street) and that ‘instant’ PCNs had been issued without any observation period to establish whether loading or unloading was taking place.

The Traffic Regulation Order states that loading/unloading is allowed ‘for up to 20 minutes' and the Council's own Parking Charter refers to a 'five minute observation period.' Former Parking Attendants confirmed that they used to observe for aa period of 5 minutes so it seems to have been a deliberate policy decision which is in clear breach of the Council's own Parking Charter.

The adjudicator ruled that the tickets were not enforceable because there had been no observation period.
This blunder means that all Penalty Charge Notices which have been issued incorrectly will have to be refunded as the procedures detailed in the Traffic Order and the Parking Charter have not been followed.

Contaact us on enquiries@parkingappeals.co.uk for more information.



Monday, July 27, 2009

The vultures are circling ...

This is the beginning of the end for civil parking enforcement as the industry starts to turn on itself ...

We will support fair and transparent enforcement which is NOT outsourced to private enforcement contractors. We will also support pay rises for Civil Enforcement Officers who are employed to keep the streets clear of irresponsible parking and for being the council's 'on-street ambassadors' who are not incentivised or driven by a ticket target culture.

More and more whistleblowers are going to come forward and more and more councils are going to be exposed in a similar fashion to the report below. The guys on the front line on low pay and poor conditions are now set to reveal a culture of bullying by their private enforcement and council bosses.
Forced to issue tickets in areas where restrictions are known to be unlawful or where no legal Traffic Orders exist they now have somewhere to turn, whether it be to the trade union Unite or to the organisation Public Concern at Work or by e-mailing us at enquiries@parkingappeals.co.uk

For too long CEOs have been made the scapegoat for council failings. Now, as the whole industry starts to go into meltdown with the AA and other national motoring organisations
condemning councils for blindly issuing tickets to get the revenue rather than changing behaviour the legislators are going to have to act to change the law to ensure that a fair, transparent system is put in place with councils being forced to respect for the law.

Many councils, to date, have had scant regard for the law (whether it be signing or procedure) whilst 'stealth taxing' the motorist. Now the motorist is learning to bite back and fight back using the law against the councils. It is only a matter of time before this matter comes to a head in the High Court. More on that to follow.

Traffic wardens 'made to ticket'
BBC News

Unions claim some traffic wardens miss out on perks if they miss targets
Parking enforcement officers face "humiliation" if they fail to meet their targets for issuing parking fines, their unions have claimed.
The unions Unite and Unison say wardens often have to meet targets to qualify for overtime and other perks.

Parking attendants have told the BBC this means some tickets are issued when there is no real justification.

The British Parking Association said ticket-targeting was "unacceptable" and it was trying to stop the practice.

'Drivers battered'
An estimated 10 million parking tickets are issued in the UK every year.
The BBC has been told of the pressures that traffic wardens are under.
Too scared of losing their jobs to speak openly, two different parking attendants spoke anonymously to BBC Breakfast.
One said that every day he was forced to issue tickets that his management knew would be overturned.
"They don't care if they will be appealed, they just want the numbers," he said.
"The bosses tell you to issue tickets even when they know there is a fault in signage.
"Drivers are unjustly battered with tickets and if we don't do it we lose our jobs."


The other attendant told the BBC: "If you hit or exceed the targets you get favours, swapping shifts, and most importantly, if you hit the targets you get overtime.
"People get fired for not reaching their targets."

Target driven
Unions have backed up up these claims. They have concerns about practices across the UK and particularly where parking enforcement has been contracted out to private companies.
They say staff are often very poorly paid and have to work in a pressured, target-driven environment where they are often bullied and humiliated if they under perform.

Peter Allenson, Unite's National Officer, said: "There are targets that they need to meet and if they don't meet these targets then there are certain things being used against them such as shift swaps and overtime allocation and this is unacceptable."

Some councils are blindly issuing tickets it appears perhaps to get the revenue rather than changing behaviour
Paul Watters AA

Parliament's Transport Select Committee has warned councils against using parking tickets to raise revenue.
But Paul Waters of the AA said some local authorities seemed to be doing just that:
"Some councils are blindly issuing tickets, it appears perhaps to get the revenue rather than changing behaviour.
"It is a revenue gainer for many authorities, attendants are exploiting the situation - they know where the honey pots are, and they go along and issue tickets regardless of the fact that the signing is dubious."

But the British Parking Association (BPA) which represents companies who employ parking attendants said it was against ticket-targeting and was making efforts to combat the practice.
A spokesman said: "The BPA considers ticket target-setting totally unacceptable, and as a member organisation we strive to make sure that parking control is about improving the streets, and not making money."


Thursday, July 23, 2009

One small step for a motorist ...one giant leap for justice

In an upstairs function room in the Marriott Hotel on Tuesday a little ray of sunshine shone through the window as the waves crashed onto Seaburn beach below.

The room was set out for a Traffic Penalty Tribunal hearing. There were various appellants v Sunderland City Council before Traffic Penalty Tribunal adjudicator Mark Hinchcliffe, who reassuringly stated that he also sat as a judge.

Sunderland were represented by Parking Services' Julie Tunstall and also present were Assistant City Solicitor Elaine Waugh and Highways Engineer Paul Robinson who clutched a very dusty version of the 1985 Traffic Signs Manual (repealed more times than a Groundhog day apple) as if his whole career depended on it to attempt to justify Sunderland's use of non-compliant bays.

Sunderland City Council's Parking Services Manager Earl Belshaw was conspicuous by his absence.

Mr. Belshaw has presided over Sunderland's shambolic decriminalised parking enforcement regime since its inception in 2003 and has been in the national media spotlight since the first Trevor McDonald 'Tonight' Special which was followed by a BBC expose which led to the sacking of a large number of Parking Attendants and the removal of National Car Parks Ltd. from the enforcement contract. The programme provided convenient scapegoats for the council and a welcome diversion from the council's unlawful restrictions.

Ever since the DfT were misled into granting DPE powers Sunderland has been continually correcting and covering up their mistakes and amending incorrect Traffic Orders. However, after over 4 years of investigation and evidence (including documents from the DfT reminding the council that their actions were unlawful) we appear to be seeing the beginnings of justice finally prevailing.

As we have always maintained, there are some very good councils out there who endeavour to act in accordance with the law and apply a sensible and fair approach to enforcement. However, there are some officials who have forgotten that they are public servants and who think that they have the power to behave in the most Draconian manner and with a cavalier and reckless approach to the law.

The decisions...

