Monday, August 31, 2009
However, the fact that council officers KNEW the restrictions were unlawful is likely to lead to claims for damages and costs in addition to refunds ... and a queue at the jobcentre for highways engineers and parking managers who decided that their council was above the law.
'Council should repay victims of parking bay'
Aug 27 2009
By Michael Russell
AN ANGRY motorist says the council has effectively admitted it was wrong by repainting incorrect parking bay markings and should repay those caught in them before the change.
The town hall admitted there was a technical problem with the white lines in August last year which Nazma Begum says led to it pulling out of an appeal hearing over her ticket.
She said the lines at either ends of many stretches of residents' bays, which are not marked out individually, did not follow regulations set put by the Department for Transport as a double line rather than a single one is painted at each end.
At the time the council said it would be too costly to change them and the changes would reduce parking capacity - but they have since painted over the mistake.
Miss Begum, a Thames Valley University student, said: "They don't care about mitigating circumstances, we have to follow the regulations to the letter so they should too."
The 22-year-old was given a ticket last year after she mistook a residents' bay for a pay and display space in Warwick Road, Ealing.
A visit to the website www.ticketfighter.co.uk enlightened her to the council's mistake and armed with the new information she says she forced the council to back down.
She then submitted a freedom of information request and discovered 27 people had paid tickets after parking in the same bay from August 8 2008 and January 25 while the markings were still incorrect.
And that the council had received more than £4.3m in fines from motorists parking in residents' bays in the past five years.
Miss Begum, of Brent, added: "The council are greedy, they just want to take money off you, they don't care who you are. Are they going to repay motorists who parked in wrongly-marked bays and if there was no problem with them then why have they changed them?"
The owner of the ticketfighter website added that in recent months a number of motorists had won appeals against other councils on the grounds bays were incorrectly marked.
An Ealing Council spokeswoman said: "The bays have always been clearly marked and enforced. As part of a rolling road markings programme our contractor repaints worn away lines. It has been removing some markings in order to maintain a consistent approach with other parking bays across the borough.
"This has been done as part of the ongoing programme over recent months and at no additional cost to the council."
Class actions: why are we waiting?
When is a class action not a class action? When it’s a collective redress scheme or a representative action or basically anything that does not sound like loony American litigation.
Whatever you call it, however, the idea of bringing a case on behalf of a group of consumers who have to opt out of the action — rather than opt in, as now — is slowly gaining ground. But with the business community united in opposition, slow is the operative word.
Last month the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) accepted that “there may be circumstances where cases could be brought more efficiently on a collective basis”, but then promptly rejected the idea of introducing a generic procedure applicable to all cases.
Responding to recommendations from the Civil Justice Council (CJC), the MoJ said that each government department should assess whether there is evidence of need for a collective redress procedure sector by sector, with the help of a policy framework that the MoJ is developing. If so, the department will decide how it will work.
“It may be the Government’s way of kicking the CJC proposal into the long grass,” says John Meltzer, head of the product liability network at Lovells, the City firm. “Unless the ministry is really prepared to drive the process of reform, I doubt other departments are going to have the appetite to do it.”
The council wants only to add opt-out actions to the options for bringing group claims — not replace them — but it is a sign of the controversy they provoke that it counts as progress that the ministry did not shelve the idea entirely.
Robert Musgrove, chief executive of the council, is pleased that the Ministry of Justice accepted most of its recommendations, saying they “should herald considerable improvements in access to justice”. These were based on research that found “overwhelming evidence” that the system is preventing meritorious consumer claims from being pursued. Getting the balance right between developing more effective procedures for people to bring meritorious claims, protecting defendants from non-meritorious claims and ensuring that court proceedings are only ever utilised where there are no more efficient or timely routes to redress, has been challenging,” he says.
Ingrid Gubbay, a co-author of the CJC’s report and consultant in the London office of Hausfeld, the US class action firm, is less diplomatic. She suggests that the Government is worried in part about finding itself on the receiving end of class actions even though, in reality, such cases would be tough to bring, as the Equitable Life action proves.
“The sector-by-sector approach is a way of slowing down almost to a halt any possibility of bringing in any effective procedure,” she says, “and does raise a credibility question as to how far the response may be selfserving.”
With litigation seen as the last resort, the ministry highlighted regulatory action as potentially “a more cost-effective way of dealing with cases involving a large number of small claims”, which Meltzer says is in keeping with the European approach.
It also sounds like a veiled reference to the case Which? brought against JJB Sports over football shirt pricefixing, in which consumers who bought offending strips could claim £20. But Gubbay, who previously worked at Which? and launched the action, says that requires consumer groups, charities and trade unions — as well as regulators — to make private enforcement a priority. Few seem willing or able to do this.
The council has tried to make its proposals look as little like US class actions as possible, despite research indicating that the reality is not as loony as the myths anyway, in an effort to reassure the business community that they would not lead to a mass of speculative claims. To the extent that opt-out is a feature of US class actions, then such cases are US-style, but equally they are Canadian and Australian-style. What makes US class actions scary are contingency fees, punitive damages and no loser-pays rule; and we are a long way from that.
It is also often forgotten that class actions help defendants, too, by consolidating all claimants into one action and offering finality.
Not everyone thinks they will now rest quietly in the long grass. The European Commission is looking closely at collective redress, while an as-yet unpublished report commissioned by the Government Equalities Office calls for opt-out actions to be tried out in employment tribunals to deal with the thousands of group discrimination and equal pay cases clogging up the system.
Tim Strong, a partner at Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, the City firm, believes the present climate provides fertile ground for government departments to get on and examine whether they need such actions. “Lord Justice Jackson’s costs review has focused attention on the high cost of litigation in the UK and issues of access to justice,” he says. “In addition, there are now large classes of claimants with recession-based claims against their financial advisers and others. The issue of collective actions may therefore be near the top of many government departments’ ‘to do’ lists come early 2010.”
