Thursday, December 21, 2006

Burns Night in Sunderland ... Parking Cover Up continues

Now if you remember NPAS Adjudicator, Andrew Keenan stating 'all the lines and signs in Sunderland are correct'... and recently the Council Leader and Chief Executive stated that 'the regime is legally robust and enforceable' ...

Well guys ... looks like another attempt at a cover-up has backfired.

While sitting in the bath singing yuletide songs at 9am I received a telephone call.

"Neil, I can smell burning. You had better come into town."

Five minutes later I pulled up on one of their newly marked yellow lines...running through the loading / parking space. Now these locations had recently featured in a BBC Look North piece in which the Council denied that there was anything wrong with the signing in the Park Lane Village CPZ.

This was despite the fact that the DfT had only given them authorisation for the 'combination loading / parking' signs providing that they did not use the loading only legend on the highway.

Today the workers were burning off the Loading Only legends from the highway which had made the bays illegal. As the requirements for the CPZ are that ALL the streets are covered with lawful restrictions the CPZ falls ... and along with it goes every ticket issued in Park Lane Village CPZ.

I am sure that there will be an announcement offering refunds in time for Christmas.

Tragedy as TalkSPORT host Mike Dickin dies in car crash

The following report is a report of the tragic death and career of TalkSPORT radio host Mike Dickin.
Barrie Segal and I became a regular fixture of the 'angriest man in Britain's' phone-in on TalkSPORT. Mike certainly lived up to his reputation when callers rang up to highlight their personal parking injustices. He did not hold back when he aired his thoughts on the illegality of decriminalised parking and the behaviour of those involved.
He will be a very big miss.
Our deepest sympathies go out to Mike's family.

Radio host Dickin dies in crash

Dickin had been with Talksport for ten years.

Talksport phone-in host Mike Dickin, known to listeners as "The King", has died in a road accident in Cornwall.The presenter, who was in his 60s, was involved in a six car pile-up on the A30 on Monday. He was airlifted to hospital but was pronounced dead.

Dickin started his career at BBC Radio Oxford in the 1970s, where he was the first presenter on the air.

He also broadcast on Radio 4 and LBC, and won an award for his coverage of the Lockerbie disaster in 1988.

The presenter, who broadcast from his home studio in Bodmin Moor, was known for his passionate, outspoken views.

Listeners dubbed him Britain's angriest man, but he was also known as "The King" because of his supposed resemblance to Henry VIII.

Dickin hosted weekend overnight phone-ins on Talksport and was last heard on the station last weekend.

Colleague James Whale paid tribute to the broadcaster, calling him "the original grumpy old man".
"Radio will never be the same again," continued the presenter, who will pay tribute to Dickin in his programme on Thursday night
Mike Dickin was a broadcasting legend and will be sorely missed by the millions of listeners he has informed, entertained and argued with over his 36-year career.

Now here is your chance to remember Mike in this Book of Condolences, which will be passed on to his wife, Karen, and family. Feel free to share your memories, anecdotes or just your simple condolences to this great broadcaster

Mike Dickin (1935 – December 18, 2006), was a late-night host on the British radio station talkSPORT. Dickin used to present the 1am to 6am slot at weekends on Talk Radio. He returned filling in for James Whale during his battle with kidney cancer. He was given the morning show slot soon afterwards. He was affectionately known as the King by his fans due to his resemblance to King Henry VIII.

Starting out as a musician in the 1960s, Dickin was a bass player and singer who found he preferred playing records to making them when he joined the BBC in 1970 as the first presenter on air at Radio Oxford. In 1977, Dickin moved to Australia where he worked for Sydney's biggest radio station, 2UE. Upon returning to the UK in the late seventies he spent 17 years working for BBC Radio 4, LBC and Capital Radio. He started at Talksport (then Talk Radio UK) in 1996.

Dickin was famous for his strongly held views. His passion led to him being labelled “Britain’s angriest man” by talkSPORT listeners. Typical discussions on his show included crime, cars, trains, taxis, the problems of young people, the downfall of Britain, the incompetence of people in the service industry, parking tickets and call centres. He was also known for his catchphrases, such as “My health is not in question,” when asked how he is. Another catchphrase is “If you were constipated, you’d be speechless.”

Mike Dickin was killed in a car crash on the A30 near his home in Cornwall, on December 18th 2006.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bill's final vote is to quit politics

Sunderland Echo

SUNDERLAND MP Bill Etherington says he's quitting politics because "you're at everybody's beck and call and expected to vote at all hours of life".

But a review of his work in Parliament over the last 12 months revealed the Sunderland North MP has voted in just half of all House of Commons sessions – well below average.
The 65-year-old was blasted by his political opponents in the run-up to the 2005 General Election for not giving the people of Sunderland value for money and not speaking in Parliament enough.
Today Mr Etherington revealed he wanted to stand down before last year's election, but was persuaded to stay on.
Now, after spending 14 years representing the city in the Commons, he will call time on his career at the next General Election because his constituency is being wiped off the political map, after a series of boundary changes.
He said: "My constituency wouldn't exist after the next election. The new Sunderland Central will consist of mostly my patch, but also wards from other constituencies.
"I was going to stand down at the last election, but I was persuaded against my will. I felt I owed it to my constituents to take on one last request."
Neil Herron, who stood against Mr Etherington in the last election, said: "We need someone who can bang the drum for Sunderland. Sunderland needs a loud voice in the region and in Westminster.
"With Mr Etherington stepping down it's the ideal opportunity for someone to come along with Sunderland's interests at heart rather than just that of a political party."
Mr Etherington described his time in Parliament as being a "bit of a mixed bag".
He said: "It's not a very structural form of life being an MP. You're at everybody's beck and call and are expected to vote at all hours of life.
"Other than that, what's nice about the job, which doesn't really happen too often, is when people come and see you and I do what I can, but it's not always the way and sometimes I can't help them, but when I do and I make life better for a few of them, it's quite rewarding."
And after his resignation from the post, the pit worker of 21 years has plans to spend time with his family and at the house he bought in Scotland two years ago.
He added: "I think if you left school when you're 16 and work for the next 43 to 44 years, you can say you've done your bit and you're entitled to be put out to graze."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Had a Parking Ticket in Liverpool?

Liverpool City Council changed the wording on their PCNs on 15th August 2006.

Head of Parking Services, Roy Tunstall was on BBC Radio Liverpool drivetime programme last night with me. He is adamant that the Council can still pursue non-compliant PCNs issued BEFORE August 2nd 2006 because that was the date of the Moses v Barnet case and before that 'they had not been aware.'
He also stated that the decision only applied to Barnet ... and not Liverpool and it was up to each and every motorist to appeal their ticket individually!

I have threatened a Police and District Auditor complaint should they continue to pursue PCNs that they know to be non-compliant.