Unlawful Traffic Regulation Order
One of the first cases heard on Tuesday was Herron v Sunderland ... for a PCN issued in a dual-use loading / parking bay in Derwent Street. Now this location was one challenged previously before adjudicator Andrew Keenan and was where Sunderland City Council had misled the Secretary of State into granting Special Authorisation for the 'non-prescribed' dual-use bays by stating that they would mark the bays to the minimum required ... 2.7m.

The bays are only 2m wide and not wide enough to fit a HGV into!

Documents obtained under FoI showing this deception were submitted to the tribunal. Officers at the Government Office for the North East had previously suggested that the use of narrow loading bays could be considered 'entrapment.'

However, the critical point came when the adjudicator was taken to the description of the location at Item 548 in the TRO. Sunderland had become a little muddled in their drafting ... getting their east confused with their west (or using legal terminology not knowing their arse from their elbow).

Mrs. Tunstall said it was simply a 'typing error.' Christopher Latham Sholes shifted uncomfortably in his grave. Perhaps he put the 'w' 'e' 'a' and 's' a little too close together. (He invented the typewriter).

Wonder why Sunderland didn't spot the error when it had been pointed out in every single representation for this location that they kept rejecting? Perhaps if they had it would have undermined the adjudicator's decision. Perhaps if they had then everyone would have started digging a little further. Perhaps if they had all the traders in Park Lane Village shopping village who had been persecuted by Parking Attendants would have been even more aggrieved. Perhaps Captain D W Green who had spent years trying to expose Sunderland council's legal department's incompetence might have finally been vindicated.

Good job they hadn't ended up trying to defend that one with £50,000 of public money in the High Court (FoI response in October 2008 indicated that Sunderland had spent £36,000 of Sunderland ratepayer's hard earned cash on Stephen Sauvain QC and others legal advice in relation to issues arising from the council's parking shambles). I am sure that the Sunderland Echo will be requesting an up to date figure of the money spent on lawyers and a number of councillors will now be demanding the full external investigation that was promised by the previous Chief Executive. No more whitewash ( or yellow paint wash). No more sweeping matters into the gutter.

How much cheaper in the long run would ' We are sorry, we got it wrong' have been?

One day's news, a few refunds and respect. As a nation we are the hardest to fight but the first to forgive.

No-one at all criticised Sheffield City Council when they did it, and that was £350,000 for one ambiguous, confusing sign ... and the man whose tickets sparked the victory, Alan Bangert, despite being a mature student, did the admirable thing and donated his 'windfall' to the local children's hospice.

So finally, after over three years and half a rainforest of repeated evidence all of which had been before Sunderland's solicitors, their parking team and Adjudicator Andrew Keenan OBE, the restriction in Derwent Street was ruled unlawful.

Should Sunderland consider spending another tranche of public money to try and avoid repaying those fined unlawfully? Or will they be advised that monies derived from PCNs issued at this location will have to be refunded (Woolwich Equitable Building Society v Inland Revenue Commissioners) and enforcement suspended immediately? Certain lawyers have already dispensed this advice to various councils and District Auditors across the land.
A couple of phone calls and a sharing of legal opinions will ensure that all councils concerned know that they will not be able to benefit or be 'unjustly enriched' from a mistake in law.

We would encourage anyone in Sunderland receiving a parking ticket refund to share their 'windfall' with the Grace House Appeal or any other worthy cause.

Unlawful 'instant' pay and display tickets
The second council blunder concerns all the on-street pay and display bays. Quite a simple one and the appellant's argument (a city centre Estate Agent) was that he was loading and unloading in the pay and display bays adjacent to his premises.
The Council's own Parking Charter shows that vehicles on commercial business are allowed 20 minutes observation

This is also allowed in the TRO where it states that loading and unloading is permitted for up to 20 minutes.

The Council had however, instructed its Civil Enforcement Officers to issue 'instant' tickets meaning that there was no observation period, in breach of its own Parking Charter and contradicting its own legal document, the Traffic Order.

Have the Council's lawyers and Parking Managers ever taken the trouble to read the Parking Charter and the TRO or was this a deliberate attempt to raise revenue after a disastrous drop in PCN numbers in the aftermath of the BBC documentary?

No observation period means no evidence that no loading or unloading was taking place and therefore the PCN has been issued incorrectly.

It's a pretty fundamental thing when financially penalising motorists to at least read your own legal documents. If they have read them and understood them then who issued the instruction to the CEOs to issue 'instant' tickets directly contradicting the Charter and the TRO?

However, such a decision is not accidental or an oversight. This MUST have been a deliberate policy decision by at least one individual.
Who was it and who else was involved?
Was it the Parking Services Manager? Was it the Service Director? Was the Policy Decision supported by the legal department and Chief Executive?

Former National Car Parks Ltd. Parking Attendants and management have confirmed that it was policy when they were in post to allow 5 minutes constant or 20 minutes casual observation.
So when did the policy change and who changed it and why? Was the legal department aware?

Were the same council officers involved in this decision as allowed the enforcement contract with National Car Parks Ltd. to be transferred to NCP Services Ltd. without anything in writing? Without anything being minuted? Without any parent company guarantees or indemnity?

No stone must be left unturned when investigating this fundamental piece of incompetence and misconduct. The vicarious liability for all this resides with the Chief Executive who has been given ample opportunity to initiate a full investigation into the Parking Service Department's failings over the past four years.

More will be revealed shortly about the District Auditor's investigation into the breach of the council's own constitution with regard to the 'transfer' of the contract ... but the Council's accounts for 2007 -2008 have yet to be signed off and the District Auditor is seeking counsel's opinion for the second time.

Meanwhile, everyone who has ever had a Code 05 or Code 06 PCN in a pay and display bay should write to the council and request a refund and all monies derived from such errors . Their address is here or simply give them a call on 0191 520 5555 and ask how they intend to refund you.
Any assistance needed just drop us an e-mail at enquiries@parkingappeals.co.uk


All single yellow line tickets in the City Centre Controlled Parking Zone suspended Finally, and perhaps the most significant were the PCNs issued on single yellow lines issued within the Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ).
This matter has been granted leave at the High Court with 2 days being set aside for the case after a High Court Judge, Justice Keith decided that the case needed to be heard before a Senior High Court Judge.
The implications are far reaching and will affect EVERY PCN issued on a single yellow line in any CPZ. The implications are so enormous that the Treasury Solicitors have requested that the Secretary of State for Transport intervene and be allowed to give evidence.

