Thursday, October 28, 2010

Parking fines could be the highest in UK under new plans by county council

This is where the 'kite-flying' began.

The Lincolnshire Echo
26th October 2010

Motorists could soon be fined £80 for parking misdemeanours under new proposals by Lincolnshire County Council.

Motorists caught parking illegally in Lincolnshire could soon be paying the highest fines in the UK under new proposals.

Lincolnshire County Council is to seek advice from the Deparment for Transport (DfT) on whether it can charge offenders £80 for parking misdemeanours.
The Conservative-controlled authority believes it would be the first in the UK to go above the current Government guidelines of £70.

County council officers are developing plans to take control of parking enforcement from Lincolnshire Police and say this penalty increase would save taxpayers at least £250,000 over the next five years.
Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond would need to give special authorisation if a formal application was submitted. But motoring group the AA believes hiking up fines to raise revenue for the council would be illegal.

County council divisional highways manager Brian Thompson said: "The Government has previously indicated that Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) should bot be financially detrimental to local authorities.
"As it stands, the scheme would currently result in a significant deficit for Lincolnshire.
"For this reason, we are planning to approach the Department for Transport to explore the possibility of a rise in the penalty to mitigate the costs entailed."
County council estimates suggest the cost of implementing CPE would be almost £1.5 million over a five-year period if it was to run it using its own staff.
Using an external company would cost £743,000 during the same time frame.

An application for CPE is expected to be submitted by the county council to the DfT by February next year.
AA head of public affairs and parking spokesman, Paul Watters, said applying to raise the maximum parking charge to raise cash was "against the law".

Mr Watters said: "Councils are not allowed to use penalty levels as a revenue-raising exercise.
"It must only be to deter drivers. The council is naive it it thinks it can set penalty levels to raise revenue."
Discussing the issue at yesterday's county council highways, transport and technology scrutiny committee, councillor gave a mixed reception to increasing the fine.
Mr Thompson said it would have a "significant effect" on finances.
He addes: "But it would make Lincolnshire different."
Conservative Councillor David Brailsford said: "I am going to suggest we don't go out on a limb. I know there are financial implications. but to charge higher in Lincolnshire than anywhere else would be extremely unpopular."

Independent Councillor Ray Newell said: "What is the argument against getting more money in from someone that is disobeying the instructions? This will either sink or swim. In the financial climate by putting this figure up it's more likely we will be swimming than losing."
But Lincoln Birchwood Tory Councillor Eddie Strengiel said the current financial climate provided its own pressures.

He said: " The current financial situation is a little bit sensitive."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Parking tribunal Chief tells councils to show common sense

Perhaps the motoring public would have more faith in the system if decisions by the TPT were consistent ... and applied the law in relation to signing. We have seen many instances where they chant the mantra 'no reasonable person could have been misled' which is at odds with regard to the fact that signing must comply with the law. PATAS on the other hand is far more consistent in its approach. However, new developments on a number of fronts will shake this 'industry' from top to bottom ... and the recent arrest and pending trial of a council officer for misconduct in public office will cause a great deal of consternation as whistleblowers queue up to ensure that they are not tarred with the same brush.

10 Oct 2010
Caroline Sheppard, chief adjudicator of the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, accused some local authorities of operating a "zero tolerance" approach to minor infringements.

She suggested that motorists who are given parking tickets for petty breaches of the rules should be let off if they appeal against the penalties. Mrs Sheppard complained that motorists were being punished for such offences as leaving one wheel over the white line of a car park bay, or failing to display their pay-and-display ticket correctly.

In such cases, drivers whose penalties were upheld on appeal to town halls have subsequently had them overturned by the tribunal.
Last year the tribunal received more than 12,000 applications to overturn tickets. In more than 60 per cent of cases it ruled in favour of the motorist.

