Monday, February 27, 2012

Well done Cherwell DC for refunding motorists

Parking fine refunds after Cherwell District Council error
BBC News Oxford
The council will repay £11,600
worth of fines after the ombudsman's ruling

Residents in Oxfordshire are to be refunded £11,600 worth of parking fines after a council failed to properly signpost new charges.

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) found Cherwell District Council had not
acted "reasonably" over new rules it introduced last April.

A council spokesman said the authority did not agree with the findings.
But the council said it would repay all fines issued in the nine days in April when adequate signs were not in place.

Dr Jane Martin, from the LGO, which upheld five complaints, said: "In this case I found that there was indeed unfairness, the council did not act reasonably.'

'Above Legal Requirements.'
"It was not at all fair in my view that the onus was on the complainant to check when they'd been used to not paying charges in the past."
Councillor Barry Wood said: "We are disappointed with the findings.
"This authority went over and above the legal requirements to ensure that changes to parking charges were communicated well in advance of implementation.
"In recognition of a high level of [fines] issued during the first two weeks of the changes, we introduced additional signage, as well as writing to every Blue Badge holder in the district informing them of the changes."

The council said it has the details of those affected in the district between
4 and 13 April last year and will contact them directly to repay the fines.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Pay close attention to the increase in parking news stories from the South West

A little bird tells me that we all should watch this space.
Robin B'stard (left)

Exeter Express and Echo
Thursday, September 01, 2011
The parking fines fiasco that drove motorists crazy

WHEN Chris Bragg received a parking fine for stopping in a loading bay he was incensed.
The 63-year-old had not seen a small sign attached to a building site hoarding which warned drivers that they should not stop in the bay – which was unmarked on the road.

Campaigner: Chris Bragg in Market Street,
Crediton where he received a parking fine
Mr Bragg, who runs a garage business in Crediton, where he received the fixed penalty notice, was convinced the signage was insufficient and appealed against the fine.
His appeal was rejected and the Copplestone resident reluctantly parted with £105.

But with the cheque he handed over Mr Bragg included a strongly worded letter, accusing Devon County Council and Mid Devon District Council of breaking the law in accepting the money.
Devon County Council spent several months defending its right to issue fines in the street before it emerged that parking officials had raised many concerns about the markings in the town square.

The county authority eventually admitted the markings on the "dual use" bay, which is a loading area in the morning and a restricted parking zone in the afternoon, had never been properly authorised by the Department of Transport.

The council apologised for the mistake, and the case opened the floodgates for motorists fined for parking there.
Between his unsuccessful appeal and paying the fine Mr Bragg had made contact with a small band of campaigners who have spent many hours researching and pointing out flaws in Devon County Council's enforcement of parking.

These individuals, two of whom are former policemen, say the Crediton case is just the tip of the iceberg, and the county council will be forced to refund more cash.
Some might accuse this group of trying to find technical ways of getting around legitimate fines, an allegation they would refute.

Peter Harry, from Dawlish, began investigating parking issues after a council official falsified documents to make it appear his car was illegally parked in Exeter.
The 68-year-old, who helped Mr Bragg with his fight against the fine, said the campaign was more about righting injustice and holding officials responsible for mistakes which have been made.
"Using the Freedom of Information Act we were able to show that Mid Devon District Council knew that it should not be enforcing restrictions in Market Street, but it continued handing out fixed penalty notices," he said.
"The markings had not been authorised and were unclear. The councils continued to take people's money, not out of malice but because of incompetence."

Mike Thompson, the former Mayor of Cullompton and an ex-police officer, is also working to expose areas where parking regulations have not been properly set up.
The Freedom of Information Act has proved invaluable to the group, which has used it to obtain internal council emails that have exposed mistakes made.
"We are just looking at some of the irregularities and we have found a massive amount of evidence," said Mr Thompson.
"The councils look at fixed penalty notices as a revenue stream but they do not realise the pain and anguish that these cause.
"I have spoken to pensioners who are genuinely worried when they receive a parking ticket. They have to weigh up whether it is worth appealing and risk the fine amount doubling.
"It is a scandal that the councils are not taking every measure possible to ensure the markings are approved and enforceable."