What that evidence might be is yet to be disclosed.

However, adjudicator Mr. Hinchcliffe ruled that as the PCNs were issued on a single yellow line in a CPZ and seeing that this matter was now before the High Court he would grant the request for an adjournment.

One more step forward for a motorist ... one giant leap towards justice for Britain's motorists ... against what has become a lawless, out of control 'industry' without any judicial checks or balances.

Thanks to all those who continue to support the campaign. Please spread the word and turn The Motorists Legal Challenge Fund into the public defender and watchdog that Britain's motorists are in desperate need of to hold rogue authorities to account and to expose injustice across the country and get such matters before the courts where all of this can be exposed under the brightest spotlight.




Monday, July 20, 2009

More refunds to come as Oxford Council lose High Court case

Another council another blunder. Oxford's accounts will be published shortly and any resident can raise an objection that their accounts cannot contain unlawfully derived income.

Click here for a pro-forma letter.

The same applies to any other council which has been enforcing unlawful restrictions. The 'peasants' revolt' will ensure that justice is done and local authorities reckless attitude towards their legal responsibilities is stopped.

BUSGATE FINES:
High Court rejects review
Oxford Mail
Monday 20th July 2009

A HIGH Court judge has rejected Oxfordshire County Council’s bid for a judicial review on whether drivers have been unlawfully fined for going through the High Street bus gate.
But the council has re-applied for an oral hearing, and a decision will be made in the next six weeks on whether one will go ahead.

Two years ago, the council installed enforcement cameras in High Street to keep most vehicles out during the day.

But earlier this year, it emerged appeals by motorists led to a Traffic Penalty Tribunal ruling that the council had not been using the right law to fine them.

The tribunal said the council put in a valid prohibition for vehicles, but then wrongly penalised them for entering a bus lane because the area is not actually a bus lane.
Adjudicators upheld a number of appeals, but the council contested the ruling and last month applied to the High Court for the judicial review.

A spokesman for the Royal Courts of Justice said: “Permission for a judicial review was refused on June 26.”
Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “The council intends to pursue this — this is not the end of the matter.”

Neil Herron, of Parking Appeals, which advises drivers on fines legislation, said last night: “It’s not all over yet for the county council, but if it loses the oral hearing then it should abide by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal’s ruling and should refund the drivers who have been fined.”

The council collected £635,435 in fines in the first year of camera enforcemen between March 2007 and March last year.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

A new peasant's revolt ... or justice on the horizon for the motorist?



How to get revenge for your parking ticket
You can turn the tables on councils that play fast and loose with the law, says Philip Johnston
Published 19 Jul 2009
Daily Telegraph

Yes, I know: it's only a parking ticket. Perhaps I should not be in such a lather about it, but I am and I am not alone. Not by a long way. It is not that we cannot afford £60 (or £30 if we go quietly, which we won't). It is the sheer injustice of it.
This ticket was placed on our car not in the town centre or on a busy urban highway but in the street outside our house where we already pay £90 a year to park in a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ), which a majority in our road voted against having in a referendum. We live in a quiet avenue in London with no problems of congestion or of obstruction.

Related Articles
A mess over illegal parking tickets

But the borough painted a confusing array of white and yellow lines everywhere, removing around a dozen spaces where cars used to be able to park. Near our home, the bay is so badly drawn that, in order not to obstruct a neighbour's access, we parked a few feet over the line, as everyone does and we have done many times.

A ticket was issued. We appealed to the local borough and they said: "We must advise that when using parking bays you must make sure your car is fully within the parking bay or space before you leave it. If it is beyond the end of a bay, straddling two bays or obstructing the clearway you may get a ticket even if you have paid to park, or have a valid permit allowing you to park."

When we pointed out that the lines were not easy to discern, and that if we parked within the lines the car would block a neighbour's access, we were told that "the law does not require that the yellow line must be in good condition. Enforcement can take place as long as the signage reasonably indicates a restriction".

It was this mention of the law that made me sit up. If they are going to quote the law at us, we will try to find out if they are observing it as well. If they are going to quibble about our car being a foot over an arbitrarily drawn line, let's see whether, in the myriad parking regulations, there is a legislative equivalent that we can irritate the life out of them with. If people are to be fined simply because their ticket has fallen off the windscreen, maybe the tables can be turned; and I know a man who can do turn them.

Neil Herron is a sort of latter day Wat Tyler leading a Peasant's Revolt against the parking tyranny that has gripped the land. A former fishmonger from Sunderland, he was a key figure in the celebrated Metric Martyr campaign a few years ago when his late friend Steve Thoburn, a fellow market stallholder, was fined for selling bananas by the pound. He has a sharp sense of injustice and now runs ParkingAppeals.co.uk, which specialises in fighting such cases – and winning them, too.

In fact, he is causing consternation in town halls across the land. In our case, Mr Herron advised that the CPZ may itself be illegal since it does not appear to have been correctly signposted. This could be true of residential parking zones around the country and he has a judicial review under way in which the Government is taking a direct interest because the implications are considerable: if CPZs are invalidated then millions of pounds in penalties may have to be returned.

Were this to happen, councils would have only themselves to blame. They simply became too greedy. CPZs were supposed to cover small areas of around 12 or so streets where there are legitimate parking worries, but they have spread across whole towns because they raise money. Parking has become a stealth tax. A fine is a punishment yet it is levied not through the criminal justice system but by way of a civil regime administered by local councils, many of whom seem not to think it matters whether they obey the regulations or not.

Last year in England, nearly four million tickets were issued, 250,000 more than in 2007 and a fivefold increase since 2001, the year when the decriminalised system (which has operated in London since the mid-1990s) began to spread across the country.

Thanks to Mr Herron, we have now discovered that the ticket we received is almost certainly invalid. Our borough, in common with several others, was making an additional charge for processing credit card payments. This has recently been ruled unlawful by the parking adjudicator because it adds an extra sum to what is a statutory penalty. The charge has been withdrawn; but our ticket was issued when it was still in place, which at least gives us something to argue with.

In the three months that our council operated this illegal scheme it issued tickets to the value of £500,000. These may have to be refunded. Other boroughs face paying back millions.
It serves them right – but in the end, of course, it will be the council taxpayer that suffers, so we will pay anyway. It should come out of the pockets of the people who played so fast and loose with the laws they expect the rest of us to follow.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Clampers arrested for alleged blackmail

Everyone who has been clamped and is having their vehicle 'held ransom' until they hand over money should now consider reporting a crime of blackmail to the Police and ask them to involve the council's Trading Standards. This is what has happened in the West Midlands and shows a shift in policy to bring an end to what is classed as theft and extortion in Scotland.