The intervention by the chief adjudicator comes after The Sunday Telegraph's Campaign for Fair Parking highlighted cases where councils have carried on issuing tickets in areas where they knew the signs were illegal. Mrs Sheppard accused councils of failing to exercise their discretion when penalties were challenged, and called for "an outbreak of common sense" over trivial cases.
She urged motorists to appeal against penalties if they think they have been dealt with unfairly or illegally.
She said: "Motorists must appeal if they have any doubts over penalty charges. People want to explain but we only see what comes before us, so let us look at it."

The chief adjudicator said she was concerned that too many councils were failing in their statutory duty to give proper consideration to representations made by motorists contesting penalties, or to evidence offered in mitigation.

She said that motorists' letters of explanation to town halls were often dismissed with a standard response letter of one or two lines – a practice which suggests that their arguments "had not been considered properly or fairly".
Many councils were "unwilling or unable to consider challenges based on mitigating circumstances", Mrs Sheppard said.

Mitigation pleas are common in cases where a ticket had been issued because of a failure to display a permit, disabled parking badge or pay-and-display ticket.
Many councils had taken the "extraordinary" view that it was somehow "fairer" to reject all representations, she said.

Adjudicators had seen this explained in letters of rejection in which council officials said it would be "unfair" on people who had paid a penalty charge if those who made representations were "let off".

Mrs Sheppard, a barrister, also criticised the rising number of appeals that councils failed to contest at the tribunal, saying: "I don't understand why local authorities reject drivers' representations and then go no further."

The tribunal, which covers all of England and Wales except Greater London, considers cases where motorists have received a parking ticket then appealed to the town hall, which has upheld the decision.

It received 12,423 submissions last year, an increase of 11 per cent on the previous year's figure.Of cases decided by the tribunal, 34 per cent were won by the motorist because the council did not contest the case and a further 28 per cent were decided in favour of the motorist after the adjudicator considered and rejected the council's arguments, meaning that 62 per cent of all appeals were successful.

In nine out of the past 10 years, the proportion of successful appeals has been over 60 per cent.
Last year in 28 areas more than half of all appeals went uncontested by the local authorities concerned.

Areas with the highest proportion of tickets overturned at the tribunal in 2008/9, the most recent figures available, included the Medway towns in Kent, where 360 motorists appealed to the tribunal and 91% were successful, and Slough, where 246 appealed and 84% were successful.
The chief adjudicator declined to comment on councils which instructed enforcement officers to issue tickets despite having being warned that their regulations or signposts were legally flawed.
But she said it was "regrettable" that the tribunal was still being asked to determine appeals against penalties issued on streets where road signs were misleading and confusing.

In some cases, the tribunal has told councils to ensure that their parking officials receive guidance from their legal teams.

Parking tickets can only be issued when a motorist has broken a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO), or bylaw, that has been made correctly by the local authority.
Mrs Sheppard said that adjudicators were "bewildered" by some TROs, and called for greater clarity so that parking signs were clear and unambiguous.
The most common appeals were over pay and display tickets, "signs and lines", vehicle ownership, loading and unloading, penalty charge notices not issued or not on the vehicle, residents and visitors permits, and disabled bays and badges.

Most (57 per cent) of appeals are dealt with by post, 35 per cent by personal hearing and 8 per cent by the recently introduced telephone conference, the latter up from 12 in 2008 to 167 last year.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Yellow box camera raises £1 million a year

If so many motorists are committing contraventions then the traffic and highways engineers have failed ... from a traffic management perspective. If it is about raising revenue then they have been hugely successful.

The Telegraph
By Melissa Kite, Deputy Political Editor
17 Oct 2010
It has been called the "money box" - a traffic camera at a yellow box junction in Battersea, south London is raising a million pounds a year in fines levied on hapless motorists.
When the Sunday Telegraph monitored the junction, it found that every single car that went through was unable to exit the box properly, because of the congestion ahead.

Drivers claim they cannot avoid stopping inside the box because of severe congestion in the area caused by ongoing engineering works.
Campaigners say it is part of a growing trend of motoring fines being used by authorities as stealth taxes.