Devon County Council estimates it collected around £6,000 in unlawful fines in Crediton's Market Street. In another twist to the saga, this week it was forced to change the terms of its refund policy.
The council had given those fined 28 days to apply for a refund from the date of a public notice which it issued in May.
Mr Harry question why, when for years it had collected fines illegally, the authority had given them less than a month to apply to get their money back. There is now an open-ended refund policy in place.

A spokesman for the county council said: "In issuing the notice we took advice from a barrister, which was that 28 days was an appropriate period.
"Whilst that period has now elapsed, in good faith, we are continuing to assess any request for refund on its merit and where it is the case that the penalty charge notice was issued in error a refund is provided."
He was not available to comment on whether the council was reviewing the legality of road markings elsewhere in the county.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This is only the beginning ...

Private land parking disputes are set to become the big issue over the next 18 months and 2012 will be the year it all comes to a head...

It doesn't take a Mayan Prophecy to work that one out as clamping is banned and the Protection FROM Freedom Bill works its way through Parliament shifting liability for 'breaches of contract' to a third party and allowing private ticketers to pursue the Registered Keeper using 'purchased' information from the DVLA.
You have been warned.

Express and Echo
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Calls for action over 'harsh' parking firm

ANGRY motorists are demanding action from the private parking regulator after claiming they were treated harshly by an enforcement firm in the city.
The Echo has highlighted a string of recent complaints about parking firm PPS.

ANGRY: Victoria Davison has complained after being given a parking ticket
at Exeter Central Station

Motorists have expressed concern about the way they have been treated at Exeter's Central Station and other privately owned city centre car parks.
Now two more drivers have contacted the Echo claiming they should not have been given tickets by Premier Parking Solutions, based in Newton Abbot.

Both have contacted the British Parking Association (BPA) – a trade body which regulates firms. They are calling for it to cancel membership for PPS.

Schoolteacher Chris Charlwood, 50, from Cheriton Fitzpaine, was given a £75 fine at Exeter Central Station after PPS claimed his ticket was not visible enough.
The deputy headteacher said: "I was given a fine despite my parking ticket being displayed," he said.
"But because it was in a recess on my dashboard common on some Peugeot cars the parking operative did not see it.
"Nowhere is the motorist specifically directed to a designated display position within their vehicle where the ticket must be displayed. I have complained to the BPA in the strongest terms about the Draconian and unaccountable manner in which this firm appear to manage their parking operations."

Victoria Davison, from Bradninch, was also given a £75 fine after parking at Central Station. She has also complained to the BPA.
She said her ticket was also on display, but facing downwards. "I have written to PPS about the fine," she said.
"But they have threatened to place it in the hands of a debt collector if it is not paid.
"I'm not paying it because my parking ticket was valid. I've complained to the BPA," she said.

The latest complaints come after the Echo featured a story about a patient fined by a different company at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital when her treatment overran. Her appeal was rejected.

A BPA spokeswoman said complaints would be investigated.
She said: "We urge those who feel that they have been treated unfairly to contact us with full details.
"The BPA investigates all complaints made against members of its Approved Operator Scheme and disciplinary action is taken against any operator who is found to be in breach of the code of practice." Earlier this year PPS was ordered by Network Rail, which owns the car park in front of Central Station, to be more lenient towards drivers.
It followed complaints made by city MP Ben Bradshaw following a spate of enforcement tickets issued to drivers.
In one case a driver from Exeter was given a parking charge within a minute of pulling on to the station car park.

Despite being contacted by the Echo, nobody was available for comment from PPS.
If you feel you have been harshly penalised by a parking firm contact the Echo newsdesk on 01392 442239.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Police ‘help bailiffs to seize cars over unpaid parking fines’

The Times
August 27th 2011
Mark Atherton
Police ‘help bailiffs to seize cars over unpaid parking fines’

(Rock music fans at the Reading Festival yesterday. Police forces earned almost £8 million in the past year providing security for events such as
music festivals)

The police have been accused of acting beyond their authority by helping bailiffs to collect disputed parking fines.