As you will see from the dawn raids recorded by the BBC below, it is a concerted, co-ordinated high profile effort by the Police and Trading Standards in association with the BBC to expose what has now become a lawless, unregulated industry. This industry has been aided and abetted by the British Parking Association's failure to expose the unlawful behaviour of their member and the failure to regulate private land operators and the DVLA who pass over keeper details for profit to companies and individuals like those shown below.

Here is the BBC Clip of the dawn raids on National or Nationwide Parking Control, who it appears are members of the British Parking Association, and the BBC news report here


Three men and a woman have been arrested as part of an inquiry targeting car clampers in Birmingham.
They were taken into custody on suspicion of conspiracy to blackmail following early morning raids in Moseley, South Yardley and Tyseley.
It was part of a joint operation between West Midlands Police and Birmingham Trading Standards.
The offices of car clamping firm National Parking Control in Digbeth were also raided.



Thursday, July 16, 2009

One Nation Under Surveillance ... but not quite in Westminster

Questions need to be asked.

Who was responsible for this blunder?

Meanwhile, a comparison needs to be made of the number of crimes or incidents witnessed and subsequently detected by CCTV and the number of PCNs issued and paid. We will then understand the real reason for CCTV.


CCTV SWITCH OFF SPARKS CRIME FEARS
Camden New Journal
10 July 2009
West End Extra - by JAMIE WELHAM


Three-week surveillance blackout in £15million system ‘blunder’

THE entire network of central London’s wireless CCTV cameras will be switched off for three weeks sparking fears that hundreds of crimes will go undetected. The surveillance blackout, which it was hoped could be avoided, will start at the beginning of August, coming about because the council has been forced to upgrade more than 100 wireless cameras due to a bizarre legal ruling.

In a huge blunder, nobody at the council realised the brand new camera system fell short of government specifications when they purchased it for £15million. The cameras represent almost half of the authority’s CCTV network, and while principally used for parking enforcement, they are also used as a tool to tackle crime and disorder. Anxiety is rising ahead of the switch-off, with some fearing it could spell a boon time for criminals looking to exploit the blind spot in the surveillance panorama.It will cost the council £850,000 to upgrade the resolution, as well as thousands of pounds in lost earnings from parking cheats who can break the rules with virtual impunity.

Since the Department for Transport (DfT) pixel size regulations came into force on April 1, the less than a year-old £15million network, which monitors roads around the West End, Victoria, Bayswater, Marylebone, Oxford Street and Belgravia, has not been used for stationary parking enforcement, although it has been monitoring moving traffic contraventions, community protection and city management.

The council have been furiously lobbying the DfT since April to try to reach an agreement that would let the cameras stay as they are, but their pleas have been ignored. A report seen by the council’s city management and finance bosses says: “In order to meet the required resolution, a new digital encoding device will be installed in all wireless cameras. The works will involve: Remove all cameras from the street; Replace the existing digital encoders within the camera units; Test the camera; and Reinstall the cameras on street.”

The report goes on to say that all “archived video footage will be lost during the process”. The initial forecast for the shutdown was three months, but now the council claims it can be done in three weeks.

Karen Buck, MP for Regent’s Park and Kensington North, said: “It is deeply worrying. Crimes will go undetected because of it. Clearly someone at the council has made a massive blunder here, and the taxpayers are paying for it.”

John Zamit, chairman of the South East Bayswater Residents Association, said: “We think it’s a disgrace. The only reason they are doing this is so they can raise more revenue from innocent pensioners stopping for three minutes on single yellow lines.”

The council has played down the decision, which was given the green light by cabinet member for city management Danny Chalkley and cabinet member for finance Melvyn Caplan earlier this month.

The council predicts it will make an £11.4m surplus from parking enforcement in 2009/10. Without cameras it would need to spend an extra £1.9m on parking wardens to make up the lost earnings. Under the DfT legislation, traffic cameras must be capable of recording at 720 x 576 pixels, but Westminster’s picture quality is 704 x 576 pixels.

Kevin Goad, Westminster Council’s assistant director of parking, said: “Despite having state-of-the-art parking cameras that use digital technology the DfT has advised that we carry out a software upgrade.“This will take between two to three weeks, during which these particular cameras will not be in use. We will have extra parking attendants on our streets to ensure motorists continue to park safely and sensibly. This work does not in any way affect our main CCTV network which is used to prevent crime and keep Westminster residents and visitors safe.”


Help for Heroes ... Metric Martyr honoured.

Busy day in town with legendary British actor and gentleman Edward Fox.

The Help for Heroes cook book is on sale to raise money for our injured servicemen and women. The book asks British personalities and servicemen and women, both current and past,
- Who their hero is
- Why they are their hero
- What they would feed them
Contributors include Private Harry Patch (110 year old veteran of WW1), political figures including Gordon Brown and other party leaders; celebrities and sporting heroes such as Sir David Jason, Dame Judi Dench, Ewen MacGregor, Dame Vera Lynn, Sir Steve Redgrave, Bruce Forsyth, Dame Tanni Grey Thompson, the 4 service chiefs, Flight Lieutenant Michelle Goodman DFC, Captain Dave Rigg MC, Sub-Lieutenant Donald Keeble DSC and many others.

We were honoured to have Edward Fox nominate Steve Thoburn as his hero and we have a signed copy to give to Steve's widow and children and a number that we will be auctioning to raise funds for Help for Heroes.

Please help support a very worthy cause here

Friday, July 10, 2009

Insurance Company plays Nostradamus as parking Grim Reaper gathers


An insurance company with the ability to foretell the future warns of the problems facing many councils.
The lure of untold riches from the decriminalised parking stealth tax drove many councils to rush hastily into deals with private parking enforcement contractors. Proper controls and scrutiny went out of the window. Contracts not checked, contractors not managed. Legal requirements for lines and signs and Traffic Orders treated with reckless indifference by council officers as the money flooded in. Little scrutiny as motorist after motorist was abused. No statutory body to force them and their contractors to stop. The abuse grew and grew spiralling out of control to the point that reckless indifference, in many instances, became out of control lawlessness. Restrictions enforced in the full knowledge by all parties that they were unlawful.
Now, the Grim Reaper has been spotted and the prediction of massive financial consequences for many councils is becoming a slowly dawning reality.