Meanwhile, anyone who has had a parking ticket in Liverpool and wishes to challenge it on the point that the PCN is unlawful simply e-mail me at

The story in the Liverpool Daily Post can be read here

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Subject: Radio 4 Today Programme and Daniel Hannan...Repeal the 1972 European Communities Act

In case you missed it, here is the link to "Listen Again" on the TODAY prog and Daniel Hannan's call to repeal the ECA 1972. If you haven't already logged your suggestion to repeal this act, please do so asap on the same site.

Click here to listen

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Parking fiasco

If you remember Sunderland Council's legal department told NCP to change the wording of the PCNs 'without delay' on 16th June 2005. They weren't changed until 30th November 2005. NCP continued to issue PCNs they knew to be unlawful and Sunderland continued to process unlawful PCNs AND bank the money.
Over 12,000 people were issued with unlawful PCNs between May when Sunderland were informed via an NPAS Circular (BC 188 MacArthur v Bury) yet Sunderland say that they cannot have their money back.

However, Eric Brittain who raised the complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman is about to receive an apology from the Council's Chief Executive, a refund and an offer of £50 compensation.

It may well be the precedent that costs many a council many a million.

Sunderland Echo
Letters Page
Monday, December 11, 2006

In all the recent publicity about the parking fiasco in Sunderland it seems to me, although NCP were partners, they have been made the scapegoat for Sunderland Parking Services' failures in some areas to comply with the Road Traffic Act.
Surely, it is an essential fact that those who are empowered to administer the law do so in accordance with the Act, not to suit themselves.
For instance Sunderland Parking Services were instructed by the National Parking Adjudication Service (a legal department supported by most councils with a percentage of the fines imposed) on May 4th, 2005, that their Penalty Charge Notices could be challenged as they did not contain a date of issue on them in order to comply with the Road Traffic Act.
Despite receiving this warning Sunderland Parking Services continued to issue PCNs to motorists without this added detail until sometime I believe in January/ February 2006. Sunderland Parking Services were even instructed by their own City Solicitor on June 14, 2005 to add this detail without delay.
One dreads to think how many motorists received PCNs in Sunderland during that period which did not comply with the RTA and were therefore subject to appeal.

E Brittain
St George's Estate

Defeat for in-house parking

Sunderland Echo
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
By Marissa Carruthers

Handing parking powers back to Sunderland Council was compared to putting "King Herod in charge of a nursery" at a meeting last night.
Last month, Sunderland City Council unanimously backed a decision to seize back control of on-street parking after a shocking TV documentary.
The undercover Inside Out programme showed city parking attendants making racist remarks and mocking disabled drivers.
They were also heard claiming that they had "tortured" drivers on Villette Road, caused criminal damage to vehicles and accepted drinks in return for not issuing parking tickets.
Five employees were sacked after an investigation.
But some councillors slammed the decision to take parking enforcement back under council control, and yesterday Conservative Councillors Peter Wood, Paul Maddison and Independent Michael Tansey used the authority's calling-in powers to challenge the decision.
Coun Wood said: "We have had two special meetings relating to parking in a 12-month period. Questions have been raised about whether yellow lines are in the right place and whether notices have the right information on them.
"Those problems, in my view, are really the result of serious failings within the council's own directorate of development and regeneration yet the cabinet is seriously considering giving the directorate more responsibility for parking in the city.
"My suggestion is that giving more responsibility to the directorate is like putting King Herod in charge of a nursery."
He added: "If NCP is no longer appropriate to run on-street parking, why are they okay to retain off-street parking?"
He suggested the council should have handed on-street parking over to another organisation to "restore public confidence" in the system.
But the majority of members of the council's environmental and planning review committee backed the bid to take on on-street parking in spite of these fears.
Coun Les Scott said: "I think the decision by the cabinet to bring parking back in-house was measured, considered and it was the right thing to do."
He said he felt the public felt most "comfortable" with the council seizing control of on-street parking.
The council contracted out parking enforcement in the city to NCP in 2003 when the responsibility was taken from the police and given to the council

BBC Radio 4 Poll ... Your help is required

Simply click on the link below and vote:

Link to BBC Vote

The 1972 European Communities Act

...once struck down, will restore accountability to our own Parliament in Westminster. It is questionable whether there will be restoration of sanity but at least then we will be able to sack those who make our laws. Which political party would then ever dare introduce legislation which would have seen a greengrocer take a criminal conviction to his grave for selling a pound of bananas or make it a criminal offence after Janauary 1st 2010 to make any mention of imperial measures?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

NPAS Apologises over errors in Herron v Sunderland Case... Review Request to go ahead.

Now if you can remember the hearing ... 3rd October 2006 the day after the BBC expose on the Sunderland Parking regime ... Sunderland City Council brought in a QC to present their case. (If you are a Sunderland Council taxpayer you should ask how much this cost).

Once the decision was sent out on 2nd November I decided that because there were errors in fact, in law and also clerical and administrative errors then I would request a review of the decision ... and therefore, reserve comment until the adjudicator's clerical errors had been corrected the request for review had been accepted ... once I had received a correctly worded decision.

But Sunderland Council couldn't wait and the press office 'briefed' the press that Neil Herron had lost BUT they compounded the NPAS mistake by going live with it. I was then forced to defend my reputation by pointing out that not only were Sunderland mistaken but that the matter would be taken to review once I had received a correctly worded decision.

NCP continued to issue in the area where my appeal had been successful.

The Council are using the NPAS decision to claim that their regime 'is legally robust' and the signs and lines are correct.

A formal complaint will be made to the Council...they went live with a press release which was factually incorrect and this 'maladministration' has caused an injustice and they have also potentially prejudiced other appellants as the Council used this factually incorrect NPAS Judgment in their evidence bundles for cases which were heard before NPAS in November.

I now have 14 days to submit the evidence in the Request for a Review to NPAS that will highlight the flaws that the adjudicator dismissed, and will include evidence from the Government Office of the North East and the Department for Transport. Since the adjudicator rejected Captain Green's photographic evidence without having sight of it.
An exhaustive photographic compilation of illegal signs and lines has been prepared to submit with the request for the review.

The NPAS letter specifically states:
"The consolidated decision which I now enclose rectified the clerical errors in respect of PCNs SX12069459, SX04061790, SX02033207 (they had been 'dismissed' in the original decision when in fact they had been allowed). It also now incorporates the various schedules referred to in the decision. Please accept the apologies of the tribunal for the errors and omissions in the original decisions, which occurred when recording the adjudicator's decision in the tribunal's case management system, and the accompanying covering letters in cases SX05042B, SX05052F,and SX05053J which reflected errors in the original decisions."


