Sunday, December 20, 2009

Will 2010 be the end of the offensive parking stealth tax?

News set to break in the New Year will send shockwaves through town halls who have spent the last 15 years collectively using parking fines to fill black holes in council budgets.
We have evidence of malpractice in every one of the councils listed below.
The High Court case detailed at will create the focus.
Other matters will come into the public domain in a matter of weeks.

GREEDY councils are exploiting motorists by raking in almost £2 BILLION a year in parking fees and fines.
Tom Latchem
News of the World
20th December 2009

Last year drivers paid a record £1.9bn to town halls in England - 8 per cent up on the previous year and TREBLE the £638m for 1997/98 when Labour came to power.

That means around £60 a year is going straight from the pocket of every motorist into town hall coffers. Experts fear councils are ripping off car owners to plug gaps in their finances as the squeeze on public spending tightens.

The revenue bonanza is biggest in areas like central London and Brighton where parking is scarcest - and many town halls are believed to make most of their money in fines.
Figures released by the Department of Communities and Local Government do not differentiate between meter charges and penalties.

But a spokesman said: "Parking charges are a tool to manage demand for road use and should not be used for raising revenue.
Jennifer Dunn of the Taxpayers' Alliance said: "Motorists are being treated like cash cows. Too often we see unscrupulous and target-driven enforcement of parking."

Top ten revenue earners in London:
1. Westminster £180m
2. Camden £80m
3. Kensington & Chelsea £77m
4. Islington £55m
5. Wandsworth £51m
6. Hammersmith & Fulham £47m
7. Lambeth £40m
9. Ealing £30m
10. Hackney £29m.

Top ten elsewhere:
1. Brighton & Hove £38m
2. Birmingham £24m
3. Manchester £20m
4. Leeds £19m
5. Milton Keynes £16m
6. Newcastle upon Tyne £15m
7. Kent £15m
8. Bristol £14m
9. Liverpool £14m
10. City of Nottingham £13m.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"One rule for them and another for everyone else..."

Warden under fire for parking on yellow line
Sunday, December 13, 2009, 07:00

OTFORD shoppers have hit out at a traffic warden who slapped parking tickets on windscreens – while blocking the traffic in the village's High Street.

Passers-by said a Sevenoaks District Council car parked on a single yellow line caused an unnecessary queue of traffic, and delayed a police car responding to an emergency siren.
The traffic warden was giving out parking tickets to drivers who were also parked in the road.
Ivonne Kaina, of London Road, Dunton Green, said she was "infuriated" by the situation, which she became aware of when she was shopping on Saturday (December 5) between 2 and 3pm.

She said: "I heard someone complaining that they got a ticket.

"We heard a police siren and when I looked out of the window the reason the police car couldn't get through was that the guy who was giving out tickets was stopping it.
"It was so cheeky. It's one set of rules for one. They are a law unto themselves."
"People are Christmas shopping – it's such a nasty thing to do at this time of year."

She added she thought the traffic warden's parked position created more problems for passing motorists than the cars which were illegally parked.
Miss Kaina had left her own car in the village car park, although she acknowledged that it was very busy at the time.

Sue Camp, who is on Sevenoaks Town Council, has previously hit out at Sevenoaks District Council over illegal parking.
She said: "I think there shouldn't be one rule for them and another for everyone else."
"No-one is meant to park there, so what gives them the right to do it?
"They should still be held accountable."

District council spokesman Daniel Whitmarsh said the photo sent in by Miss Kaina does not give the full picture as there were several illegally parked cars in front of it.
He added: "In this instance the council's civil enforcement officers were responding to a number of illegally parked vehicles on yellow lines, which were causing local traffic congestion.
"The officer parked directly behind the illegally parked cars so they would not cause additional traffic congestion and issued a total of three penalty charge notices.
"Civil enforcement officers are permitted to park in restricted areas when enforcing parking restrictions and will usually only do so if there is nowhere else to park."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More flaws in St. Alban's Traffic Orders ... who checked?

In applying to the Department for Transport fro Decriminalised Parking Enforcement powers a local authority is required to give assurances to the DfT that all lines, signs and Traffic Orders have been checked and made compliant ready for DPE.

The fundamental difference between DPE and the previous criminalised regime is that there is a shift from driver to keeper liability. The St. Alban's TRO retained the driver liability ... a fundamental flaw in a legal document which allowed the council to be unjustly enriched.
Any claims that 'anyone who paid accepted liability' doesn't and shouldn't wash with any investigation as it is a fundamental requirement that the council acts lawfully!

In advance of a formal complaint to the Police or court action from one of the victims, especially one who has suffered at the hands of bailiffs, it may be wise for the council to seek proper legal advice.

St Albans District Council under fire again for parking blunder
1:43pm Thursday 10th December 2009
By Manisha Mistry »

A REVIEW into the district council's parking enforcement which came under fire in October after a shocking blunder was revealed has discovered more flaws in the system.
The car parking working party, which met last night, discussed a report undertaken by the chief finance officer.