However, it is not Nostradamus reciting quatrains but one of the world's biggest insurance companies. Perhaps not time yet for 'we told you so ...' but would suggest that council lawyers start brushing up on misfeasance and malfeasance in public office and checking out how much money they may have to refund not to mention the damages for those suffering loss at the ahnds of bailiffs.

Local authorities ‘unaware and under-prepared’ for outsourcing risks, claims Zurich Municipal

Despite local authorities undertaking unprecedented levels of increased outsourcing and partnership activity, senior managers and risk officers feel unclear and ill-equipped to manage the resulting risks, says insurance company Zurich Municipal.
A new report released by Zurich on the issue of supply chain risk in the public sector warns of the “potentially catastrophic” implications on local government services as councils dramatically increase reliance on back office outsourcing and frontline partnership working.

Unveiled at the CIPFA annual conference in Manchester, Public sector supply chain: risks, myths and opportunities calls for urgent action to improve risk readiness in the sector. Without proper management, the potential financial, legal and reputational ramifications for local authorities of supply chain failure — such as supplier cost overruns, data privacy breaches or mismanaged social care contracts — could be disastrous, says the insurer.

A survey of risk managers, conducted in tandem with the report, shows that whilst the majority acknowledge that partnership and outsourced working have generated new types of risk, few are considering non-traditional risks before contracting a partner, changing practices to embrace these risks or amending their disaster recovery or risk management plans. Furthermore, risk managers confess to feeling distanced from the day-to-day management of partnerships and claim the issue needs greater recognition and increased integration at a senior management level, particularly amongst those heading up partnership activity.

Independently authored by David Kaye, an expert in supply chain risk, the report marks the launch of Zurich Municipal’s “New World of Risk” campaign to provide local authority executive leaders, managers and service providers with leading edge advice and guidance about managing risk within the dramatically changing local government landscape.
Local authorities are taking on new roles and responsibilities as well as an outsourced business model that, in many cases, is leading to an entirely new risk profile and serious challenges, notes Kaye.
“Outsourcing a critical service need is so much more than subcontracting and delivery dates,” he says. “It is a process littered with reputational and political pitfalls as well as statutory and legal risk. These risks need to be actively managed, early on in the process, with clear exit strategies and business continuity plans in place. Without imposing this sort of control environment, at a senior level, both the risk and cost of partnerships could spiral.”

Andrew Jepp, head of local government at Zurich Municipal, added: “The recent and rapid migration of local authorities from service providers to strategic commissioners has engendered initial cost and efficiency savings, but also given rise to new risks that could mean higher costs in the end. Outsourcing services or outcome delivery to a selected partner or partners does not automatically devolve contractual, legal or moral responsibilities; if anything it heightens the importance of direct and thorough risk management.”
The report can be downloaded at:
http://www.newworldofrisk.co.uk/


Robocop Mayor takes on DVLA ... another NCP Services scandal

A reminder to ALL civil servants ... be there to serve not to threaten ... and be civil while you do so. The silent majority are starting to get a little agitated with paid public servants abusing their authority.

This week we revealed the £160,000 Employment Tribunal settlement of NCP Services Manager Geoff Topliss who courageously whistleblew on an alleged fraud on the DVLA by his company who also run many local authority contracts.

This is the same NCP Services Ltd. who 'took over' many council's parking enforcement contracts from National Car Parks Ltd. yet appeared to forget (and so did many of the councils) simple protocols, in some local authority areas, like getting written permission and consent in accordance with the council's own constitution.
At the minute there are a lot of chickens laying lots of eggs ready for lots of faces.
District Auditors are 'seeking counsel's opinion' for the second time as pressure mounts.
Members of Parliament and councillors are preparing to call for an inquiry.

Meanwhile, more documentation is being made available but there is a distinct lack of any paperwork in relation to the Sunderland NCP Services parking enforcement contract. What must be borne in mind is this little timeline:
  • 2nd October 2006 BBC Documentary exposes fraud, bribery and falsification of documents by National Car Parks Ltd. employees on the Sunderland parking contract.
  • 11 National Car Parks employees suspended and then dismissed or resign.
  • Council investigates tell National Car Parks that their contract will be terminated due to their failure ... but not until December 2007 and who lost the contract? National Car Parks Ltd. or NCP Services Ltd.?
  • Meanwhile, sale of National Car Parks to Macquarie Bank for £790m in March 2007 goes through.
  • March 13th NCP Services created as a new limited company and 'take over' the Sunderland contract and other council contracts across the country. Nothing in writing. No bonds or parent company guarantees and nothing done in accordance with the council's constitution.
  • Question is ... who allowed this to happen and why?
Meanwhile, the DVLA are set to come under more pressure as another maverick campaigns against unacceptable behaviour by public authorities.

A new dawn is breaking ... Britain's motorists are now starting to fight back and bite back and starting to win. There are a number of council officials who have thought that they could hide their behaviour behind the enormity of their office ... but the game's up and its only a matter of time before charges are laid and papers served.

Elected Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon is another man of integrity and a man of principle and is now prepared to fight the motorists fight against the authorities and unaccountable executive agencies who have been awarded power to fine without challenge.

As with decriminalised parking where local authorities have been allowed to run out of control without any scrutiny or recourse to a court of law, Ray highlights the same with the DVLA.

Big Brother casts longer shadow
Northern Echo
Friday 10th July 2009
DESPITE everything, Britain remains at heart a law-abiding, peaceful nation.
It is a country where queues are orderly and seats on buses are given up for elderly people.
So, I find it ironic, incredible even, that this tolerant, unassuming society is governed as if most citizens were invariably up to no good. State interference, through unaccountable executive agencies to which government has abdicated, rather than delegated, power is now a serious problem. That is, of course, a typical British understatement.
Readers will know I am having dealings with one of these agencies, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) over what I see as its denial of a basic legal right.
Fail to tell the DVLA you’ve sold your car and you get a £50 penalty. Having looked into this matter, I’ve concluded there appears to be no mechanism to dispute the matter or request what I always naively assumed to be a basic right, namely to have your day in court so you can test this assumption of guilt.

I’ve also found out three things. Firstly, many other people who would normally never have a cross word with authority are angry about this arbitrary behaviour. The second is that the legislation on which the DVLA bases its outrageous behaviour is badly drafted to the point of being incomprehensible.

The third and most telling point is that everyone I have spoken to believes the motive behind all this is income generation. The DVLA has collected £3m from out-of-court settlements in three years.