As for charging for hospital car parks ... free in Scotland, free in Wales and hospital trusts in England filling their boots with a tax on the sick, the elderly and front line health workers. What has this country come to?
Local authorities breach parking guidelines
Consumer group Which? says motorists are being penalised unfairly when issued with parking tickets
18th August 2009
Six local authority councils have been accused by the consumer watchdog Which? of breaching Government guidelines by setting targets for the number of parking tickets issued by their wardens.
A freedom of information request by Which? found that the councils - Basildon, Richmond upon Thames, Lewisham, Bromley, Shropshire and Carmarthenshire - all “expect a certain number of tickets to be issued.”
Setting such targets is against Department for Transport guidelines.
The Department for Transport said: “Our guidance to local authorities is clear that they should not set targets for the number of penalty charge notices they issue. Parking charges are a tool to manage demand for road use and they should not be used as a revenue raising measure.
"Local authorities are expected to comply with our guidance and are accountable to their electorates, auditor and the courts. Any concerns about the operations of local councils should be raised with the council leader or local ombudsman.”
Which? also found that some healthcare trusts in England, such as Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital and Southampton University Hospitals, are making more than a million pounds a year from hospital car park fees. Others are making losses and subsidising their car parks from money intended for healthcare, according to Which.
Martyn Hocking, editor of Which? magazine, said: "There are good reasons why hospitals charge for their car parks but if they're making large profits, there's clearly scope to reduce the amount they charge."
Which? added that many parking signs in urban areas are obscured or have defunct phone numbers and that the parking fines charged, of between £100-£360, may also be too high.
Hocking said: "Of course it's fair to stop people parking on your land or to charge them a fee for the privilege, but it should be absolutely clear where people can and can't park, and what the charges and penalties are. It's not right that huge sums can be extracted from unsuspecting drivers, or that incentive schemes can be used to discourage people from appealing fines.”
Patrick Troy, chief executive of the British Parking Association, said: “With nearly 30 million cars on the road in the UK, parking management and enforcement is essential for daily life, namely for reducing congestion, improving road safety, encouraging sustainable methods of transport and stimulating local economies. There is always room for improvement and we are committed to working with our members, partners and government to improve legislation, rid the industry of bad practices and set new ground rules, to make life easier for all.”
Croydon Road Watch speed 'vigilantes' plan slammed
Wednesday 26th August 2009
By Kirsty Whalley »
Campaigners have slammed a scheme where members of the public acting like roadside “vigilantes” in a volunteer scheme to cut speeding.
Under the Road Watch scheme, volunteers take to the streets at speeding hot spots and record details of drivers travelling too fast.
These are then passed to the police who send speeding drivers a warning letter.
Drivers who continue to speed receive stronger letters and can get an £80 fine and three penalty points on their licence.
But campaigners said policing crime should be left to police officers.
Neil Herron, of the London Motorist Action Group (LMAG), said: “We cannot have Joe Public in any shape or form enforcing traffic law. We must have the police enforcing criminal offences on the highway.
“Even with the best intentions in the world, the system is open to abuse. When you start to blur the lines between the public and the police, you get into dangerous territory where you have vigilante members of the public having to prove people are guilty of speeding.”
Roger Capham, Kenley Road Watch volunteer co-ordinator, said the scheme had been successful and he was often thanked by neighbours.
He said they were visible on the roadside in their bright yellow jackets and worked in pairs, with one person clocking the speeds and another taking down the car’s details.
They do not have the power to stop anyone.
He said they used to have a PCSO with them but now go out on their own.
He said: “It’s good for the community to take part and we feel we’re doing our part.
“I trust the roads more now. We’re having to stop less and less people – they never know where we’re going to pop up.”
He said they were looking for more volunteers to restore their numbers to seven people.
The scheme has been piloted in Kenley and Sanderstead since 2007 and has been rolled out across the borough.
Croydon Council has spent £25,000 on equipment for the scheme so far. They spent £10,000 in 2007 and £15,000 in late 2008. The initial £10,000 amounted to a quarter of Croydon’s road safety budget.
The police do not have any official figures about how many letters or fines have been issued to speeding drivers.
Sergeant Paul Potter, of the Kenley safer neighbourhood team, said they sent out an average of four letters after each hour-long session.
He said: “The presence of volunteers carrying out speed checks under the Road Watch scheme appears to be having a detrimental effect on speeding vehicles.
“We are committed to supporting this initiative, which hand in hand with other police enforcement measures, is an effective way of identifying persistent speeders and dealing with them by way of deterrent or enforcement.”
• What do you think? Let us know by email here, phone the newsdesk on 020 8330 9555 or leave a comment below.
Actor Edward Fox signs to help heroes
27 August 2009
By James Johnston
Veteran actor Edward Fox has signed up for a Wearside charity drive in aid of injured soldiers.
The star of films including The Day of the Jackal, A Bridge Too Far and Gandhi, recently penned a moving tribute to Metric Martyr Steve Thoburn in the Food for Heroes cookbook, which will benefit the charity Help for Heroes. Now the British actor has signed eight copies of the book, which will be auctioned off by the Echo to raise further funds for the organisation. Neil Herron, a close friend of the late Mr Thoburn, had the books signed on a visit to London earlier this month.
He said: "I personally hope that people from Sunderland will help support the Help for Heroes charity which is a noble and worthy cause."We must never forget the sacrifices that our troops make on our behalf and we must as a nation give the very best of care and respect for those who have been injured. The charity deserves our support."
Mr Thoburn, who died suddenly in 2004, aged 39, hit the headlines in 2001 after being prosecuted for selling fruit and vegetables by the pound. His appeals against conviction were taken to the House of Lords and European Court of Human Rights.In 2007, the European Commission published proposals that would permit the use of price and quantity marking using imperial measurements alongside, but not instead of, metric units. A hundred people were asked to nominate their hero and the dish they would cook for them, and the book is the result.Fox's recipe is Panga (a type of fish) Tandoori.