Let's hope that the people who purport to be professional and independent do a little better this time...but remember that NPAS do get 55p from every PCN issued, and the adudicators are appointed by the Joint Committee which comprises of representatives from the participating local authorities, including Councillor Joseph Lawson ... Sunderland City Council's DPE Portfolio Holder. ;-)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sunderland Council warned over illegal bays

Council warned over loading bay sizes
Sunderland Echo
Tuesday 5 December 06

Officials have warned Sunderland Council chiefs their plans to create loading bays smaller than the legal limit could be seen as entrapment.
Sunderland City Council wanted to created the bays in Front Street, Concord, Washington, narrower than the legal width.
However, an official from the Department of Transport said: "Let's not forget there are elements of potential entrapment here - ie they almost entice lorries to use bays they cannot fit into, then they can fine them for not parking within the bay. Nice little earner."

In November Government Office North-East also told the Wearside council a loading bay, which had been placed in Holmside, would have to be extended to 2.7m.
It was 1.5m wide and then the authority extended it to 2m.
And. it also emerged other loading bays in the city were already well below the legal minimum width.
However, Ged Fitzgerald, Sunderland Council chief executive, said: "The council refutes any inference that there has been any entrapment in the context of decriminalised parking in the city of Sunderland."

The authority said it hadn't created the bay in Front Street, and it would comply with regulations.

The loading restrictions are being created in response to traders' concerns about parking.
There was a series of blunders in Holmside over signs, lines and traffic orders and the council was forced to repay thousands of pounds in wrongly collected fines.

However, the council insists overall its systems are legally sound.

If believe that you must also believe in fairies.

Want to see what the Government Office and the Department for Transport say about Holmeside click here

Sunderland parking shambles... crisis grows

The latest news featured on BBC's Look North last night with the Council quoted as saying that 'when we identify mistakes we put them right...'

Now let us examine this a bit further:

A mistake?
Sunderland Council told the DfT that everything had been done. All lines, signs and TROs.
We can accept an odd broken line, missing sign or the odd inconsistency in a Traffic Order BUT what we are witnessing here is a shambles on a scale that beggars belief.

Now we reveal that the Council asked for authorisation for specific signs in Park Lane Shopping Village Controlled Parking Zone ... to operate dual purpose bays ( loading and parking or loading / taxi bays).

They were allowed the authorisation BUT it came with certain conditions. One condition was that there must be no loading only legend on the highway.

Now if you check:
Derwent Street
Olive Street
Mary Street and
Park Lane
you will see that there is a legend on the highway, therefore invalidating the special authorisation.

There is no legal restriction so no contravention could occur.

Now go back to the statement ... 'when we identify mistakes we put them right...' the bit they have missed off is ... and everyone fined illegally at these locations will be entitled to their money back because if there was no legal bay then it was free parking. No-one had any authority to demand a £30 fine.

Now check the loading bays at these locations. Some are only 2m wide, some less.

In the backlanes they actually cross the pavements encouraging motorists to park illegally (ie. on the path) or park out of the bay causing an obstruction.:
Back Olive Street
Back Derwent Street (N and S)
Back Albion Place

The Council cannot do as it pleases with regard to signing.

It must do as the law requires. It has not done so at these and many other locations.

More will be revealed including what the Government Office of the North East and the Department for Transport told them... but here is a taster below...

The story on the TV last night mentioned the words 'entrapment' and 'a nice little earner.'
Not my words but the words of a Government official.

Sunderland has been using loading bays which do not conform to the minimum width requirements of 2.7m.

Have you been fined in one of these bays?

The Park Lane Village CPZ requires ALL the signs and lines to be correct before it can come into force ... this little case study above is just a fraction of the evidence that has been compiled so far ... and there is much, much more.

In the Newcastle Journal the Chief Executive stated that they became aware of the narrow bays in Holmeside in the 2006 review in January.



ENFORCEMENT HAD CONTINUED IN BAYS WHICH WERE ONLY 1.5M WIDE!!! (I know because I received a ticket, photographed it and then photographed the restrcition again after NCP had removed it after being instructed by the Council. The Council claimed it was because the signs had been stolen...but they were in both photographs! That weekend the bays were remarked).


If you have you been fined in Holmeside?

Check out this link here

Monday, December 04, 2006

Everyone must love the EU... says Tony Blair

The Mail on Sunday
Last updated at 21:22pm on 2nd December 2006

A multi-million pound propaganda war to force the British people to love the European Union and Brussels bureaucrats is to be launched by Tony Blair as part of his legacy as Prime Minister, it has been revealed.

Read the full article here

'Entrapment' fear over parking plan

Council scorns 'nice earner' claim
The Journal
Monday, December 4, 2006
By Ross Smith

A civil servant told council bosses their plans for loading bays could constitute "entrapment" because vehicles would be too wide to fit inside them.
The comment is the latest controversy to beset Sunderland Council's parking system.
The council wanted to create loading bays in Front Street in Concord, Washington, which were smaller than the legal width.
But a Department for Transport official warned them on November 6 this year: "Let's not forget there are elements of potential entrapment here - ie they almost entice lorries to use bays they cannot fit into, then they can fine them for not parking within the bay. Nice little earner!!"
Government Office North-East also told Sunderland Council on November 13 that a loading bay already in place in Holmside in the city would have to be extended to the full 2.7m.
It was originally just 1.5m wide, but the council did evtend it this year to 2m.
And it emerged that other loading bays in the city were already well before the legal minimum width.
But Sunderland Council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald said yesterday: "The council totally refutes any inference that there has been any form of entrapment in the context of decriminalised parking in the city of Sunderland."
The council asked for permission for a bay two metres wide - smaller than the legal 2.7m minimum.
The council said it had not yet created the bay in Front Street, and it would comply with regulations when it did.
The loading restrictions are being created in response to traders' concerns about parking. The problem in Holmside is understood to have been uncovered by an internal review of the city's parking problems, which reported last January.
It was carried out in response to a series of blunders over signs, lines and traffic orders which forced the authority to repay thousands of pounds in wrongly collected fines.
However, the council insists its overall regime remains legally robust.
It was buoyed in its claim by a parking adjudicator's decision last month to reject 26 out of 28 appeals taken by campaigner Neil Herron, who has fought against the system.
The council recently decided to take control of on-street parking back "in house" after staff from its contractor, NCP, were filmed making racist remarks in an undercover documentary.
Northumbria Police said they were "looking into" information about the parking system in Sunderland, but had not launched a formal investigation.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Another fine mess

100s of city motorists could be let off car parking fines after legal test case
Milton Keynes News
by Craig Lewis

Hundreds of drivers could be let off their parking fines on a legal technicality.