It is, of course, dwarfed by the amount that the Government has made from speed cameras, responsible for most of the £88m levied annually for speeding offences.
I had two conversations about speeding this week, the first with someone who believed every infringement should be punished.

The second was with a retired police officer who had done a long stint in traffic. He felt that often a word of advice or warning was more appropriate and effective than a fine. I agree with him. I do so because we understand people far better than we do machines.

A frank discussion with a police officer will make you think more about your driving habits than a fixed penalty notice. One makes you reflect on the effect your driving has on your own and other road users’ safety. The other leaves you fuming as you think about the scores of times you have had to cope with someone else’s inconsiderate or dangerous driving and seen it go unpunished.
IT’S been said that 100 years ago a lawabiding citizen could go from cradle to grave without crossing the path of officialdom.

We can’t return to those days, but we can surely do something about government agencies that irritate and alienate decent citizens by treating them as mere cash cows.

A few people take them on – Neil Herron, the Metric Martyrs campaigner, does so effectively.
We need more people to stand up and fight everyone’s corner.

I recently bought a TV, paying cash. I was told it was a legal requirement to fill in a form with my name and address. You could not think of anything dafter, so I suppose it must be right. Perhaps it’s so the TV licensing agency can send you one of the threatening letters I get people – mostly elderly and very upset people – complaining about to me. But more of that another time.
The anonymous, arbitrary agencies that control too many aspects of our lives are souring relations between government and people. They need to be reminded their prime purpose is to serve, not threaten us.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

Highway Robbery? You guessed it ... Camden Council again.

Highway robbery. And that’s official
They took my car away. I am powerless

Hugo Rifkind
From The Times
July 3, 2009
Away on holiday, and the bastards stole my car. I’ve spoken to the police but they can’t help. These bastards, you see, they’re connected. They’re the biggest, meanest, most chiselling bunch of organised crooks from WC1 to N3. They’re known by all sorts of names, many of them unprintable. To most, though, they go by the moniker of “Camden Council”.

We’re talking actual stealing here. I am faultless. They suspended a parking bay, on which my car was parked, and then, because I hadn’t moved it, they took it away.

What could I do? I wasn’t there. I didn’t even realise it had gone until yesterday, when I cycled past the place where it glaringly wasn’t. Did they just move it across the street, so they could get on with their lives? Did they hell. They took it to the pound and they want £260 to give it back.

That seems a pretty clear case of theft to me. And extortion with menaces, to boot. The Mob insists otherwise. They seem to feel they’re punishing me. But what for? Do they think I should have driven to the South of France? With my whole family? In an old Mini?
“You might get it back on appeal,” said the bloke from the council, who was keen to be helpful. Appeal? Might? Get it back? God, I wish we could swear on this page. You steal my car when my back is turned, steal my money to my face and then expect me to feel grateful that I’m allowed to beg for it to be returned?

And there’s no way out. If I don’t pay up, they’ll ratchet the fine up by £40 a day for 56 days until it’s almost two and a half grand. Who can afford that? I can’t. Even some members of the Shadow Cabinet probably can’t.
And if I just let them squash it (and I’m tempted, even though I've owned it since I passed my test and it would probably make me cry) then — get this — I still have to pay £120. For the parking ticket. Which they issued to my car, which I had parked entirely legally, so that they could steal it.

Does it look terribly self-important, for a columnist to bang on about this sort of thing just because it’s happened to them?

Sure, probably. It just struck me, as I hung up, sweating, that maybe columnists don’t bang on about these little miseries enough. We always worry about the big things; the fiddled expenses, the bomb plots, Jordan’s boobs, the lies that lead to wars. It’s the little things, however, that pollute our lives so much more. The receptionist at A&E, your electricity bill, the new wheelie bin, the traffic jam, the cancelled flight, the delivery that never arrives.

It’s the powerlessness, always, against these shapeless systems that seem to hate us, and leave us no option but to hate them back. It’s awful. What a way to live. What a place. What bastards


Private clamping 'legally shaky'

BBC News
By Tom Symonds
Transport correspondent, BBC News

The clamping of cars by private companies in England and Wales is legally shaky and could breach human rights, the RAC Foundation has claimed.
It says sometimes "exorbitant" fines are demanded without legal process and it wants to see laws changed.

Clamping cars also prevents drivers from putting right the obstruction they caused, the motoring body argues.
The Home Office is carrying out a consultation and intends to tighten the regulations governing private clampers.

Private clampers are separate from the council parking attendants who look after on-street parking and public car parks.
They have the right, on behalf of the landowner, to clamp a vehicle and charge the owner for the clamp to be removed.

The current regulations require signs to be prominently displayed to warn drivers.
Individual clampers also have to be registered with the Security Industries Association in England and Wales. Clamping is outlawed in Scotland.
The Home Office consultation proposes a new system of regulation under which both individual clampers and their company have to be accredited and vetted.
They would have to introduce an appeals procedure for drivers who believe they have been unfairly treated.

'Perverse'
But in the RAC Foundation's report, barrister Dr Chris Elliot says clamping by such companies could breach human rights.
"The Home Office is proposing a new licensing regime for private clampers but it is arguable that, if the release fee is unreasonable, their actions are incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998, which demands that punishment should only come after a proper legal process."
He also argues clamping is perverse.
"The purpose of clamping is to prevent a vehicle being removed from land it should not be on," he says. "It causes the harm to the landowner to persist. It is in effect, a 'self-inflicted wound'".
The RAC wants someone to challenge the law in court, or for the government to set out new legislation to legitimise clamping.

Currently, some companies stick to the rules and keep the fee they demand for removing the clamp within guidelines issued by the British Parking Association.
But the industry has a major problem with "cowboy clampers".
In one case, 18-year-old Emily Ritson found her car had disappeared nine minutes after a parking ticket expired at 10 o'clock at night. The police told her it had probably been removed by a clamping company.
Her father, Nigel, told the BBC: "I was really upset and angry because she's only 18 and she was 80 miles from home."
"I suspect they just towed the car away the second the ticket had expired."
After he was asked to pay £390 pounds to get it back, his response was: "You've got to be kidding. She was only nine minutes late."
Emily had to be rescued by a distant relative because the company would not return her car until the morning.
Mr Ritson said: "The man on the other end of the phone just said 'That's not my problem' and put the phone down on me."
Mr Ritson later won compensation in court.
'Stupid money'