Mr Thoburn became famous after his scales were seized from his market stall by trading standards officers who caught him selling bananas by the pound. It triggered a legal battle in which he was joined by four other traders from across the country to fight European regulations requiring food traders to sell produce in metric measurements. Their legal battle was funded through the Metric Martyr Defence Fund, raised from donations by the public. Supporters continue to push for a posthumous Royal Pardon for Mr Thoburn and the four other martyrs. Another signed copy of the Food for Heroes cookbook has been presented to Mr Thoburn's widow, Leigh, and his family.
Mr Herron added: "Leigh says that she is really proud to have Steve named as Edward Fox's hero in the book and it is a fantastic legacy for her and the children to have a copy personally signed by Edward Fox."
Anyone who wishes to make a bid for a signed copy of the book can email email@example.com
Food for Heroes is available at all good stockists, price £14.99.
Alternatively you can visit these websites:
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Perhaps we should have a look and see where that money could really come from and let the ones whose failings have caused the problem have their fat cat salaries slashed.
Let us hope, in the first instance, that no bonuses are paid to those responsible for the credit card surcharge fiasco.
Peeping through the audit window – it’s a sight for sore council taxpayers
Camden New Journal
News - EXCLUSIVE By RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 20 August 2009
A recession, but top 25 bosses still pocketing fat bonuses
• Nearly £100k in payouts for errors
• Thousands shelled out on their own parking fines
SECRET details of spending at the Town Hall on everything from parking fines incurred by the council’s own staff to meaty bonuses for high-earners have been uncovered by a New Journal investigation.
Using the little known powers of the 1998 Audit Commission Act, we have accessed a series of previously confidential documents which show how the council has handled its finances during 12 months of economic turbulence. They show that despite the tough times, the council has been able to find money to reward its top earners with incentives and to pay out for scores of parking fines slapped on their own vehicles.
Documents seen by the New Journal show:
* Highly-paid senior staff have together been treated to more than £170,000 in incentives.
* Camden has spent nearly £2million on severance payments in order to sack people.
* Council staff racked up £15,000 in parking tickets while on work business – effectively £300 a week spent.
*£80,000 was spent on hiring an interim manager who ran the rule over changes in the parking department for little more than six months.
* Compensation pay-outs to members of the public who have suffered as a result of council errors total nearly £100,000.
The details of financial matters are normally locked away in the accounts department but once a year Camden Council is obliged to let people inspect the paperwork during a month-long window.
This requirement under the Audit Commission Act is rarely used by the public, however, and even many of the council’s own officers are unaware of how the “audit window” works.
Other requests for information are still being prepared for the New Journal but the initial figures have already stoked a political debate – especially over the thorny issue of staff bonuses.
The Town Hall was yesterday (Wednesday) defending the use of bonuses to staff, some of whom already take home six figure salaries, insisting that the policy has been in place for several years.
The top earner is Moira Gibb, the chief executive. Critics say that the bonus system, set up during healthier economic times, is hardly appropriate in the current climate. Officials were yesterday (Wednesday) insisting that bonuses to public servants were fair in the context of running a large London authority. Nevertheless, the sharp contrast of pay and income at the Town Hall is open for all to see.
Chief officers earning anything up to £199,000 before any bonus is paid can on any day share a lift at the council’s headquarters with a contract cleaner whose pay does not even hit £7.45 an hour, that’s the Mayor of London’s suggested minimum pay for people working in London.
Labour councillor Theo Blackwell said: “The council now seem utterly confused on pay policy. They accept that higher wages are useful to attract the best, if they are referring to the leader and the chief executive, but in the same breath claim no link between pay and high performance for the lowest paid.”
Cllr Blackwell is now working on an investigation into poorly-paid council staff. He has challenged the leaders of the administration to set a minimum wage for contractors, but was told at one scrutiny panel meeting that policy would not be “made on the hoof”.
Moira Gibb’s predecessor Steve Bundred, now head of the Audit Commission, wrote an article for The Observer last month in which he suggested that council workers should accept pay freezes. A gloomy outlook of hard times ahead has been hammered home to staff with regular reminders that budgets may be cut in the near future. Politicians from all sides have warned of “difficult decisions” for whichever party wins overall power at next year’s boroughwide elections – but yesterday (Wednesday) there was no sign of the bonus system being dismantled.
Liberal Democrat councillor Ralph Scott – the council’s treasurer – said he had not been briefed on who got what under the bonus scheme. “Clearly in the tough economics, everything needs more scrutiny and we need to be careful with resources but this is one of the ways we reward staff for good performance,” he said.
Cllr Scott said it was not a case of paying out bonuses while youth projects and other worthy causes were starved of funding. He added: “I don’t have the details in front of me but obviously it is done on a case by case basis. It is a way of giving encouragement to staff.”
Conservative leader Councillor Andrew Marshall said that the council would have to “keep an eye” on high salaries and bonus payments if the recession worsened.But he added: “These payments are built into the salaries so that there is some performance-related element to what they are paid. I think that’s right. Staff are rewarded for the valuable work they do.”
Bonuses £175k to keep the elite officers sweet
A BONUS system operating at the Town Hall is reserved only for the highest earners and has been retained despite Camden’s diminishing resources in the recession, the figures released to the New Journal show.
The breakdown reveals that £174,760 was paid out on top of basic pay last year with many of the performance-related incentives handed out to staff already on six figure salaries. Among those who qualify for the extra money are chief executive Moira Gibb, whose salary is roughly £185,000 a year, and department directors who can take home £150,000 under the council’s pay scheme.
In total, 25 bonus payments were made to staff in the last year. The New Journal understands that as part of the bonus system senior management sits down and agrees a series of targets that they need to hit in order to qualify for the extra money. A council spokeswoman said yesterday (Wednesday) that those who received the bonuses had large responsibilities and therefore deserved to be given extra money.“Camden demands a lot of its chief officers and we need to attract and retain the best talent in local government,” she said. “Having an element of pay at risk – for example, if a chief officer under performs no bonus would be paid – helps to ensure we have high performance.”