In October the Review revealed how the council's Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) was deemed invalid by an adjudicator at a Traffic Penalty Tribunal forcing more than £24,000 worth of unpaid fines to be waived.

Further to the details discovered at the time the fresh investigation has revealed the incorrect terminology in the TRO had been there since 2005 – longer than the council originally thought.
The officer comments: “The current problems have cost the council money and been damaging to its reputation.
“From the review it is clear that the problem of terminology in the TRO has been wrong since 2005 – when the new regime for off street parking was introduced."

Another damning finding highlights the lack of efficiency because there were no check lists and procedures which prevented this problem, or its reoccurrence.
A review of the workload was suggested and the creation of some clear check-lists.
At the time the technical error was discovered the chief executive at the council Daniel Goodwin apologised to residents.

Commenting on the results of the review, Councillor Julian Daly said: “This looks like something that did not need to happen.”
He mentioned a meeting of the council's scrutiny committee in 2007 which warned cabinet members to address the heavy workload of the council's engineering team which is responsible for the TRO.
Councillor Daly added: “Clearly this warning was ignored. The council is now paying the price both financially and in terms of its reputation for being accident prone.”

Stop your stolen car dead in its tracks ...

North East boffin who beat the speed cameras in court with his vehicle tracker now set to beat the car thieves.

Car device to put brakes on thieves
Sunderland Echo
9th December 2009
By David MacLean

AN INVENTOR has created a device which he says can halt a stolen vehicle anywhere in the world in seconds.

Dr Phillip Tann, 48, claims his new gadget has the potential to put car thieves out of action and massively reduce car insurance premiums.The immobilisation invention's wizardry is contained in a box less than the size of a matchbox.It allows the owner to remotely send a signal which cuts the ignition as soon as the vehicle stops.
The product has been developed and released by Fleet M8, based at the Hi-Tech Village in Boldon.
Dr Tann said: "We were approached by one of our customers who hire out very expensive motors and they required not only the ability to track their vehicles, but also to immobilise and recover them should they be stolen."
As soon as the vehicle's ignition is turned off the vehicle cannot be restarted and the system pinpoints the vehicle's location to an accuracy of less than one metre. The vehicle can then be recovered by the owner or the police."
"We can remotely immobilise a vehicle from anywhere in the world."
The immobiliser connects to the vehicle's existing electrical system. It allows the owner to remotely immobilise a vehicle using their PC or mobile phone. A user sends a stop signal to FleetM8's server and once the vehicle has come to a stop, the engine is immobilised. When the owner chooses to mobilise the vehicle again a start signal is sent by the FleetM8 server.
A vehicle can be immobilised when it enters a virtual fenced area or by a simple button on their mobile phone and can happen in under one second.
Dr Tann hit the headlines two years ago when his vehicle tracking device proved that he wasn't speeding at 42mph as the police had alleged. He was able to prove it with evidence provided by his prototype device.
He teamed up with motoring expert Neil Herron and they launched the FleetM8 System, which has been fitted to a number of vehicle fleets and most recently to Arriva buses in Scotland.
Enquiries email or call 0191 519 2379

Another success and more refunds but ...

the council is going to end up in a lot more trouble should someone who has paid a PCN take legal action or make a criminal complaint of misconduct or fraud.

The issue at the core of this is that the Traffic Order referred to the driver being responsible for the fine, not the Registered Keeper as civil parking enforcement requires. Therefore, the statement that there should not be refunds due to the fact that the person paying 'admitted liability' is offensive and wrong. If their legal document stated that the driver was responsible and they then sent a Notice to Owner claiming that the owner or registered keeper was liable, then that is a false representation. The TRO may have been 'in force' having been made but it misrepresented the position relating to the primary legislation.

Therefore, ALL monies must be refunded otherwise the council has been unjustly enriched and risks investigation by the District Auditor and, should anyone make a criminal complaint, by the Police.

The Fraud Act 2006 is explicit
2 Fraud by false representation
(1) A person is in breach of this section if he—
(a) dishonestly makes a false representation, and
(b) intends, by making the representation—
(i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
(ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.

Matters are far from concluded. The BBC report is shown below.

Parking Fine Error Costs £24,000
10th December 2009

A Hertfordshire council lost £24,000 in revenue from parking fines because enforcement orders were out of date.
St Albans Council's parking rules said a vehicle driver was liable for parking fines but it should have been the vehicle's keeper.
Colm O'Callaghan, the council's chief finance officer, said the blunder made it "impossible" to enforce the fines.

Terminology in the order had been wrong since 2005, when a new regime for off-street parking was introduced.
In a report to the council about the mistake, Mr O'Callaghan said: "Legal advice was that this did not invalidate the traffic order.
"But it did make it impossible for the council to pursue further enforcement action and brought financial cost."

Workload review
Initially the council had said it thought the cost of the error could be as high as £32,000.
In October a tribunal investigating a claim against a £50 ticket ruled that it was invalid as legal wording had not been updated.
The council has since decided to write off 1,621 penalty charge notices.