But there are legitimate operations which stay within the current, fairly loose rules.
Approved Parking Services, in Maidstone, Kent, told the BBC it was a licensed clamper that charges £125 to remove a clamp.
But the company claimed other companies worked without proper accreditation.
Craig Reade, the company's managing director, said: "I know of cowboys who put four clamps on a car and then charge £200 for each one to be removed.
"Some of these vehicles aren't even clamped. They're being towed away and charged stupid money to get them back."
Mr Reade said he was regularly approached by local landowners wanting their land patrolled. His company provides the service for free, but keeps all the proceeds from the fines.
However, motorists are not afraid to fight back.
Experienced clamper Clive Woodend said he had years of abuse from motorists.
"I've been kicked, punched, threatened with being stabbed and all sorts. People don't like to accept being clamped."
Clamper Clive Woodend: ''I have been kicked and punched''


video


'Anti-scrap' scheme auctions untaxed cars

Motoring News
Thousands of cars seized for tax evasion are to be auctioned rather than scrapped, under a scheme beginning this week.
Following an eight-month trial,
Newport Auctions in south Wales won the contract to hold a fortnightly sale of around 150 of the most valuable seized cars. The first auction was held on Tuesday 7 July, with prospective buyers able to bid in person and online.
The scheme provides an alternative to the Government's cash-for-bangers' programme, which allows motorists who own a car or small van that is more than ten years old to scrap the vehicle in return for a �2,000 discount on a new purchase.

Previously, more than 100,000 untaxed vehicles were crushed on behalf of the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency (DVLA) every year. The new scheme could reduce that number by around 4%.
Managing director for Newport Auctions, Jon Collingbourne, said: "The current car scrappage scheme is all well and good for those who can afford it, but many people just want a comparatively new, good quality, clean, tidy motor. Well, that about sums up 90% of the stock that we will auction."
Untaxed vehicles are seized on behalf of the DVLA by NSL Services Group, formerly NCP Services.

Commenting on the new auction, NSL's head of communications Tim Cowen said there was no excuse for failing to tax a vehicle.
"Some of the untaxed vehicles we seize are very good cars, and we are very pleased to be working with Newport Auctions to help make these available to law-abiding drivers," he added.


A £50 bounty for every car clamped: Scandal of motorists targeted on private land

Daily Mail
'Bounty hunter' wheelclampers are being paid £50 for every car they immobilise.
Private firms are offering the service free to landowners - and are paying their workers commission from the charges they impose to free the vehicle.
Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat Transport spokesman who uncovered the figures, said clampers were being given an 'outrageous' incentive to immobilise vehicles for profit.

His party has produced a dossier which shows firms touting for business.
One internet advert for a company named Crown Guarding, operating in the Hertfordshire area but giving only a mobile phone number as a contact, is offering £50 per vehicle commission.

It sets a minimum target of 'five clamps per day' and is looking for a clamper 'prepared to work hard and who is hungry to earn money'.
The scandal coincides with a report from the RAC Foundation saying that clamping companies are acting illegally by imposing an exorbitant charge for releasing cars which have been clamped or towed away.

The RAC says the law is wrong and 'open to challenge', and that it will support with its evidence any attempt to challenge it in court.

Both the RAC Foundation and the Liberal Democrats are calling for car clamping on private land to be outlawed altogether, as has been the case since 1992 in Scotland where anyone trying it is guilty of 'extortion'.

'Private land' ranges from pub car parks to derelict lots in city centres and even land belonging to church buildings and community centres.
The Home Office is consulting on a review of clamping legislation and expects to issue a report which will propose compulsory licensing of clamping companies rather than simply their employees.

The LibDem dossier highlights scores of companies offering commission-only or free clamping services.

One, Regional Parking Services, said: 'Our services are completed free of charge.
Yes, that's right. You (our client) pay us nothing for regulating parking on your private property. This includes our wheel clamping services, vehicle towing and illegal parking.'

Mr Baker said: 'It is outrageous that a private company, whose income may be directly related to the number of clamps put on vehicles, can demand huge sums from motorists who may well have committed no offence or infringed no parking conditions.

'It is quite wrong that there should be financial incentives for private companies to go round clamping vehicles.
'Clamping should be carried out only by public bodies such as the police or councils, or agents acting for them on a fixed-contract basis.'
He added: 'In other cases, such as with parking tickets, a motorist has a right of appeal to the courts.
With clamps, they have to pay up there and then if they want their car back, no matter how exorbitant the fee, and even if they think it has been wrongly issued.
The RAC report says wheel clampers are acting illegally by imposing huge charges for the release of cars parked on private land.

The concept of one citizen 'punishing' another is alien in English law, according to barrister Dr Chris Elliott.
He adds that clamping vehicles on private land could also breach human rights and is 'perverse'.
Dr Elliott said: 'The Home Office is proposing a new licensing regime for private clampers, but it is arguable that, if the release fee is unreasonable, their actions are incompatible with the Human Rights Act.'



Monday, July 06, 2009

Another little victory for the motorist ...

Well done to Durham County Council for volunteering the refunds immediately. If there is a Traffic Order problem then it also applies to tickets

Parking fine win is ‘one for the little person’ Monday 6th July 2009
By Gavin Engelbrecht

A COUNCIL could have to pay back thousands of pounds in parking fines after a lecturer successfully challenged an £80 ticket.
Margaret Bond appealed against a penalty charge incurred for parking on the banks of the River Wear, in Durham city centre.
She had rushed to the city’s Silver Street to help a teenage friend who was being harassed by a gang of youngsters.
When she returned to her Peugeot 307 – only ten minutes later – a traffic warden had issued a parking ticket.

Ms Bond initially challenged the ticket on grounds of insufficient signage but, after hours of reading through traffic law, she found more far-reaching implications.
Her ticket was issued for parking in Fowler’s Yard – not, as it should have been – for Back Silver Street.
Following a traffic penalty tribunal, the council said it would refund other fines paid for tickets for “Fowler’s Yard”.

A council spokeswoman said since the authority took over responsibility for parking enforcement in November last year, 132 tickets had been issued at the location.
She said: “We are unable to say if any of these were issued for Fowler’s Yard. However, if motorists are able to show that they have received a notice in this location with the name Fowler’s Yard on it, we will be pleased to refund any payment.”

Ms Bond said: “At first I was just relieved to get my friend back to the car and wanted to get home. But then I thought it’s time the little person fought back.”