There are no plans to halt the bonus scheme despite the current downturn.The spokeswoman added: “The average bonus is normally around 5 per cent of salary to ensure the scheme is measured and appropriate.”
Saturday, August 22, 2009
It has been revealed that drivers could gain back the money paid in fines on their credit cards.
Over the years, motorists have paid millions of pounds in parking fines, but they now could be in line for refunds, after a test case ruled that town hall surcharges imposed for paying by credit cards are unlawful.
An estimated eight million drivers, around one in four of the total number on the roads, receive a parker ticking each year, paying a predicted £1 billion in fines.
Many choose to pay off this fine with a credit card, either by paying online or via a telephone service. At least 12 councils impose a surcharge on this payment method.
However, this practice was challenged by one driver, who criticised the 1.3% surcharge in Camden. As a result, the adjudicator said councils could not demand money in addition to the fine for the offence itself.
Neil Herron of the motorists’ campaign group Parking Appeals, said he was ready to launch a class action to force town halls to reimburse motorists if they fail to do so voluntarily.
He said: "Yet again we have exposed councils acting unlawfully in their pursuit of the motorist. Councils have a duty to act within the law at all times and yet again their greed, by trying to extract every last drop of cash from the motorist, is going to come back and bite them.
"In this instance they can have no excuses. The legislation is explicitly clear. The process of refunding motorists the full amount could not be simpler."
An AA spokesman said: "These credit card charges have been outrageous. Councils have got their fingers burned and have been caught acting illegally. It shows the extent to which councils have been acting as a law unto themselves."
[ClickPress, Thu Aug 13 2009]
In a test case in which a London motorist challenged the 1.3% surcharge in Camden, his claim was upheld by the adjudicator (the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service), which said that such surcharges are unlawful and councils could not demand money in addition to the fine for the offence itself.
This ruling applies to all fines set by local authorities, including those outside London which have been given the right to monitor parking offences and keep the fines. This ruling opens the way for millions of drivers who have used a credit card for paying a parking fine to claim reimbursement.
If councils choose not to issue refunds to all those entitled to one, they may face a class action launched by the motorists’ campaign group Parking Appeals.
Neil Herron, a spokesman for the group, said that the surcharges were simply a case of greed on the part of councils “trying to extract every last drop of cash from the motorist”.
A spokesman for the AA also attacked the credit card charges, calling them “outrageous” and a demonstration of “the extent to which councils have been acting as a law unto themselves”.
Peter Roberts, chief executive of the Drivers’ Alliance, welcomed the ruling on the test case. “Councils are taking motorists for a ride with countless stealth taxes and petty fines,” he said, and called on “every council [to] return the illegal charges without delay”.
A government spokesman from the Department of Transport added his voice too to the chorus of critics, saying that “Parking charges should be used to manage demand and not to raise revenue.”
What makes the charges all the more indefensible is that paying parking fines by debit and credit cards is actually much cheaper and more secure for local authorities than processing cheques or dealing with cash brought into a parking shop.
Following the ruling, Camden Council has scrapped its policy of levying an extra fee for processing payments made by credit card, a “goodwill move” which it is applying across all council services, not just on parking fines. It said that processing bills through credit cards was costing the authority some £250,000 a year, costs which the charge was intended to cover.
For press enquiries, please contact Peter Cooper on 020 7183 7247
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.247parking.com/
News provided by 24 7 Parking Ltd, a leading marketing services provider to the car parking industry in the UK, and a leading de facto marketplace for buyers and sellers, or lessees and lessors, of car parking spaces. 24 7 Parking carries out daily surveys of the national media to provide up-to-date news and commentary on UK transport.
Those cynics will suggest that this is simply another revenue raiser to fill the council's coffers. I think that there will be many wishing to break this rule!
Just watch as the complaints flood in once the over zealous wardens are let loose. Give them an inch ...
Fines for parking 50cm from kerb
Published Date: 15 August 2009
TARGET Traffic wardens will ticket cars that are parked more than 50cm from kerb
MOTORISTS who park more than 50cm away from the kerb are set to face a £70 fine.
Traffic wardens will take to the streets armed with tape measures to make sure cars aren't sticking out too far. The move by Portsmouth City Council is part of a drive to stop people parking obstructively. But critics say penalising drivers who exceed the 50cm limit – which equates to just under 20 inches – is a step too far.
Deputy Tory leader Councillor Alistair Thomp- son said: 'It is utterly ludicrous to expect our traffic wardens to go around measuring how close people are parked to the kerb.'What about people with wheelchairs or zimmer frames that need a space to get out of the car?' And what next? Will we be fining people who can't park straight?'
The government has given councils the power to enforce the new parking restrictions in a bid to help traffic flow more freely. In the past, parking wardens have had no authority to punish people for obstructing the highway, and had to rely on police. Portsmouth City Council will be implementing the new rules from next month, unless councillors object to the plans.People that double park or park in front of dropped kerbs will also face fines.
Councillor Luke Stubbs, Conservative spokesman for traffic and transportation, said: 'Few people are aware of the 50cm rule, so it's somewhat unfair to issue tickets to those parked only marginally too far out – a warning note would be more just. Other councils are more flexible, automatically fining only those parked a full metre away from the kerb. Perhaps we should do that too.'
Councillor Lynne Stagg, Lib Dem cabinet member for traffic and transport, said: 'The roads in Portsmouth are very narrow, so people that park too far out in the road do make it very difficult for other cars to get past. There is a law which allows us to do this.'
The city council says traffic wardens won't be measuring every parked car. But if they see a car inconsiderately parked they will measure the distance and issue a ticket if the 50cm rule is broken.But Portsmouth driving instructor Dermot Ryan, from iGO Driver Tuition, said most drivers should be able to park well within 50cm of the kerb.