Up to 2,000 drivers a month are being fined for becoming stuck in the junction on Battersea Bridge Road, a main route from the south into the centre of London. The road has been the scene of major hold ups since a main arterial route was closed in February, making it difficult for cars to avoid stopping at the junction.

When The Sunday Telegraph monitored the junction, it found that every single car that went through was unable to exit the box properly, because of the congestion ahead.
A camera erected above the traffic lights films motorists as they pass through. Anyone who stops for longer than five seconds in the box is issued with a fine of £60, which can double if not paid immediately.

In response to a series of Freedom of Information requests, Transport for London said that £520,000 has been raised by the camera in the six months from January to July, with 10,087 motorists issued with tickets.

The figures show clearly that the number of penalties handed out doubled in February, at exactly the same time that the adjacent Albert Bridge was closed and traffic redirected over Battersea Bridge.

While only 640 people were caught in the box junction in January, that monthly total had more than trebled to 2,153 by March.
One motorist who was caught by the camera appealed her fine and last week an adjudicator at a parking appeals hearing upheld her complaint.

Elizabeth Lord won on the grounds that she could not have avoided stopping in the box as the exit was clear when she drove into it but became blocked by pedestrians by the time she was part way across.
She said she was no longer prepared to pay unfair motoring fines since being made redundant in the recession. And she urged other motorists to also appeal.

"I'm afraid I've reached the stage where I'm not prepared to take this lying down any more," she said.
"It's dreadful. I think people ought to fight these fines. I would suggest to anybody, don't take it lying down.
"Motorists are an easy target and most people are too busy to fight. But people haven't got so much money now, money is tight and we don't have £60 to chuck at something ridiculous like this."

A spokesman for Transport for London said: "We enforce traffic regulations to keep London's red route (major roads) network moving safely for the benfit of all road users.
"Our traffic enforcement strategy is aimed at keeping the red route moving - it is not about raising revenue.
"If anyone believes they have been issued with a Penalty Charge Notice unfairly or if there are mitigating circumstances they can appeal to TfL or to the independent Parking and Traffic Appeals Service."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Authorities Bill may give London councils new powers

BBC News London
13th October 2010

A bill that will give local authorities in London a range of new powers is a step closer to becoming law after clearing its first Commons hurdle.
The London Local Authorities Bill would help councils issue fines to the public and clamp down on rogue traders.
Unusually, it was introduced in the House of Lords, and has already passed all its stages in the Upper Chamber.

Personal liberty campaigners said the bill was a move into 'dangerous waters'.
But all major parties backed the legislation, which was given a second reading by 293 votes to 21.
The legislation was backed despite one Conservative minister voicing concerns over it.
The legislation would:

  • Require people issued with penalty charge notices - for example over littering or parking - to provide their name and address to council officers

  • Allow councils to recover the cost of street cleaning from polluting traders

  • Require fast food sellers to display their hygiene rating and allow councils to crack down on unlicensed car dealers

Conservative MP Mike Freer said: "Many of us in this house would like to turn back the clock to a gentler age, but sadly we do live in an irresponsible society where many individuals cause problems for residents.
"Many of us would prefer a reduction in regulation and a lessening of the intrusive nature of government - both national and local.
"However, we do have a responsibility to address the real issues facing Londoners."

Conservative Local Government Minister Bob Neill said some measures in the Bill needed closer examination.
He cautioned: "We have to be proportionate and avoid the proliferation of fines for what might be perceived as genuinely minor breaches and which might create in the public a sense of unfairness.

Shadow local government minister Chris Williamson (Labour) said: "This bill has already been agreed by all 33 of the London local authorities.
"London councils are controlled by all three of the main political parties.
"On this bill they speak with one voice."

Neil Herron, who became known as the "metric martyr" after defying EU regulations on selling produce under the imperial weight system, criticised the Bill.
He said: "We are entering into dangerous waters when we are giving council officers these powers. "We need to go back to the fundamental principle that you can only be fined in a court of law.
"They will be fining us for standing on the cracks in the pavement next."