The council could lose out on tens of thousands of pounds of parking revenue as a result of a decision by the National Parking Adjudication Service (NPAS).
Anyone caught parking illegally is subject to a £60 fine, halved to £30 if paid within 14 days.
This means if 500 tickets have to be scrapped the council will lose out on £30,000.
NPAS’ ruling came about after a London motorist took Barnet Council to court over a parking ticket as there was uncertainty if the date of issue was the same as the date of the contravention.
The court ruled that in the future tickets must include both dates and that outstanding tickets which didn’t would be invalid.
NPAS decided that if anyone challenged a ticket that didn’t include both dates it would rule in favour of the individual and not the issuing authority.
Any tickets already paid would not have to be re-visited as liability has already been admitted.
Officers in Milton Keynes Council’s parking department were hopeful the decision would not apply to the city.
Parking regulations in MK start at 6am and finish at 6pm, meaning there is no chance of the date of contravention being different to the date of issue. But NPAS insist the ruling does apply.
On hearing of NPAS’ decision on August 29 the council changed its tickets to include both dates, but it is has been left with hundreds of unpaid tickets.
And council transport boss Cllr Chris Williams is frustrated many motorists who parked illegally could now get off scott free.
He said: “Some people who park badly are going to get away with it.
“We have decided to err on the side of caution and if we have any doubt about a ticket we will write it off.”
And he admitted the council may eventually have to write off all outstanding tickets.
It has already ceased legal action against anyone who hasn’t paid their fine while the review takes place.
“We are currently going through many hundreds and we will write off the majority,” he said.
“I want to look at each case on its merits and we will cancel the tickets if there is any doubt.” He added the review is not seen as a loss of revenue as no income has been received.
“The council doesn’t see parking tickets as revenue - rather as a method to encourage people to park properly,” he added.
“This is not about revenue, but putting things right.”
Anyone who has a query over an outstanding parking ticket should call the council’s parking team on 01908 691691.

Chauffeur’s fury over £150 BP parking fine ... Civil Enforcement at it again

Herts and Essex News

Dad tells of street threats

A ROYSTON chauffeur is “outraged” after receiving a £150 fine for parking at a BP garage.
Colin O’Dell, of Echo Hill, stopped in a designated space for the café while he ate food purchased from the Gatwick North BP Connect garage.
Unaware of the 20- minute limit, Mr O’Dell spent 35 minutes eating his food and drinking a coffee in his Lexus limo.

A month later, he received the £150 fine from BP’s contractors Civil Enforcement Ltd.
Mr O’Dell, of Pinstripe Corporate Travel, said: “They lure you in with their advertising for the Wild Bean Coffee shop, which invites you to ‘chill out’, and they have seating inside.
“I saw no warning sign at the time to tell me I had just 20 minutes to finish a hot coffee and at no point was I warned by staff about this fine.”
In a statement, BP said the 20-minute time limit was clearly displayed on the forecourt, at the café and by the tills.
The company, which announced profits of £11bn earlier this year, said the restrictions were introduced at Gatwick North and South garages to cut congestion as motorists waited to pick-up arriving passengers.
Mr O’Dell said he has no intention of paying up and will appeal against the fine.

Fined driver takes on council and wins ... another Council falls

In March 2006 I predicted a national moratorium for drivers who had unpaid non-compliant PCNs.
The dominoes are toppling ... like nine pins ;-)

Havant and West Sussex
A MOTORIST took on a council over a parking fine – and won.

Stephen Taylor was fined £30 after his ticket slipped down the dashboard of his car.
Determined not to pay up, he took Havant Borough Council to the National Parking Adjudication Service.
And the motorist is today celebrating after the panel found in his favour.
It ruled that Mr Taylor, from Chichester, proved he had bought a ticket when he was fined in Emsworth in June.
He said: 'I appealed because I just thought they were being really petty.
'I have never failed to pay in more than 10 years of parking here.'
During the hearing the panel also found that thousands of parking fines handed out by Havant Borough Council were invalid.
Fines issued failed to include two dates – when the offence took place and when the fine was issued.
After a High Court ruling in August both dates must appear on the fine so the motorist – who has 28 days to appeal – knows how much time they have to challenge it.
Immediately after the ruling Havant council changed its parking fines.
Even though the authority had previously been handing out thousands of illegal tickets, it will not have to repay the fines.
Once a fine has been paid an individual motorist loses their right to appeal.
Gerry Facenna, a barrister who works for Monkton Chambers, said: 'Any tickets which failed to have two dates on them even before the High Court ruling are still considered invalid.
'In terms of challenging it, people have a very limited time, 28 days I think.
'Those who have already paid are unlikely to be able to claim it back.'
Havant council said it had changed its parking fines on the day of the High Court ruling.
Council leader David Gillett didn't want to comment on the issue, but a council spokeswoman said: 'The public can be advised that action against drivers who park in a thoughtless, dangerous or improper manner will be tackled by the council.'

The fine mess continues ... now Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton Councils in trouble

Today we make front page of the Northern Echo

Car parking fines may be cancelled

TWO North-East councils could cancel thousands of unpaid parking tickets as a result of a court ruling, The Northern Echo has learnt.

Stockton Borough Council is taking legal advice over whether parking charge notices it issued during the course of a year were invalid.

Last night, it emerged that Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council was putting on hold outstanding fines from a two-and-a-half-year period. Both have apparently fallen foul of a judge's ruling that parking tickets must carry on them the date of issue and the date on which the offence was committed.

Stockton altered its procedures in September, but could still be forced to write off an estimated 3,600 outstanding tickets, along with the tens of thousands of pounds in fines that would have resulted from their payment.

Redcar, meanwhile, is trying to establish how many outstanding fines are affected by what it called a "technicality".

However, in line with other similarly-affected councils, it said motorists who had already paid would not get their money back, since they are thought to have accepted liability.

Last night, parking campaigner Neil Herron, who has uncovered mistakes in parking enforcement at Sunderland City Council, said:
"There is a domino effect that is hitting every local council that has failed to correctly draft parking charge notices.
"Effectively, an amnesty has been created for all unpaid parking tickets that are non-compliant.
"We predicted this several months ago, and now the penny is starting to drop in bucketloads.
"This is not a technicality, as local authorities are trying to have us believe, it is a fundamental legal requirement and they have failed to apply the law correctly."

The issue hinges on a case, heard in August in the High Court, in London, when a judge ruled that Barnet Council had acted incorrectly in only including the date of issue on its parking charge notices.

It was forced to cancel a number of outstanding "old style" penalty charge notices and lost about £87,000.

Subsequently, a number of councils that did not include both dates have been forced into making changes to their ticketing arrangements.

Stockton council it is yet to confirm whether it will cancel unpaid tickets.

A spokeswoman said: "In September 2005, it became the council's responsibility for issuing penalty charge notices to vehicles parked in contravention of traffic regulations.
"The council's legal service is considering the possibility that tickets issued from that date may not be valid due to a technicality."

Redcar and Cleveland council said: "From the start of this financial year, all parking contravention notices issued have been in compliance with the High Court ruling.
"We were keen to act in a fair and equitable manner and have been advised to put all outstanding payments on hold. We are in the process of establishing the total number of unpaid fines affected by this technicality."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Now there are spy cameras at rubbish tips

Is the increase in the new stealth tax because we are collapsing the decriminalised parking cash-cow?
Story below creates a problem ... who identifies the driver?