Parking fines review after doctor case
by David Walsh
15th August 2009
A MAJOR review of parking ticket appeals has been launched at Sheffield Council after an A&E doctor, who was 14 minutes late because of an emergency, had his plea for leniency rejected.
Coun Ian Auckland, cabinet member for transport, said he wanted the authority to be "more flexible" and "fairer" over appeals, and for motorists to be given more help to lodge the best possible defence.
He announced the review after Dr Ashish Chaudhry wrote to The Star when his appeal was dismissed.
The medic, who was working in A&E at Sheffield Children's Hospital, received a ticket after being 14 minutes late back to his car because he was dealing with a sick child. He appealed, stating the hospital had been inundated with queries about swine flu and had been working flat out, and that day there were no other doctors available. But Sheffield Council dismissed his claim stating the excuse did not 'constitute grounds to cancel the penalty charge notice'.
However, Coun Auckland ensured the fine was refunded after the doctor wrote to The Star saying his treatment lacked humanity or respect. Now Coun Auckland has announced a wide ranging review aimed at giving officials greater discretion over appeals.
He said: "At the moment there is not enough flexibility in the policy. It could be more flexible - and this case highlights that. "I read the letter and thought, 'He's got a good excuse, are we cancelling enough such cases? And whatever the strength of someone's story, are we making it clear people can appeal?'"
In this particular case, as the doctor leaving his duties could well have caused unnecessary suffering to a child patient, the council felt the ticket should be waived."Officers are writing a report on changes to the appeals system which is set to go before cabinet - and could become policy - in three months, Coun Auckland added. In 2006/07 Sheffield Council raised £5.2 m from parking charges and fines and £1.4 m profit. The council says profits are ploughed back into traffic schemes.
Friday, August 14, 2009
14 August 2009
By Michael Peel
CALDERDALE Council might be forced to pay back thousands of pounds in parking fines because of a legal loophole.
It has been putting a 2.6 per cent surcharge on credit card payments, which is against Department for Transport guidelines.
14 August 2009
ANGRY motorcyclists are expected to descend on Westminster City Hall on Sunday for the latest protest against controversial bike parking charges.
Introduced in August last year, the £150 a year (or £1.50 a day) charge has led to months of protest from bikers, many of who have opted for two wheels in a bid to avoid the congestion charge and parking fees.
In May, parking bosses reduced the rate to £1 and offered 900 free spaces in the council's 14 undercover car parks in a bid to appease campaigners.
But motorcyclists have vowed to keep protesting until the charges - branded a "stealth tax" - are removed.
The situation reached a climax this week following claims that Westminster has failed to answer a vast number of Freedom of Information requests within the statutory time limit - withholding certain documents.
And parking bosses came under further criticism following the breakdown of the Pay by Phone parking system on Tuesday, which left customers forced to phone back every half an hour to pay.
Warren Djanogly, chairman of the No To Bike Parking Tax Campaign, said: "This department is a disgrace and tarnishes the reputation of Westminster City Council as a whole. Not only are they wilfully trying to subvert the objections to their bike parking 'tax', they are delaying a statutory process, and ignoring FoI requests in the hope it will all go away. They need to drop this tax, and then be dropped by this council."
Parking chiefs and business leaders have condemned the group for causing "massive disruption, chaos, congestion, and misery" during rush hour protests. Richard Dickinson, chief executive of New West End Company which represents traders, has warned that continued demonstrations could cost traders millions of pounds in lost revenue.
Monday, August 10, 2009
All profits go to support the various legal actions.
Check out http://www.motoristslegalchallenge.co.uk/ and see how we are prepared to be the David that takes on Goliath.
Meanwhile, our latest victory for Britain's motorists is reported in the Daily Telegraph.
Motorists set to recoup parking fines after credit card challenge
Motorists who have paid millions of pounds in parking fines are in line for refunds after a test case ruled that town hall surcharges imposed for paying by credit card are unlawful.
By David Millward, Transport Editor
Published: 9:00PM BST 10 Aug 2009
An estimated eight million drivers, around one in four of the total number on the roads, receive a parking ticket every year, paying an estimated £1 billion in fines.
Millions choose to use a credit card to settle the debt either by paying online or via a telephone service.
A mess over illegal parking tickets
Councils to use cameras to catch drivers
Illegal parking fines cost drivers millions
Motorists see £12.5m increase in parking fines
How to get revenge for your parking ticket
At least a dozen councils across the country are known to have imposed surcharges on motorists who do so, although campaigners believe the number is likely to be higher.
They include several London boroughs, including Camden - the council at the heart of the test case - and authorities from Calderdale in West Yorkshire to Wealden, in East Sussex.
But the practice of imposing the additional surcharge on drivers was challenged by a motorist in London.
His case, which challenged the 1.3 per cent surcharge in Camden, was upheld by the adjudicator.
The ruling applies to all fines imposed by local authorities including those outside the capital which have been given the right to police parking and keep the fines.
It also applies to fines imposed by councils for ‘moving motoring offences’, such as entering a box junction.
The adjudicator said councils could not demand money in addition to the fine for the offence itself.
Town halls were not, the adjudicator added, in the same position as commercial enterprises which were free to negotiate or impose additional fees on their customers.
As a result of the ruling councils which have imposed the illegal surcharges face an avalanche of claims from motorists.
Neil Herron of the motorists’ campaign group Parking Appeals, said he was ready to launch a class action to force town halls to reimburse motorists if they fail to do so voluntarily.
“Yet again we have exposed councils acting unlawfully in their pursuit of the motorist. Councils have a duty to act within the law at all times and yet again their greed, by trying to extract every last drop of cash from the motorist, is going to come back and bite them.
“In this instance they can have no excuses. The legislation is explicitly clear,” he said.
“The process of refunding motorists the full amount could not be simpler. After all they have all the details of the person who paid and, they will not be allowed to keep unlawfully derived income.
“If any council decides not to refund we are quite prepared to launch a class action on behalf of those fined unlawfully.”