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Three yellow lines on the road that mean nothing

Just to underline the fact in yellow!

This is Exeter
published 04.10.10
PUZZLED: Businessman Brian Burnett with the triple yellow lines

Businessman Brian Burnett is the latest victim to emerge from what has been dubbed "the great parking scandal" after he was booked while parked on a triple yellow line.

The owner of Repaircare Electrical Services parked a van outside his business in Ladysmith Road, Exeter, to load some equipment but was given a penalty charge notice by civil enforcement officers
Mr Burnett asked the city council to reconsider due to the confused nature of the markings but was told "the intention" of them was clear so his ticket would not be cancelled
But he has now discovered that any variation on a recognised road sign can only be adopted with permission from the Secretary of State

His case has now been taken up and highlighted by city councillor and former police officer Percy Prowse.
It is the latest embarrassment for the council following the revalations in the Echo last week that tickets were being issued in areas that the council was told were unlawful three years ago.
Three former traffic wardens are expected to hear this week whether they have been successful in their tribunal claim for constructive dismissal .

They have turned whistleblowers and accompanied the Echo on a tour of the city centre to show where they were told to issue tickets despite doubts over the lawfulness of the signs and regulations

Mr Burnett said he felt furious after discovering his ticket had been issued unlawful and said: " I left the van outside on what is clearly a triple yellow line while we were about to load
"It took longer than we thought it would to load and in the meantime we were given a ticket.

"I appealed against it as I thought it was unfair but lost . After that I did speak to Percy and he is still challenging it on my behalf

"I have since discovered it is totally unlawful to give tickets when the road markings are not as they should be and I am really angry I have been penalised in this way

"Nothing has changed on the road marking but I am not sure who has been given a ticket there"

Mr Prowse said he had recently written to the county council's solicitor to ask what a triple yellow line meant and he was told it meant "absolutely nothing". He said: " A triple yellow line means nothing so they should never have issued a ticket in the first place.
The council wrote back to him to say 'the intention' of the lines was clear.
"To make variations from road signs in law the council needs permission from the Secretary of State. The law also states you cannot have a variant on yellow lines and a triple yellow does not exist For this reason it is totally unlawful."

Exeter City Council carries out the enforcement of on-street parking in the city on behalf of Devon County Council
A spokesman for the county council said: "The city council is instructed to enforce where the intent of the signs and lines clearly communicate the relevant restrictions
"Minor deviations in markings from the requirements of the regulations will not automatically invalidate a Penalty Charge Notice. If any individual believe they have been issued a Penalty Charge Notice incorrectly they hould appeal as directed on the notice."

Monday, October 04, 2010

Millions of parking tickets given out 'illegally', expert reveals

By David Harrison
02nd October 2010
Millions of parking tickets are being issued illegally all over the UK, according to a leading expert.
Chris Leithead, ex-head of the Metropolitan police traffic division and a traffic consultant who advises councils on parking, said local authorities were issuing parking tickets in areas where signs were unlawful.

He said he had witnessed this in London, Birmingham, Manchester Edinburgh and Bath and was "absolutely certain" it was happening in many other areas.
Defective signs he has identified include:

  • Signs more than 60 metres apart, or simply missing

  • Road markings, such as parking bays and yellow lines, so worn they can barely be made out3

  • Double yellow lines with no T-bar to show the end of the no parking restriction.

  • "Swivel" signs that change restrictions without warning.

  • Signs that are unclear or ambiguous.

Mr Leithead, who has advised councils all over the UK on the introduction of decriminalised parking enforcement, said: "We are talking about millions of tickets that have been issued unlawfully.
"Councils are taking advantage of the fact that most motorists do not know the signs are unlawful and that, even if they have concerns, they will just pay up to get it out of the way.
"But drivers should not be given those tickets in the first place."

His comments followed The Sunday Telegraph's disclosure last week (here) - confirmed in leaked emails - that Exeter city council had told traffic attendants to keep on issuing tickets even after they had pointed out that parking signs and bays were unclear or wrong.
Council parking controls have to be enshrined in bylaws, called Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs). The signs and markings used to impose the restrictions have to be displayed and painted according to Department for Transport instructions before tickets can be issued, with only "minor deviations" allowed.