Mail on Sunday
By Jason Lewis

CCTV system will record your car's number plate and what you are throwing out

Spy cameras are being installed at household rubbish dumps to check what residents are throwing away and to fine those breaking recycling rules.
The sophisticated CCTV systems are capable of reading and storing car number plates to identify who is using the dump, how often, and what they are disposing of.
But human rights groups condemned the surveillance as an 'unjustifiable' way of tracking people's movements.
The Big Brother-style tactics come as the Government puts pressure on local councils to cut the amount of rubbish sent to landfill sites. But the fear is that extra surveillance will only lead to more illegal fly-tipping.
The Mail on Sunday has already exposed the electronic 'bugs' secretly planted in hundreds of thousands of household wheelie bins.
Now sophisticated internet-controlled cameras are being installed at waste sites across the country. Officially they are to improve security, but council chiefs admit they will also monitor who is visiting the tips.
Several councils also say they will use camera evidence to mount prosecutions - raising fears more householders will be taken to court over what they throw away.
Cameras have been installed in Buckinghamshire, Croydon, Somerset, Dundee and Hertfordshire, and more councils are planning to follow suit after the £80million-a-year Waste and Resources Action Programme quango suggested they use CCTV to 'check vehicles visiting dumps repeatedly'.
In Hertfordshire about 30 cameras have been installed at dumps, allowing council officials to check vehicle registration plates.
The county's assistant waste manager Mark Simpkins told a trade magazine: "The monitoring systems are invaluable. We use them to analyse...who is using the centre, what is being thrown away and how often." But last night his boss John Wood dismissed privacy concerns, saying: "I have not made the connection between our household waste sites and the wider debate about Big Brother."
However, local councillor Pat Whittaker said: "We have been campaigning for CCTV to guard against street robberies and anti-social behaviour - we do not need it at the local tip. These Big Brother tactics might discourage people from taking their rubbish for proper disposal."
Buckinghamshire and Somerset and County Councils have also installed number plate recognition systems at their dumps. Buckinghamshire council documents admit: "This may lead to investigation and possibly prosecution'.
Cameras have been imposed after the Government last year introduced a penalty of £150 a tonne on local authorities that dump too much waste in landfill sites.
Last night, Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said: "CCTV should only be used to protect high security installations - not to monitor a dump.
"This whole area is very poorly regulated. When you install an automatic number plate recognition system you are tracking people's movements.
"You need proper justification before you track people. I don't see how it is proportionate to use that kind of surveillance in the context of a recycling centre."

Sunderland Labour Group Letter that launched the national scandal

Friday, November 24, 2006

BBC Reports Sunderland Labour Sleaze Row

Labour in £2m party funding row

"The Labour party says it is not aware of any police investigation into subscription arrangements between Labour councillors and itself."

"Northumbria police confirmed they have received a complaint from Mr Sidaway. "

Read the rest of BBC story here

If anyone wishes to bring the Police investigation to Tony's attention to keep the 'pretty straight kinda guy' up to speed then click here to e-mail him.

I would suggest that if anyone else is concerned that their Council Tax is being used to illegally fund a political party then they too should complain to the relevant authorities including the Police and the Audit Commission.

Opportunity for the Leader of Sunderland City Council to stop parking fiasco

The letter below is self-explanatory, and with the national media spotlight shining on Sunderland for all the wrong political reasons again let us hope that common sense prevails ...

Councillor Robert Symonds,
Leader of Sunderland City Council
Civic Centre

24th November 2006 by e-mail

Dear Councillor Symonds,


In light of your most recent statement in yesterday's Sunderland Echo where you 'denied there were any more problems' with regard to the City's Decriminalised Parking Enforcement and in today's Newcastle Journal where you are quoted as saying, in relation to the City's parking regime, that it was 'robust, legal and enforceable' I wish to offer you the opportunity in the next seven days to meet me for a 30 minute walk around the City Centre.

It may be useful to bring along Portfolio Holder Councillor Joseph Lawson (who is also the City's Representative on the Joint Committee of the National Parking Adjudication Service) and perhaps the City Solicitor, Bob Rayner and the Chief Executive, Ged Fitzgerald in order to highlight the serious failings of Sunderland City Council's Decriminalised Parking Enforcement regime and the gravity of the situation which will undoubtedly continue to unfold, including public safety matters, as a result of illegal signing.

The serious signing flaws still exist despite yours, and others attempts to reassure the public that there is nothing wrong.

I have on record my previous attempts to bring this matter to the attention of yourself and a number of officials and elected members (but the indifference has been quite staggering with phone calls not returned and empty reassurances), but I hope this time you will appreciate the seriousness of what is now becoming an even bigger shambles as desperate attempts are made to gloss over what has been an exposure of an absolute dereliction of duty by all those tasked with the responsibility of running and overseeing this City's parking regime.

I wish to place it on the record that in some locations, because of illegal signing, there is a possibility of a serious accident occurring to both pedestrians and motorists alike. Further evidence of errors are being recorded and made available on a daily basis which totally undermines your statement that 'all the lines and signs within the City are correct.'

The revelations surrounding the behaviour of NCP Parking Attendants arising from the BBC 'Inside Out' documentary has provided a convenient distraction for the Council from the issues that I first raised some 18 months ago. However, PCNs are still being issued illegally in locations where both the Council and NCP are aware that the restrictions do not comply with the requirements of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002.

Lessons do not appear to have been learnt despite the recommendations of last year's, and the ongoing internal investigation. Indeed it appears that such was NCP's concern over the lines, signs and TROs that shortly after the commencement of the contract in 2003 they even offered to fund a review of the restrictions they were being asked to enforce. It seems that this offer was never taken up. Also, Council Officers have been advised on numerous occasions that the signs were unlawful and not compliant with statutory requirements yet enforcement has continued.

[In my particular case, I won the 2 appeals in Frederick Street (west) (2.11.06) with the adjudicator stating that the Traffic Regulation Order was wrongly drafted yet I am still issued with tickets on a daily basis for a restriction which is not legally in force and therefore no contravention can occur].

In light of the considerable amount of public money spent to date on correcting what Sunderland City Council told the Department for Transport in their DPE application would be correct by February 3rd 2003, and therefore potentially leaving the Secretary of State's decision to grant the Statutory Instrument 2002 No. 3266 The Road Traffic (Permitted Parking Area and Special Parking Area) (City of Sunderland) Order 2002 susceptible to revocation perhaps your intervention now may prevent expensive legal action.

I am making this offer in order for you, once you have sight of the evidence that I will provide on-street during a 30 minute site visit, to make the decision to initiate an immediate investigation and commission an independent expert's report, in order to prevent further waste of public money continuing to defend the indefensible, and to prevent any more people being fined in locations which are illegally marked and to prevent the City's accounts being compromised with unlawfully derived income.