An investigation by The Times has discovered that forces across the UK, including the Metropolitan and Kent Police, have been regularly assisting bailiffs to seize the cars of motorists with outstanding penalties, even though campaigners say they do not have the legal authority because parking enforcement in most parts of the UK is a civil, not criminal matter.

In one case, the police helped Newlyn, a bailiff company that has been accused of adding extra costs to debts, cutting corners and aggressively chasing people for money that they say they do not owe. The Times has obtained video evidence of how the police confiscated the car keys of one driver and handed them to Newlyn even though the bailiff provided documentation of disputed authenticity and the driver denied that he owed any money.

In 2009 a district judge branded a director of Newlyn a liar in a hearing about the renewal of a bailiff’s licence. The driver who had his car confiscated has since taken his case to the Police Complaints Authority.

The law states that the police should assist bailiffs only if there is likely to be a breach of the peace, but officers appear to be routinely going on joint operations to stop motorists.
Ron Clark, of, a website that champions the cause of motorists, said: “The permission to engage in such activity was removed by the Enforcement of Road Traffic Debts Order of 1993. Police should no more be assisting bailiffs to chase up parking contraventions than they should be assisting utility companies in securing payment of their energy bills.”

Barrie Segal, of, which helps people fight unfair parking penalties, said: “Shouldn’t the police be concentrating on chasing people who break the criminal law? I’m all for police stopping motorists where they suspect a crime has occurred. I just don’t think they should team up with bailiffs because it misleads the public into thinking that bailiffs have greater powers than they do.”
Legal experts consulted by The Times said the police could be acting beyond their authority.

District Judge Stephen Gerlis, of Barnet County Court, said: “I am not aware of any protocol or authority that provides for the police to be involved in the enforcement of civil debts, unless there is a suggestion that a criminal offence may be committed.”

The joint operations came to light after The Times obtained a transcript of a court hearing about a bailiff’s licence renewal. In this hearing, Leonard Brailey, an employee of Marston’s, a leading bailiff company, admitted that the police had for the past seven years been assisting his company with roadside stopping operations in Kent and other areas on the outskirts of London. In the past six months, he had taken part in six to ten operations, he said.
He explained that police would flag down oncoming cars for a roadside check. Then, after completing the check, they would say to the motorist: “Here is a bailiff. He is going to carry out checks as well.” Mr Brailey agreed that the impression given was that this was some lawful stopping to which the motorist had no right to object.

Kent Police confirmed it had conducted roadside police operations with bailiffs. The Metropolitan Police said it also carried out roadside stop operations with bailiffs “on rare occasions”. Both forces said they were satisfied that their operations were legal.

According to Mr Brailey, after being introduced by the police, the bailiff phones his office to check whether there are any outstanding warrants for unpaid fines relating to the vehicle. But Mr Clark said: “The bailiff’s van is equipped with Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology and a database of vehicles on which there are outstanding parking contraventions. These are the vehicles the police stop.”

Malcolm Hurlston, of Credit Action, the national financial education charity, said: “The proposals for regulating bailiffs are already months overdue. The whole area of bailiff activity is confusing and complicated and urgently needs regulation.”
The Ministry of Justice said: “The majority of bailiffs are responsible, but too many are not and this cannot continue. We will publish our consultation as soon as we have exhausted our exploration of all the issues.”
Newlyn refused to comment but has previously denied any wrongdoing and has said that its director’s incorrect statement in court was “merely an administrative error”.

Local Government Ombudsman now becoming involved in parking issues

The intervention of the LGO in 'parking' related matters is quite timely and necessary. It is quite clear that there is serious maladministration involving processes and systems in many councils but quite clear that there is no power for the adjudication service to investigate or censure and, up until now, the LGO has been reluctant to become involved. However, the sands are shifting and it is clear that systemic failings and maladministration are now likely to be investigated especially where such maladministration has the potential to impact nationally.