The 55-year-old endured two unsuccessful appeals before, following a hearing at the Holiday Inn, in Seaton Burn, North Tyneside, on June 16, adjudicator David Binns ruled the council had not proved its no waiting restriction covered Fowler’s Yard and ordered the fine be cancelled.
Ms Bond, of Brandon, County Durham, has now established Best Play Fair, to campaign on consumer issues.
She said the group had 20 cases outstanding against banks, credit agencies, energy providers and local authorities and had recouped £4,000.
“I believe in fair play and I don’t think we’re getting it in all cases.
“Everybody’s got a story of being overcharged, or of being taken advantage of. Our mantra is – challenge it.”


For more information, email bestplayfair@tiscali.co.uk To challenge a Fowler’s Yard parking ticket visit County Hall, Durham City, or write to the council’s parking services.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

NCP Services Whistleblower wins case ...


Do you work as a Civil Enforcement Officer and have concerns over the legality of your actions?

Do you work for a council in the Parking Services Department or Highways or even the legal department and have concerns over the legality of your council's enforcement?
Read the decision below...

NCP Services employee Geoff Topliss wins unfair dismissal case following allegations of fraud

A former NCP Services Ltd employee who claimed he was unfairly dismissed after alleging that NCP Services Ltd had defrauded the DVLA of over £1m has won his case at an employment tribunal today (11 December).

Geoff Topliss, of Canterbury, Kent, was represented by Tony Bertin, of Employment Relations Solicitors, at the Central London Employment Tribunal. The tribunal has awarded him over £160,000 in compensation and costs.

Read more here and the full decision here
Contact details for the firm that handled his case here


More scandal in Camden. Report reveals mystery behind Parking Boss' departure

More spotlights being shone on Camden. Read the article below ...

‘Boss used role to bin parking tickets’
Council chief left over breach in rules
Camden New Journal
2nd July 2009

A COUNCIL boss used his high rank to award himself a permit for hassle-free parking outside his home, the Town Hall has confirmed. The member of staff also used his seniority in Camden Council’s hierachy to waive valid parking tickets. Both actions amounted to a “breach in regulations” according to the council.
A new report circulated at the Town Hall confirms the details of the complaints and warns that it may have led to “potential for reputational damage”. The report was discussed by councillors sitting on the Town Hall’s audit committee on Thursday night and confirms that the manager had left the council over the affair. It follows a difficult 12 months for the parking department which has seen several changes of personnel and complaints about its effectiveness. The contract of interim parking manager John Meyer was not renewed at Christmas amid council claims that he had made “errors of judgement”.

Following his sudden departure, officials said his actions were “not compatible with the public profile of the post”. Mr Meyer, a well-known face within the parking industry, was brought in to give the department a shake-up amid confusion as to why the council was raising £4million less than forecasted. He was expected to stay until this summer, and was also tasked with helping to guide the much-maligned department through the process of handing a new deal to private contractors aiming to run the borough’s uniformed warden service.

A supersized contract is expected to be awarded early next year. Mr Meyer declined to comment on his exit from the council did not expand on its statement, other than to say that no disciplinary action was taken against him despite one anonymous complaint.

The new council report said: “A senior member of temporary staff breached council regulations by using business parking dispensation to park at his private residence and used authority to get tickets waived.”A council spokesman said: “We take misconduct very seriously.“

In December 2008 a temporary member of staff was found to have misused the council’s business parking dispensation to park at his private residence. His services were therefore immediately terminated.”

Council report here



District Auditor to investigate breach of council's own constitution

This investigation began with a spelling mistake. On 24th October 2007 I posted a story here about a hospital car park and used the logo of the company, who I believed was the hospital's enforcement contractor. Within minutes I had received an e-mail from NCP Services Head of Communications, Tim Cowen which stated:

"Neil,
You seem to be confused between NCP Services and NCP. They are two separate companies (used to be one and the same but were separated in March and are now separately owned).The hospital car parks in question are, I believe, run by NCP, so I would be obliged if you could remove the NCP Services logo. I work for NCP Services, which does not run any local services in Humberside. You spelt "indefensible" wrong as well

Cheers.
Tim Cowen
Director of Communications
NCP Services


With the NCP Services logo removed and replaced with that of National Car Parks Ltd. (and my spelling mistake corrected) an investigation began.
This resulted, around a year ago, in objections to the 2007-8 accounts in a number of council areas due to the fact that the original enforcement contracts (between the council and National Car Parks Ltd.) had been transferred to a newly formed company NCP Services Ltd. in what appeared, from the evidence obtained, to be a breach of the Councils' own constitutions.
The District Auditor is currently seeking counsel's opinion on the breach and Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister Norman Baker has raised the matter with his own council in Lewes East Sussex.
For the avoidance of doubt, Andrew Potter, Chief Executive of National Car Parks Ltd. cleared up the point as to whether National Car Parks Ltd. and NCP Services Ltd. were the same company with the letter (below) to the Sunderland Echo.














Sunderland did originally enter into a contract with National Car Parks Ltd. in January 2003 but after the BBC Inside Out programme was aired on 2nd October 2006 an internal investigation began which saw the sacking or resignation of 11 National Car Parks Parking Attendants and the eventual removal of the regime from the contract when the council took enforcement 'in-house' on 1st December 2007.

However, whilst all this furore was going on and the internal investigations were being conducted National Car Parks Ltd. 'de-merged' on 13th March 2007.

In Sunderland, the contract was simply transferred across by council officers without, as yet any evidence of anything in writing (in the form of minutes, legal advice, treasurer's advice) and without reference to the executive. This is in clear breach of the council's own constitution which clearly sets out Financial Procedures in such circumstances. and is now the subject of the investigation.
In other local authority areas legal advice led to 'novation agreements' hastily being put in place some time in 2008 but no such agreements were able to be put in place in Sunderland due to the fact that neither National Car Parks Ltd. or NCP Services Ltd. had any responsibility for on-street enforcement.

Once objections were lodged the District Auditor has a duty to investigate and they are now seeking counsel's opinion for the second time, this time specifically to decide on whether there has been a breach to the council's own constitution by 'an officer' who has acted without authority.
Documents released from the London Borough of Camden are quite revealing:





Wonder why this Parking Attendant tried to hide his uniform here



The story breaks in today's Sunday Sun
Sunderland Council in parking fines payback
Phil Doherty
Sunday Sun
5th July 2009

A NORTH council could be forced to pay back tens of thousands of pounds in parking fines because it failed to follow its own rules, according to campaigners.
They claim that Sunderland City Council failed to follow its own constitution and local government rules when NCP Parking Ltd was replaced by NCP Service Ltd in 2007/8.
More ...



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