But Mr Leithead said there nobody checked whether councils were complying with the regulations - and many were flouting them openly as a way of raising revenue.
"This is not traffic management," he said. "If councils were serious about wanting traffic to flow more freely we would see attendant giving out tickets to cars blocking buses and other vehicles on main roads.
"But too many of them are busy dolling out tickets in quiet side streets where cars are not actually causing any problems and where signs are often unclear and unlawful."
A spokesman for the AA said: "When someone with Mr Leithead's inside knowledge and experience speaks out like this we should sit up and take notice.
"This confirms what we have long suspected - that councils are exploiting motorists to boost their coffers."

Through his local MP, Tony Lloyd, Mr Leithead has lodged a complaint with the parliamentary ombudsman, accusing the Secretary of State for Transport of maladministration for failing to require local authorities to carry out their legal duties.

He decided to complain after working as a consultant for Bath and North East Somerset council in 2008 and discovering many of its TROs and signs were unlawful.
Two TROs, for example, contained contradictory controls for the same road with one decreeing that there should be parking bays and another saying there should be no waiting allowed by any vehicles.
When he told the council that it should not issue parking tickets in these areas until the errors were rectified he says officials ignored his advice and the Department for Transport failed to take any action against them.

In March this year Richard Buckley, head of the Department for Transport's traffic management division, replying to a letter from Mr Leithead, said the department had no "formal role" to manage councils' parking controls performance or to investigate allegations made against them.
If officials received evidence of council failings they would "advise" the authority to stop issuing tickets but the local authority would decide whether to take any action, he said.
It was up to local communities, media and campaign groups to hold local authorities to high standards, using "civil society and local democracy," Mr Buckley added.

Mr Leithead said the department's response was "totally unacceptable" because "nobody is scrutinising councils' performance." He wants to see a national inspectorate set up to perform that role.
"The threat of the inspectorate would concentrate minds to make sure councils get it right in the first place," he said.
Mr Leithead,69, a former police superintendant with a total of 45 years experience as an officer and traffic consultant, said that, unlike police-trained wardens, council parking attendants were not trained to recognise incorrect signs.
"Their managers should ensure that enforcement officers receive proper training so they can identify illegal signs and know not to give out tickets," he said.
"But instead they are being ordered to hand out tickets anyway.
"The Sunday Telegraph "showed it was happening in Exeter, and I am absolutely certain that the problem is duplicated across other parts of the country. It's cynical, iniquitous and wrong."

Neil Herron, director of the Motorists Legal Challenge Fund, said: "As an influential police figure in the switching of traffic control powers to councils Mr Leithead is in a perfect position to see what is happening on the other side.
"What he is revealing is the deliberate abuse of council powers under the guise of traffic management. Many councils are out of control and beyond censure. A full investigation is needed to expose those councils that are breaking the law to impose a stealth tax."

A spokesman for Bath and North East Somerset council said: "We are undertaking a project to make Traffic Regulation Orders mor accessible anf understandable to the public as part of our commitment to ensuring compliane with relevant legislation.
"If the council did discover any uncertainty over the validity of a Traffic Regulation Order, enforcement would be suspended until the ambiguity is cleared up."

A motorist was issued with a £40 penalty charge notice because he stuck his pay-and-display ticket in a side window rather than the windscreen.
Peter Kirby, 78, had paid the right amount to park in Croydon, south London. He wrote to Croydon council, which waived the fine.
He said: "I don't believe the fine would have been enforceable in court as the ticket said 'Place on display in the windscreen' whereas the Penalty Charge Notice merely requires the ticket to be 'displayed clearly'."
A spokesman said: " The motorist provided evidence that on this occasion he had bought a valid pay and display ticket."