Indeed it could be considered by some that, Sunderland City Council, by encouraging motorists to park in locations such as illegally signed Loading Bays (especially where Council Officers and NCP are aware that the signs are illegal) could be accused of 'entrapment' ( although some would say it is a 'nice little earner' ) but this is a very serious matter especially when the 'entrapment' is penal in nature.

I expect that you will insist that this is added to the Police investigation, which I understand Sunderland City Council initiated over 12 months ago, and recently added to by my own evidence which I supplied to DCI Hetherington directly. (I would be grateful if you could advise as to who within the Council initiated the Police investigation and the exact reasons for doing so).

Let us hope that in the interests of providing clarification and transparency for the Sunderland motoring and tax-paying public that you take up my offer and subsequently then make the correct decision to suspend enforcement, and request the intervention of the Department for Transport and Northumbria Police to ensure that the traffic is kept free flowing.

I would be grateful for a reply as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron

12 Frederick Street
Tel. 0191 565 7143
Mob. 07776 202045

cc. Ged Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, Sunderland City Council
cc. Bob Rayner, City Solicitor, Sunderland City Council
cc. Keith Beardmore, City Treasurer, Sunderland City Council
cc. Paul Davies, Head of Internal Audit, Sunderland City Council
cc. Lynne Snowball, Lynn Hunt Audit Commission
cc. Phil Barrett, Director of Development and Regeneration, Sunderland City Council
cc. Earl Belshaw, Parking Services, Sunderland City Council
cc. Tim Cowan, NCP Ltd. Communications Director
cc. Bob MacNaughton, Chief Executive NCP Ltd.
cc. Linda Watmore, Freedom of Information Link Officer, Sunderland City Council
cc. Susan Weir, Press Office, Sunderland City Council
cc. Margaret Douglas, Complaints Officer, Sunderland City Council

cc. Councillor Mike Tansey (Independent), Sunderland City Council
cc. Councillor Joseph Lawson (NPAS Representative and Portfolio Holder),Sunderland City Council
cc. Councillor Lee Martin (Leader of the Majority Group in Opposition), Sunderland City Council
cc. all elected members (via Jacqui Stubbs, Member Services), Sunderland City Council

cc. DCI Gary Hetherington, Northumbria Police

cc. Ross Robertson, Sunderland Echo
cc. Ross Smith, Newcastle Journal
cc. Tony Kearney, Mark Summers, Northern Echo
cc. Andy Smythe, BBC Look North
cc. Dave Morrison BBC 'Inside Out'
cc. Newsdesk, Sun FM
cc. Newsdesk, Metro Radio
cc. Newsdesk, Century FM
cc. Tyne Tees Television Newsdesk

cc. Richard Bentley, RMB Consulting
cc. Marilyn Waldron, Department for Transport
cc. Martin Gibson, Government Office of the North East
cc. Professor Raine, Birmingham University
cc. Caroline Sheppard, National Parking Adjudication Service
cc. Chris Mullin MP

cc. numerous press and media contacts and other interested parties.

Labour in fresh party funding row

BBC News
Labour has been accused of using councillors' publicly-funded allowances to help pay off party debts.
The Tories are calling for an inquiry by watchdog the district auditor after Labour changed its rules about levies from its local councillors.
Labour said the cash was used to support its local group activities.
But the Tories say a leaked memo shows funds are being sent to Labour Party headquarters rather than to fund local party activities.
Sleaze watchdog the Standards Board for England said it had received a complaint from an ex-Labour councillor.
Northumbria Police have also confirmed they have received a complaint from a former leader of Sunderland Council, Bryn Sidaway, who quit in protest at the levy.

Running costs
Mr Sidaway told the BBC that he was threatened with disciplinary action for refusing to give 3% of his £7,106 allowance - about £215.
"I think this is a national scandal. What they are saying is...if you don't cough up then you'll have to pay the consequences - we'll kick you out of the party.
"So, I thought this is not natural justice. It's an imposition of the worst kind and it's all about cash to fund what is basically mismanagement of Labour Party funds."
It would be wrong for some councillors not to contribute to something that they all benefit from
Labour Party
Labour MP Martin Salter, speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One, said: "I am quite happy for the Standards Board to say whether or not it is appropriate for payroll deductions to take place.
"Payroll deduction is a regular and well-used source."
All three main parties take a personal levy from their councillors to help with local running costs.
The Tories and Lib Dems say Labour is different because it uses the council payroll to deduct levies.
Labour councillors have always made compulsory donations to the Association of Labour Councillors, but changes approved at its annual conference in September made a second contribution - to Labour group funds - also compulsory.
Councillors face expulsion from their local Labour group if they refuse to pay.
The changes, according to the memo circulated to local parties, are to improve the collection of subscriptions and make it more convenient for councillors.

The Tories, who say they do not force their councillors to fund party activities, charge a £25 a year fixed fee for professional support from the Conservative Councillors Association.
They estimate the new Labour levy could raise at least £1.9m for the Labour Party across its 6,200 councillors. The Labour Party has debts of £14.9m according to its 2005 accounts.
"It is scandalous that the Labour Party is systematically abusing councillor allowances and attempting to avoid bankruptcy by using council taxpayers' money to bail the party out," said shadow minister for local government Eric Pickles.
"At a time when council tax has gone through the roof, families and pensioners will be shocked to learn that their bills are not being used to clean the streets or empty bins - but instead, to give covert cash payments to the Labour Party direct from the council payroll."

'Group activities'
He said he feared Labour councils would now push for bigger salaries for councillors - or even cut local services - to help fund the levy.
Labour insisted the cash is being used to support the activities of the councillors' party group on the council - not head office.
In a statement, the party said: "Labour councillors agree to abide by Labour Party rules, including the payment of a group levy. This levy is from councillors personally and not the council.
"The rule changes debated by the NEC (national executive committee) and the full, open, annual conference this September in Manchester established that all Labour groups should, as many do already, levy all councillors to contribute to group activities and administration.
"The groups themselves levy, collect and spend the money raised for the benefit of the whole group and it would be wrong for some councillors not to contribute to something that they all benefit from."

Labour also said that all political parties ask for contributions for services undertaken for and on behalf of councillors.
A spokesman said any local group could decide to collect this levy via the council payroll system, which was often the "most efficient way to collect money".
He added: "This is exactly the same method commonly used by employees for their trade union contributions, pension contributions, charitable donations, PAYE and other payments.
"Any costs associated with this process are paid by the Labour group and not the council."

The Liberal Democrats said allowances were paid to reimburse councillors for the time and expenses involved in carrying out duties and it was up to councillors to decide what they do with it, including whether it goes back to the national party.