An AA spokesman said: “These credit card charges have been outrageous. Councils have got their fingers burned and have been caught acting illegally. It shows the extent to which councils have been acting as a law unto themselves.
“Paying by credit card gives drivers at least some protection against fraud when paying on line. Also using the internet saves councils a fortune, compared to processing cheques or handling fistfuls of cash being brought into a parking shop.
“We expect councils across the country to stop these surcharges straight away of face thousands of appeals.”
The ruling was also welcomed by Peter Roberts, chief executive of the Drivers’ Alliance. “Councils are taking motorists for a ride with countless stealth taxes and petty fines,” he said.
“It is not before time their dubious activities have been challenged and every council must return the illegal charges without delay. The wheels are falling off the councils stealthy bandwagon and not before time.”
The Department for Transport also refused to defend councils which impose the additional levy on motorists.
“Parking charges should be used to manage demand and not to raise revenue,” a spokesman said.
“Our guidance to councils is clear that paying by debit and credit cards is more convenient for many motorists and is cheaper and more secure for local authorities so surcharges for such payments cannot be justified.”
A spokesman for London Councils declined to comment on the Camden case, saying it was up to individual authorities to deal with the ruling.
Meanwhile a spokesman for the Local Government Association, added:"Both local authorities and motorists should abide by the law. In this case, members of the public may question whether it is fair that they as council tax payers should bear the cost of collecting money from people who have broken the law but decided to pay their fine by credit card. Councils will be considering the implications of this decision."
Problem for Rochdale is that some of their car parks don't have any bays yet the Traffic Order says that a ticket can be issued for 'parking out of a bay!' Another blunder ... more refunds for more motorists. Anyone can raise their concerns with the District Auditor to ensure that monies are repaid and the council not 'unjustly enriched.'
Councils are not too happy at being caught out now that the motorist is starting to use the law against them.
Baywatch at car parks
August 08, 2009
PARKING tickets given to drivers at a number of car parks in Rochdale could be invalid due to a legal loophole, it has been claimed.
The traffic order which governs off road parking in Rochdale states cars must be parked within clearly marked bays.
But the car parks at Hollingworth Road, Littleborough, Slack Street in the town centre and part of the car park at Hollingworth Lake visitors’ centre do not have any bays.
And now fears have been raised that this could mean any parking fines handed out at these locations could be subject to a legal challenge.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Is it the fear of litigation that has brought about this change of heart?
Harrow, Merton and Kingston are set to follow suit.
Perhaps councils will start to understand that they too must respect the law. After years of fining motorists for the most minor of contraventions and using parking enforcement as a stealth tax it now seems that those days are not only numbered but likely to come with a very heavy price indeed.
We will shortly be revealing which councils outside of London are set for a nasty shock as they too fall foul of just wanting a little too much blood.
If you have had a ticket and want to be kept updated then drop us an e-mail at email@example.com and title it refunds. You can support what we do at www.parkingappeals.co.uk or www.motoristslegalchallenge.co.uk
BBC 9th August 2009
Camden Council in London has scrapped a policy only introduced in January of levying an extra fee to taxpayers for processing money paid by credit card.
The move follows a ruling by an appeals body that applying a card surcharge made an entire parking fine unlawful.
The council said it was still looking at that ruling but meanwhile was abandoning the handling fee across all council services as a "goodwill move".
Parking fee lobby group Parking Appeals said the move was a "smokescreen".
The council said processing bills through credit cards was costing the authority about £250,000 a year and the charge had been introduced to recover those costs.
"This fee has now been suspended across all council services, and those people who have paid a credit card charge may apply for a refund," the council said.
The council has given out £26m in parking fines this year and stopped levying the credit card handling fee after the ruling by the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service.
The authority says it is still considering what to do about that decision but has meanwhile stopped levying the credit card charge across all its services, not just on parking fines.
Neil Herron, from pressure group Parking Appeals, claimed the move was a "smokescreen to cover their actions".
"I hope the council do not think that by refunding the credit card surcharge across all its council services they will avoid repaying the entire parking fines to the thousands of motorists who have been unlawfully penalised," he said.
"The entire fines have been ruled unlawful, not just the surcharges for paying by credit card.
"If they do not abide by the appeal tribunal ruling, we will not hesitate to take legal action."
A council spokesman said the authority was expected to decide within a fortnight what action to take following the appeal panel's decision, which was handed down in June.
The ruling could also affect many other boroughs, including Harrow, Merton and Kingston, which had also charged extra to pay tickets by credit card.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
How quaint. Some councils think that you can stick a few signs up and not tell anyone and create an 'instant' CPZ.
Residents were let down by ‘flawed consultation’
Ealing failed to stress the risks of CPZ?parking displacement, says Ombudsman
7 Aug 2009 Issue 209
Ombudsman Tony Redmond
Ealing council’s consultation exercise for a controlled parking zone (CPZ) failed to make residents aware of the risks of displacement parking, according to the Local Government Ombudsman. Tony Redmond said the scheme had caused parking problems for residents left out of the CPZ.
The questionnaire sent to residents by the council did not give enough information to enable them to make an informed decision, stated Redmond.
The local authority committed “maladministration leading to injustice”, he said. Ealing resident ‘Mr Shah’ (not his real name) took the case to the ombudsman. The resident lives on ‘Sheffield Road’, which was excluded from the scheme. The council said that 86% of questionnaire respondents on the street were opposed to the scheme. However, just 13% of residents on Sheffield Road had responded to the survey.
Redmond learned that a plan to re-consult residents of six roads excluded from the scheme never took place, although the council recognised the adverse impact of displacement parking. Two of the roads were then included in the scheme, but not Mr Shah’s.
Mr Shah told the ombudsman that he frequently had to park several streets away from his home. The council accepted that some residents may be facing parking problems, but said its policy was to review a CPZ after 12 months of it being in place. Redmond said: “I find the council’s reluctance to bring forward its review unhelpful. It was apparent from the start the CPZ would cause problems for neighbouring streets, and this was confirmed very quickly after it was implemented when the council had received three petitions.”