A retired businessman was ordered to pay a £60 penalty for using a £6 day ticket, valid for long-stay car parks in Scaborough, North Yorkshire, in a car park which was for short-stay-only during the summer.
Clive Dixon, 62, from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, said there were no signs informing motorists that the car park was for short stays only.
He appealed but Scarborough council refused to back down until Mr Dixon threatened legal action and produced photographs from every angle, proving there were no signs.
Eventually officials apologised and said a mistake had been made.

When Peter Cook popped into his local butchers to buy sausages, he left his car on double yellow lines for a few minutes. He came back to find a parking attendant starting to issue a ticket.
"We had a brief exchange and she was trying to hold me in a conversation. i got in my car and drove off," he said.
Weeks later he received a letter demanding £60 for the transgression on Chaucer Road, Gillingham.
Mr Cook, 52, a business consultant and author, told Medway council he had never received an initial ticket giving him the chance to pay at the discount rate of £30.
The council replied with a statement from the parking attendant: "Ticket handed to driver at 10.53am."
The motorist disputed the attensant's account. Eventually the council agreed to waive the fine, saying the attendant may have forgotten what had happened.

30 per cent of residents parking schemes in Plymouth not legal: Claims flood expected

The council admit that lines are defective and stop enforcing. The recent decision of the High Court in the Barry Moss case and the precedent set in Woolwich Equitable Building Society v Inland Revenue Commissioners means that the council has acquired unlawfully derived income has a duty to refund such tickets.

This is Plymouth
By Keith Rossiter Political Reporter
Parking tickets may have been issued illegally on scores of city streets.
There are fears that Plymouth City Council could face a flood of claims for refunds after a motorist won her case at a parking adjudication hearing.

The ticket issued against the unnamed driver has been overturned because the lines were incorrectly painted more than a decade ago.

Now it has emerged that about 30 per cent of residents' parking chemes put in by Devon County Council when it still controlled transport in Plymouth are not legal.

Last week, the city council was working frantically to correct the mistake.

Under Government regulations, there should be single lines at the end of a residents' bay - but a third of the city's schemes have double yellow lines.

"We corrected more than half the bays by Friday, and the rest will be done within a few days," said Mr Wigens.

He refused to comment on whether the ruling would open the floodgates for people to demand refunds of parking tickets.

But Labour city councillor Brian Vincent, who drew the attention of The Herald to the problem, said he feared that it could cost the council thousands of pounds.

Jim Aspey, who has lived in Wellington Street, Greenbank for more than 30 years, said he was disgusted.

"You've got to have a permit and we have to pay for visitors tickets as well."

He said the lines in Wellington Street had been painted more than ten years ago. About 500 permits had been issued for only 200 bays in his area.

"When the students are here, there is nowhere to park," said Mr Aspey.

He pays £25 a year for his permit, and also buys books of tickets for residents.

A council spokesman said: "As this issue applies to a minority of our resedential bays, we continue to enforce the majority.

"All of our residential bays are clearly signed and widely understood, therefore we'd urge motorists not to behave any differently, so as not to run the risk of enforcement."

Mr Wigens said: "Obviously it wouldn't have been correct for us to continue patrolling and ticketing in the normal way.

"My understanding is that a number of local authorities find themselves in a similar position.

"Councils do their best to strike a balance, protecting the interests of residents and giving them a reasonable chance to park near their homes.

"All of the bays affected were ones that came across to us from Devon County Council when Plymouth became a unitary authority in 1998.

"It does seem to many people, including myself, that these sorts of technical issues aren't within the spirit of the legislation."
Mr Vincent, the shadow Cabinet member for transport, said: "They've stopped the wardens from issuing tickets, so you've got all these wardens doing nothing. They are costing the council money and not bringing in revenue.

"This could be a bombshell if people who have been prosecuted challenge it.

"It could cost the council thousands of pounds."

Mr Vincent, who is an Efford and Lipson councillor, added: "There will be a huge loss of income until the lining is made legal.

"People who pay for residents' permits aren't going to be very happy having paid £25 a year when it turns out that anyone could park."

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