Sleazy Labour's £2m raid on council tax funds ... you guessed it, Sunderland Again!

In the North East we have Newcastle - Gateshead which has come to symbolise urban renaissance with a vibrant, expanding economy, and it has even now been allocated its own Shadow Minister by the Tories desperate to gain a foothold somewhere other than rural Hexham.

We have Middlesbrough Council led by the no nonsense Robocop Ray Mallon who has tremendous public support because of his tough, common sense approach to matters which affect the community.

But Sunderland gets more column inches in the press and minutes in the media than Newcastle, Gateshead and Middlesbrough combined...but all for the wrong reasons.

  • It was Sunderland Council that launched the first ever metrication prosecution of the late Steve Thoburn
  • It was Sunderland City Council that sold off its housing stock (and the freehold to go with it) for less than £6500 per property to the Sunderland Housing Group.
  • It was Sunderland Council that has dropped the biggest parking clanger in the country and featured in THREE national documentaries on the subject.
  • It was Sunderland City Council that failed to buy the biggest piece of real estate that came available right next to the City Centre and have now stopped Tesco developing the site leaving a 15 acre wasteland.

What chance will we ever have of taking this City into the 21st Century with this bunch in charge?



Daily Mail
Sleazy Labour's £2m raid on Council Tax funds
By Tim Shipman
23rd November 2006

Police have launched a new investigation into Labour sleaze after a whistleblower revealed the party is creaming off at least £2m a year of taxpayers' money directly into party coffers.
Tony Blair has ordered thousands of his local councillors to hand over hundreds of pounds each from their publicly-funded allowances to Labour slush funds for electioneering and party propaganda.
More here...

Councillors' payments and how Labour is benefiting
Tories hold four seats as Ukip and Greens advance
The scam - also under investigation by sleaze watchdogs – has been branded a "national disgrace", an "outrageous abuse of taxpayers' money" and an "affront to democracy".
News that their money is being used to line Labour's pockets will enrage council tax payers who have seen their bills soar as town halls have been starved of cash.
Council tax has more than doubled since Labour came to power. In Sunderland it rose last year by 4.9 per cent, double the rate of inflation.

Read the Daily Mail story here

The multi-million pound funding scandal came to light after the former leader of Sunderland council resigned from the party in disgust earlier this week after refusing to pay £215 - a three per cent levy on his £7,106 councillor's allowance - to Labour bosses in Sunderland.

Bryn Sidaway has now reported the matter to Northumbria police. He told the Daily Mail:
'It is a national disgrace. 'We are talking about millions of pounds a year going into the Labour Party war chest via the taxpayer - but without them even knowing. This is their money. They elect local councillors in the hope that it will improve their lives - not to fund Labour's bid to be re-elected.'

Tony Blair, who once pledged Labour would be "purer than pure" is set to become the first sitting prime minister to face police interrogation as part of a criminal inquiry.

Mr Sidaway said: "It was brought in via the back door in the hope that it would go unnoticed and unchallenged. They have identified Labour councillors as cash cows to fund the black hole in the party's accounts created by the cash for honours scandal and the reduction in the contributions they received from the trade union movement.
"The money is taken directly from the council's payroll accounts - even before any of the tax is applied - and we, as councillors, are expected to sign up to it without question or hesitation.
"I feel ashamed. I have been a Labour Party supporter for 48 years - ever since I was 15-years-old. Corruption is rife. It is shambolic and disgusting. The public is being deceived and betrayed by a Government hell bent on staying in power. We are being run by a dictatorship. Democracy has simply been swept away."

He accused party chiefs of using "intimidation" and "bullying" to get others to fall into line.
"The sad fact is this: The Labour Party is desperate for money and will do just about anything to make sure it has enough money in the kitty to win the next election," he said. "The stench of desperation is horrible."

A CID detective took a statement from Mr Sidaway on Monday. Northumbria Police are investigating whether the plans breach the terms of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums 2000 Act, which calls for all donations over £1,000 to be reported to the Electoral Commission. He believes that local parties may be failing to declare donations to the Commission.

A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that we have taken a statement from Bryn Sidaway and are deciding whether this is a police matter." The intitial probe is expected to take one month.

Lee Martin, the Tory leader on Sunderland council has made a separate complaint to the Standards Board for England claiming that the plans breach the local government code of conduct, which states that councillors must ensure public cash is "not used for the activities of a registered political party".

They claim it is an abuse of council funds - and a breach of the code - to let council payroll staff devote their time to arranging direct debits from councillors into Labour accounts.

A spokeswoman for the Standards Board of England said she could not comment on an ongoing investigation. Ged Fitzgerald, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, insisted that the council had been reinbursed by the Labour Party for funnelling the payments from the council payroll.
A Labour party spokesperson said: "Labour councillors agree to abide by Labour Party rules including the payment of a Group levy. This levy is from councillors personally and not the council.
"The rule changes adopted by the NEC and the Full open annual conference this September in Manchester established that all Labour Groups should, as many do already, levy all councillors to contribute to Group activities and administration

Same feet on traffic beat

Sunderland Echo
Thursday, November 23, 2006
By Kevin Clark

Sunderland Council has seized control of parking enforcement in the city - but the same staff will patrol our streets.

Councillors voted to strip NCP of the responsibility after an undercover TV sting exposed racism and corruption.

NCP sacked five disgraced enforcers after an investigation - but it was not enough to convince councillors that the firm should keep control.

They voted unanimously yesterday to withdraw the contract from NCP, though the firm will retain its responsibility for off-street car parks.

But it emerged today that remaining attendants will continue their job, with the council pledging to retrain them.

Council leader Bob Symonds said: "It is not a knee-jerk reaction. We have looked very closely at it and we believe it is the appropriate action to take."

The BBC Inside Out documentary, which was beamed across the nation this week, showed attendants making racist remarks, mocking disabled drivers, and telling an undercover reporter that they had "tortured" drivers on Villette Road, caused criminal damage to vehicles, and accepted drinks in return for not issuing parking tickets.

Tory leader Lee Martin accused the council of doing "the bare minimum" to deal with the problem and claimed the authority was "terrified" of upsetting NCP.

Parking campaigner Neil Herron branded the council's move as 'disgraceful' and predicted there were further revelations about the parking situation in the city to come.

But Coun Symonds denied there were any more problems.

Tim Cowen, of NCP, said: "We will work with the council to see if we can facilitate the transfer of the on-street service, and continue to work hard to manage car parks in Sunderland on behalf of our clients."