"The council is now paying the price both financially and in terms of its reputation for being accident prone"Julian Daly, Conservative group, St Albans Council

The tickets were issued at off-street car parks between 31 March 2008 and 5 November 2009.

People who have already paid the fines are considered to have admitted liability, although since the error was revealed some have submitted requests for refunds.

Mr O'Callaghan's report identified a protracted line of responsibility from the parking contract manager to the city and district engineer, who it said had a heavy workload.
In its response to the mistake, the council is to consider the creation of a clear procedure and check-list for work to be signed off and the implementation of a workload review.

Leaders blamed
The management responsible have been invited to put forward a plan to implement these recommendations.
Julian Daly, leader of the Conservative opposition group on the council, said management and the political leadership of the Liberal Democrat ruling party were responsible for the mistake.

He said: "Traffic orders were not subject to review by the council's legal team and there was some absence of prioritisation in the relevant team which contributed to the error."

He backed the call for a workload review but said the relevant portfolio holders should ensure the engineering and technical services section were adequately resourced or that its workload was reduced accordingly.

"The council is now paying the price both financially and in terms of its reputation for being accident prone," Mr Daly said.

Council writes off parking fines (05 Nov 09 Beds/Bucks/Herts )

Parking tickets could be invalid (28 Oct 09 Beds/Bucks/Herts )

Council motoring fines 'illegal' (29 May 08 UK )

'Fairer' parking deal for drivers (31 Mar 08 Wales )

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Vehicle tracker bought by bus company

Sunderland Echo
30th November 2009
Vehicle tracking technology developed by a Wearside company will be used by one of Europe's biggest transport firms.
FleetM8 has landed a contract with Sunderland-based Arriva, which operates in 12 European countries.
The tracking technology will be used on the company's bus fleets in Scotland, allowing it to immediately spot when vehicles end up "crowding" by getting too close together.
FleetM8's tracker was developed by inventor Dr Phillip Tann with business partner Neil Herron, noted for his traffic campaigns.
The technology gained recognition two years ago when Dr Tann recieved a speeding ticket claimed he was doing 42mph in a 30 zone.His vehicle, however, was fitted with a prototype GPS tracking device which recorded both his location and speed, clocking him at 29.177196mph at the time he was alleged to have been speeding.

Parking goldmine lures fat cat enforcer to Westminster

London Evening Standard
Simon English

In the lucrative world of car parking contracts, Westminster Council is the bonanza prize, the jackpot at the end of the rainbow. Around 600,000 vehicles come into Westminster's 8.5 square miles every day.

That's like a giant school of plankton in a small pond to your average traffic warden whale — open wide and ticket. There are too many cars chasing too few parking spaces and in the frustrations of an average working day, some drivers take a chance in the usually false hope that they might just be lucky…

The council itself says it's not legally allowed to make a profit from parking enforcement. Its “surplus income” from parking — £35 million last year, thanks very much — goes to pay for the men on the streets and for other transport projects.

For the firms running the enforcement deal, however, it's a goldmine, worth around £12 million a year. For the last seven years the contract has been held by NSL, the former services arm of National Car Parks which split from the main company and is now owned by private equity.

Now it's up for grabs. This week firms who want to bid for the right to be parking enforcer for the next four years — with an option for two more after that — have to submit their final proposals. In the running, I am told, are three firms: NSL again, Apcoa (formerly the Airport Parking Company of America), and Mouchel, a publicly listed company formed in 2003 from the merger of two engineering firms, Mouchel and Parkman.

A preferred bidder shortlist will be approved in January, with a decision taken shortly after. Mouchel is perhaps the most interesting of the three in the frame. It only entered parking enforcement relatively recently and has been making headway in winning contracts, securing deals in Newham (the so-called Olympic borough) and Hillingdon among others.

In chatting to officials about which firm might win the prestigious Westminster deal, an intriguing name came up. Stuart Lawrenson is, to those in the know, one of the most successful players in the UK parking industry — a fat cat enforcer, you might say. He is also the former chief executive of Central Parking Ltd where he was accused of misappropriating assets belonging to the American firm for his own benefit. Lawrenson resigned as a director of the company and paid £130,000, as well as forfeiting Central Parking shares, in settlement of the allegations.

In filings to the Securities & Exchange Commission, Central Parking blamed former managers of its UK arm for “unauthorised related party transactions and improper and inaccurate accounting entries”. Lawrenson is back in the game. I'm told he attended a meeting with council officials at a Westminster hotel last month to discuss the parking enforcement contract, allegedly in the pay of Mouchel.

I asked the company what role Lawrenson plays for them, and got the following: “Mouchel does not comment on the details of live procurements as these are confidential and commercially sensitive. Stuart Lawrenson is not, nor ever has been, an employee of Mouchel but works for a company that provides technology products to the parking industry. In common with other companies, we use some of these as part of our parking enforcement offer.”

Lawrenson has paid his fine and is perhaps entitled to continue his career. As long as everyone involved knows of his history, there's probably no cause for concern.

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