The council argued that residents were warned about the possibility of displacement parking at a locally held exhibition. However, Redmond challenged this, saying that staging an exhibition did not make up for the “deficiencies” in the questionnaire. “This reflects the fact that the latter was sent to 1,447 addresses within the affected area, whereas no more than 100 people visited the exhibition,” said Redmond.
He ordered Ealing to pay Mr Shah £500 to reflect the fact that he was denied the “opportunity to make a fully informed decision on the proposed CPZ in December 2006, and for the delay in carrying out a review of the CPZ”.
The council was told to pay Mr Shah a further £500 to reflect the “time and trouble” he had experienced in pursuing his complaint.
“There is no doubt that the CPZ introduced in the area around Sheffield Road has had an adverse effect on parking in that road and on other roads in the surrounding area,” said Redmond. “This was an effect that had been foreseen by the council. On that basis, it seems to me that the documentation sent out as part of the consultation exercise was deficient in not drawing the attention of the recipients to the possibility of displacement parking on streets left out of the CPZ.”
Redmond criticised the council for delaying in reviewing the CPZ and for merely stating that residents would be consulted “sometime during the coming months”.
An Ealing council spokesman said: “We don't agree with some elements of the ombudsman's report, but we will accept the judgment. We will carry out the actions recommended by him.”
Friday, August 07, 2009
They claim that "on this occasion the wrong stationery was used."
I am sure that I don't have presonal Camden parking stationery despite them cancelling EVERY one of my tickets and I would have assumed that in light of all the press and media coverage that SOMEONE SOMEWHERE would have informed parking staff to check the paperwork before it goes out.
The question now has to be asked 'Is this an isolated incident with one Notice to Owner floating around the system or is it really a systemic failing to acknowledge anything unlawful whatsoever?'
If it is the latter then there needs to be someone's head on the block.
If it was the former then I must put this week's lottery on.
Meanwhile, can Captain Smith come to the bridge ... something about icebergs!
This latest blunder had to be forced out of Camden with Freedom of Information requests. Will they refund the money of motorists who have already paid?
Have you had a ticket which cites the 1991 Road Traffic Act which has been issued since March 31st 2008? If so let us know at www.parkingappeals.co.uk or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Victorious Belfast Traffic Warden speaks
Submitted by Choccy on Aug 5 2009
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From issue 2 of The Leveller, this is an expanded version of the story of the four-month battle against bosses by Belfast traffic wardens. This article contains extracts from an interview with an NCP worker involved in the dispute elaborated on the deal they had won, and how they fought their bosses.
Traffic wardens this week expressed joy at finally winning their demands in their struggle against their employer NCP. The workers were engaged in almost daily protest since April after 28 were sacked for taking part in wildcat industrial action over working conditions and sick-pay. On Friday, after a four-month battle, they were informed that they would all have the option of reinstatement or a substantial redundancy package.
Rachel Johnson argued that there were no warning signs to tell drivers they were being filmed
Motorists issued with parking fines after being caught out by so-called "spy cars" may now have grounds to appeal after a legal ruling.
Rachel Johnson, 32, challenged three £60 fines issued by Wirral Council using evidence gathered by Smart Cars fitted with periscope cameras.
A tribunal upheld her claim that the Penalty Charge Notices were invalid because there were no warning signs.
About 30 councils across England and Wales are believed to use the cameras.
Ms Johnson appealed to the local authority after receiving three tickets in the space of a week.
On each occasion, she had parked briefly on double yellow lines outside the off-licence she runs in New Brighton.
"I felt like my privacy had been invaded," she told the BBC.
"We were just going about our business, trying to run a business, and I knew we were allowed to park here."
The fines were overturned by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, which rules on appeals against parking penalties issued by councils in England and Wales.
For just general enforcement local authorities shouldn't be using CCTV
Neil Herron, parking fine campaigner
It ruled the charges were invalid because there were no signs in the area saying motorists could be photographed.
The tribunal also said the area was unsuitable for the use of cameras.
A Wirral Borough Council spokesperson said they were reviewing the recommendations issued by the tribunal.
"Anyone who has received a parking ticket and feels that they have a valid reason to appeal is able to do so through the appeals process detailed.
"Each case is reviewed on its own merits."
The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils which used the periscope cameras for parking fines would also be studying the implications of the tribunal ruling.
Parking fine campaigner Neil Herron said the use of the periscope cameras was no substitute for experienced parking attendants.
"CCTV enforcement should only be where parking attendants can't go - where it's too dangerous or too restrictive.
"For just general enforcement local authorities shouldn't be using CCTV.
"A CCTV camera doesn't record whether loading or unloading is taking place, whether a blue badge has been displayed, whether there was any exemptions in the traffic order."
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
By DAVID WOODING
THOUSANDS of parking tickets issued by "spy cars" could be deemed invalid after a landmark ruling.
A tribunal quashed fines against Rachel Johnson because she had no warning about the periscope-mounted cameras on the Smart vehicles.
It is a legal requirement for notices saying "camera enforcement in operation" to be displayed for fines to be valid.
Rachel's victory paves the way for other drivers to have car camera-related fines scrapped.
Rachel, 34, of New Brighton, Merseyside, got three £60 fines in a week after she was caught by Wirral Borough Council.
She had parked up outside her off- licence to deliver goods. She said: "It was outrageous. The car was parked for no more than ten minutes.
"There are no clear signs notifying motorists of the cameras. They lie in wait like prowlers. It's so sneaky."
The Traffic Penalty Tribunal wrote to Rachel to say local authorities should use the spy camera system "sparingly".
Wirral councillor Sue Taylor, who backed Miss Johnson, said the "landmark" ruling could open the floodgates to thousands of other drivers.
Parking justice campaigner Neil Herron called for all councils to refund spy car camera penalties.
He said: "It's a victory for British motorists against the Big Brother tactics."