Ombudsman criticises Bexley Council over parking fine
Date Published: 26/07/11

Bexley Council’s rigid following of procedure and failure to update its address records meant that a woman suffered bailiff action unnecessarily for a parking fine.

Bexley Council’s rigid following of procedure and failure to update its address records meant that a woman suffered bailiff action unnecessarily for a parking fine, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin. In her report, issued today, she says that, as a result, the woman ended up paying £629.95 to clear the debt, instead of the £150 for which she was liable.

She says: “I consider that had the Council considered its discretion during the recovery process it would have responded to [the woman] at the correct address and she would have paid the appropriate fine. So the debt would not have been referred to the bailiff and the bailiff’s costs would not have been incurred.”

A resident complained that the Council pursued her at an old address for a penalty charge notice (PCN) of £100. She had not updated the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency of her new address and did not have a mail forwarding service in place. As a result, she became aware of the parking fine on collection of post from her old address, which included the PCN and charge certificate advising the fine had increased to £150. She wrote to the Council to advise of her new address and requested to pay the reduced fine of £50 as she had missed the opportunity. The Council did not respond to the letter. The Council pursued the debt to bailiff action unknown to the woman as correspondence was directed to her old address; six months after her letter she made a payment of £629.95 to the bailiffs to clear the debt. The complainant believes the Council should have responded to her correspondence at the address she supplied, so that the bailiff action could have been avoided.

The Ombudsman considers that whilst the Council followed the correct recovery process, it at no time considered its discretion. It did not consider correspondence which the complainant sent in; failed to update her address and so continued to send all correspondence to an old address where she no longer resided. As a result she did not receive relevant documents, and was not aware of the actions being taken against her. The Council rigidly followed its automated process, did not consider the individual circumstances or the use of its discretion.

The Ombudsman considers that, had such failings not occurred, the complainant would have paid the £150 fine for which she was liable, because at no time did she seek to evade payment of the debt. She lost the opportunity to pay the original fine or the reduced amount due to her own initial failings. But had the Council used its available discretion it would have recognised her change of address and properly explained the position to her regarding the ongoing debt recovery action. She would not then have faced unexpected and avoidable bailiff action.

The Ombudsman recommends that the Council:

pays the complainant £479.95, being the difference between the £629.95 paid and the £150 she could have paid had the Council not fettered its discretion by its rigid procedures, and
undertakes a review of its automated PCN recovery procedure, ensuring that correspondence is considered even if received outside the statutory notification period to ensure it considers its discretion based on the individual circumstances of each case.
The real names of people in this report are not given for legal reasons.

Report ref no 10 009 251

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Not So Smart Car Refunds reported in today's Sunday Mirror

This story is set to grow and grow as more councils are added to the list of uncertificated Smartcars.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Motorists could get CCTV fines refunded

Predicted on this blog sometime ago and now it seems that the Local Government Ombudsman is set to intervene so that councils will be forced to refund £millions of unlawfully derived income.

Parking and bus lane fines worth millions of pounds could have to be refunded by councils using mobile CCTV vans.

The use of tickets-by-post from CCTV camera cars was permitted by the Traffic Management Act, which came into force in March 2008 Photo: Heathcliff O'malley

By David Millward, Transport Editor
17 Aug 2011

As many as 24 local authorities face potential claims from motorists after a successful challenge to a ticket by a driver in Richmond-upon-Thames, west London.

Nigel Wise contested a ticket issued by a mobile unit claiming that the device had not been formally approved by the Department for Transport.

His appeal was upheld by the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service and the council also agreed to pay Mr Wise £50 costs.

Richmond Council alone estimates that its liability could be as high as £1.05 million if it refunds an estimated 20,000 parking tickets issued between 2009 and 2011.

Proposals to refund the money, drawn up by Lord True, Richmond’s leader, will be considered by the council next month.