Wirral Council said it was reviewing its use of spy cars.
More information at www.parkingappeals.co.uk
Rachel Johnson's fines were declared invaled by the adjudicator
Tuesday August 4,2009
By Andy Russell
THOUSANDS of parking fines could be scrapped after a test case victory over tickets issued by roving spy camera cars.
Businesswoman Rachel Johnson was jubilant after she exposed a loophole and had three £60 fines quashed in a landmark ruling.
Rachel, 34, who runs an off licence in New Brighton, Merseyside, said: “We got three tickets in a week. It was outrageous. It is absolutely disgusting that the council uses such sneaky tactics to issue fines.
“There should be clear signs notifying motorists cameras are in operation. They are operating like prowlers, lying in wait.
“These spy camera cars are an alarming invasion of privacy and smack of a way to raise money.”
Outraged married mother of three Rachel took her case against Wirral Borough Council to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal and won.
The adjudicator decided the penalties were invalid as there were no warnings of cameras in operation.
A letter notifying her of the decision said local authorities should use the new generation of Smart cars with periscope-mounted cameras only “sparingly”, in areas where wardens cannot be used.
Parking justice campaigner Neil Herron, founder of parking appeals.co.uk, is calling for all councils to refund penalties imposed with similar spy camera evidence.
He said: “This is yet another victory for motorists against the Big Brother tactics that are used to penalise drivers for simply parking their car in a public place. Councils are playing fast and loose with the legal requirements. All councils that have issued fines unlawfully with these spy camera cars now have a duty to refund the cash, regardless of whether the motorists concerned appeal.”
He added: “I hope they do the decent thing and make the refunds quickly. Otherwise anyone who has paid a fine under these circumstances should write to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal seeking redress.”
Tory councillor Sue Taylor, who backed Rachel’s fight, said: “This landmark ruling could open the floodgates to thousands of other drivers.
“Councils need to introduce a system of erecting temporary signs in places where they are operating.
“That will discourage motorists from parking illegally and that should be their aim rather than simply cashing in on collecting fines.”
Wirral council said it was reviewing the way its spy car was used to issue parking fines.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Come on guys ... it isn't difficult to get it right. Just do the decent thing and put the signs up and use CCTV as a deterrent. If you are going to use Smartcars have an open access council website and tell motorists where the Smartcars are going to be so then there will be no excuse for motorists. Get them outside schools catching motorists parking on the school keep clear signs where safety is important. Combine that with a road safety programme for the children alerting them to the dangers of their parents parking on zig-zags. The voice of a six year old telling a parent off far outweighs any 'sneaky' enforcement which only creates resentment and anger.
However, the landscape will change somewhat when we step into the realms of moving traffic enforcement which has now been taken out of the hands of the Police. Do the legal draftsmen and the Department for Transport really know what they are doing? More to be revealed soon. Meanwhile, this is in tomorrow's Telegraph.
Motorists must have warning of parking spy cameras
Thousands of motorists could have their parking tickets quashed after an appeal tribunal cancelled a fine issued by Wirral Borough Council, ruling that councils using spy cameras must put up warning signs.
By David Millward,
03 Aug 2009
The decision by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal will have implications for 32 councils who have been given permission to use cameras by the Department for Transport.
Rachel Johnson, 34, challenged three parking tickets which were issued on the basis of evidence gathered by Smart Cars fitted with enforcement cameras by the council, which is based in Merseyside.
Council to repay motoring fines as signs were too small
Councils to use cameras to catch drivers
Parking tickets up fivefold in six years
CCTV parking fine councils fail to get permission to use new system
CCTV evidence can lead to parking fine
Her claim that the tickets - known as penalty charge notices - were invalid was upheld by the adjudicator, who agreed that notices should be posted warning drivers that cameras were in operation.
Miss Johnson described the cameras as "sneaky" and said the behaviour of the council was outrageous.
''These spy camera cars are an alarming invasion of privacy and smack of a way to raise money,'' she added.
According to the tribunal, such cameras should be used "sparingly" and only in areas where civil enforcement officers - as traffic wardens are now known.
Widely used in London, camera parking enforcement is spreading to the provinces and it is already in use in Medway, Nottingham, Bournemouth, South Tyneside, and Basildon.
In what it describes as "operational guidance", the Department for Transport has advised councils to warn motorists when they are being used.
"Motorists may regard enforcement by cameras as over-zealous and authorities should use them sparingly. The Secretary of State recommends that authorities put up signs to tell drivers that they are using cameras to detect contraventions," the guidance adds.
The ruling is a victory for campaigners such as Neil Herron, of ParkingAppeals.co.uk , who have said the guidance should be legally binding.
He welcomed the ruling, saying: "It is another victory for the motorist and a reminder to all local authorities that the legislation is there for a purpose and they can't break the law to enforce the law."
Anyone with a CCTV PCN e-mail email@example.com for more information.
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- ► 2010 (174)
- The battle lines are being drawn ...
- Class actions. Why are we waiting?
- Days are numbered for lawless, uncontrolled local ...
- What next ... viewers of 'Murder she wrote' and Ta...
- Another step closer to the Royal Pardon...
- Where will the money come from to refund motorists...
- Credit Cards - Motorists could recoup driving fine...
- Credit-card surcharges for parking tickets to be r...
- One rule for them ...
- Patients fine ... Doctor fined
- Loophole in parking fines: Thousands of pounds cou...
- Motorcyclists are still revolting
- More refunds for Britain's motorists ... have you ...
- Baywatch at Rochdale's Car Parks ... more refunds
- Another victory as Camden caves in ... but beware ...
- Flawed CPZ Consultation ...
- Camden still trying to fleece motorists ...
- £11,000 worth of Camden parking tickets are illega...
- Victory for Belfast Traffic Wardens
- Rachel Johnson ... a victory for common sense agai...
- CCTV Fine refunds the next step
- CCTV Refunds for motorists
- Big Bother for Big Brother ...
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