But in its own trade journal, Parking News, the industry estimates that as many as 24 councils could find themselves in the same position as Richmond.

The mobile CCTV units which use cameras fitted to a periscope are normally found on Smart cars.

They have been commonplace in London for several years and their use has spread to the provinces following a change in the law in 2008.

Councils using the units, whose fine have been subject to appeal, include Medway, Wirral, Bournemouth, Basildon, Plymouth, and Bolton.

Other authorities could find their parking fines challenged unless they can show that the complied with the small print of the Traffic Management Act 2008, which requires formal approval before the mobile cameras are allowed on the streets.

In particular they should check the paperwork sent by the Government’s Vehicle Certification Agency, which was found to be defective in the Richmond case.

Many motorists have been incensed by the cameras especially when they see the units brazenly parked on double yellow lines.

In her latest report, published earlier in the summer, Caroline Sheppard, the chief traffic adjudicator outside London, said councils should make sure the mobile units complied with the law.

This followed complaints about the quality of evidence provided by the mobile units which was often found to be unclear.

There had also been allegations by motoring groups that the mobile units were being used for “fine harvesting.”

In her report Mrs Sheppard said that the mobile cameras should only be used with “fairness and integrity.”

“The dash for cash through the sheer number of PCN’s which CCTV can dish out has clearly caught out some local authorities and deservedly so,” said Paul Watters of the AA.

They are quick enough to chastise drivers for minor parking bloomers yet think they can get away with wholesale rule breaking.

“In 2008 we were promised a fairer enforcement system for all but despite efforts to bring this about even that new guidance was not adhered to – its is tough for local authorities to repay large sums when budgets are being cut but it is a lesson that should be learned given the fact something like 10m penalty charge notices are issued every year”.

Monday, July 11, 2011

London Borough of Richmond ... CCTV Smartcar Refunds

Let us not forget that the revenue derived by Richmond Council is UNLAWFUL income to which they are not entitled. Whilst their admission that their vehicles were incorrectly certified and refunds must be made requires praise along with some very laudible statements in their press release which I hope will serve as a reminder to other authorities that they are not above the law.

It is a requirement that they keep details of every financial transaction and therefore there should be no problem whatsoever contact everyone who has paid to advise them of the situation ... thus allowing them an opportunity 'to appeal' as Richmond claim their legal advice requires. That way they will not need to expend vast sums of money on press and media advertising.

Some cynics would perhaps suggest that a few adverts will result in significantly fewer refunds. I would like to believe that Richmond's intentions are honourable and an example that many others will be forced to follow in the coming months.


Appeals for fines issued by camera cars (from March 2009 until April 2011)
At a Cabinet meeting on the 21 July, members will discuss a recommendation that Parking Charge Notices (PCNs) issued by the Council’s mobile camera cars from March 2009 until April 2011 are refunded. This is due to the cars being incorrectly certified during this time.

The PCNs issued fall outside the usual 28 day appeal period. Legal advice to the Council is that there is no need to repay parking charges outside the appeal period. However, as motorists had no way of knowing the charges were incorrectly levied, the Cabinet, in accordance with its Fair Parking policies, is being recommended to allow a special 3-month appeal period to enable motorists caught by the camera cars to request a refund. Appeals made on this basis would automatically be allowed. Unclaimed funds would be reinvested in parking, highway and footpath related schemes.

If the Cabinet Meeting approves this approach the Council will launch an extensive advertising campaign to contact motorists, letting them know how they can apply for a refund and what the precise starting point for the three month appeal window is. This process will not be in place until the Cabinet decision has been taken, so motorists are urged to wait before they contact the Council.

Adverts will be placed in the local newspapers and on the Council website after the likely Cabinet approval.

Please monitor the local media following the Cabinet Meeting on 21 July for further information on how to apply. In addition, please note that only Parking Charge Notices issued by the mobile camera cars and during the above dates will be entitled to a refund.

For more information see our recent press release

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