Action on NCP was right move
By bringing part of the NCP parking enforcement contract in-house, the city council has hopefully drawn a line under this whole unsavoury affair.
There were calls from most quarters for strong action from the council and that is what we have seen. It's certainly a move that will be applauded by those who witnessed the TV expose.
There is no place for the antics of those parking attendants who were revealed making racist comments and failing in their duties.
On-street parking attendants are the public face of parking enforcement and, as such, their behaviour is under greater scrutiny than most.
NCP sacked those they felt were most to blame, but this was not enough.
It is clear that tighter management in this area of public work is required. We trust the council will do a better job than NCP.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Chippy smells of chips complaint

BBC News
Tuesday 7 November 06

West Yorkshire chip shop owner is being investigated after a complaint that his shop smells of fish and chips.
Owner of New Scarborough Fisheries in Wakefield, Steve Morton, was asked to check the odour extraction system was working properly after the complaint.
A spokeswoman for Wakefield Council said the authority was obliged to investigate the matter.
Mr Morton said he was shocked to get a letter about the investigation and had thought it was a joke.
"All I know is that we keep everything as clean as possible and to every standard that we should do," he said.
"I didn't think there was a problem. But I'm open to advice.
"If anybody can tell me how to make fish and chips not smell of fish and chips, I'm grateful."
A council spokeswoman explained however: "It is certainly not the case that a fish and chip shop should not be allowed to smell of fish and chips."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Off the streets

Sunderland Echo
Tuesday 21 November 2006
By Ross Robertson

Five city parking enforcers have been sacked after a damning TV documentary exposed racism and corruption.
Under-fire private contractors NCP dismissed the five, including one supervisor, after their shocking antics were captured in an undercover sting.
The documentary, originally shown in the North East in September, showed parking attendants making racist remarks and mocking disabled drivers.
They were also captured telling an undercover reporter that they had 'tortured' drivers on Villette Road and caused criminal damage to vehicles.
Following the BBC's Inside Out programme a number of attendants were suspended.
But National Car Parks announced the dismissals last night just as the programme was being screened across the country for the first time.
A number of other parking attendants are also believed to be still suspended and other senior members of staff are under investigation.
The TV sting led to demands from opposition councillors to terminat NCP's contract with Sunderland Council to run the city's parking regime and calls for Coun Joe Lawson, who holds responsibility for parking, to resign.
The dismissal of the attendants comes ahead of a cabinet meeting tomorrow where senior councillors from the ruling Labour Group will decide on whether to terminate NCP's contract.
Tory leader Coun Lee Martin said the sacking of the attendants was not enough to make up for the failings.
He said the council must take steps to show the racist behaviour shown in the documentary will not be tolerated.
Parking protester Neil Herron, who is battling with Sunderland Council in a bid to expose failings in the parking system, said "heads should roll" at the council.
He said: "It isn't just parking attendants who are responsible for the shambles - heads should roll with the council and heads should roll from the councillors whose responsibility it was to oversee the contract."
Time Cowen, of NCP, said: "All the issues regarding disciplinary matters raised in the Inside Out documentary have been investigated.
"A number of staff involved in the TV programme have been dismissed."

Warden problem must be solved
There are few would protest at the sacking of five parking attendants exposed by a TV documentary team.
Anyone who witnessed the offensive antics of the NCP workers caught on camera could not help but be shocked and appalled.
Wardens were shown making racist comments, mocking disabled people as well as admitting causing criminal damage to vehicles.
It was obvious heads would have to roll. And this will not be the end of the matter. It is understood other attendants have been suspended and managers are under investigation.
The council's cabinet meets tomorrow to decide if the NCP's contract is to be terminated.
There will have to be strong evidence to show the shortfalls in management that allowed this behaviour to happen, have been tackled. Without it, the NCP contract should be torn up.

Another fine mess .... more rubbish

100 households a day fined by bin police
Daily Mail
by Steve Doughty

Nearly 100 people a day are being fined under laws that punish householders for leaving wheelie bin lids open.
More than 33,000 were handed on-the-spot penalties in the 12 months after the crackdown was launched.
The laws - also aimed at those who drop litter in public places - are regularly used to penalise householders who break the rules of rubbish recycling schemes.
This can include leaving out refuse in the wrong containers or on the wrong day and filling wheelie bins to the brim so their lids will not shut.
Yet while such petty offenders are targeted, the figures for fines show that large-scale flytippers are getting away scot-free.
In the same 12 months, the number of fly-tipping incidents rose by 12 per cent to more than a million - yet there were only 883 fines under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act.
Local authorities managed to catch and fine only 47 graffiti artists and 33 neighbours accused of making people's lives a misery with excessive noise.
There were also 4,066 fines for owners of dogs which fouled pavements and parks.
More than a third of the 33,000 fines went unpaid, but the penalties still raised more than £900,000 for local authorities, which keep all the money.
The 'clean neighbourhood' laws have provoked widespread discontent because they enforce new rubbish recycling regimes.
These demand that people leave out less rubbish, which is collected once a fortnight rather than once a week.
The figures from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs triggered accusations that the laws are being used to penalise ordinary families while major offenders go unpunished.
Caroline Spelman, Shadow Local Government Secretary, said: 'Fly-tipping is getting worse, not better.
'I am concerned that they may not be targeting the worst offenders if fines are being handed out to people who mistakenly put their bin bag out on the wrong day.'

'The situation may deteriorate further still if the Government pushes ahead with putting spy chips in our wheelie bins and forcing councils to axe weekly collections.'
Tory MP Sir Paul Beresford, a former local government minister, said: 'They are punishing people just for leaving their rubbish out, but they are doing nothing about the real bad news, the fly-tippers.
'While ordinary people get fined for breaking obscure rules, nothing is being done to deal with commercial fly-tippers.'
Economist Ruth Lea of the Centre for Policy Studies think tank said: 'People are beginning to realise that almost anything done under the banner of improving the environment is going to cost them money.
'These staggering figures show that local authorities are turning to coercion to enforce their recycling schemes. I have some sympathy for the councils, because they are being pressured into this by the Government and Brussels.
'But these fines are oppressive, cheap bullying, and grotesquely unjust to people who pay their council tax and expect the council to do its job and take their rubbish away.'
Recycling schemes have met growing resentment from the public and a number have had to be reversed in the face of discontent.
Typically, the schemes demand that families separate different kinds of refuse, to the point of stripping the plastic windows out of envelopes and dumping them in a different container to the paper.
Putting the wrong rubbish in the wrong bin can attract a fine.
The scrapping of weekly collections has provoked alarm and fears over hygiene and health.
This autumn Defra has, belatedly, ordered an inquiry into the health implications of fortnightly collections.
The Whitehall quango WRAP, in charge of pressuring councils to adopt compulsory recycling schemes, has advised town halls to bring them in during the winter - so the resulting smells will be less. By the time summer comes, popular opposition will have diminished, it suggests.
Earlier this week, town halls warned that council taxes are likely to have to shoot up to meet the cost of European recyling directives and Whitehall rules against landfill.
They also promised to try to bring in 'pay as you throw' taxes on rubbish and more fortnightly bin collections.
Some councils have levied fines on large groups of people. In Liverpool, 60 residents were fined and threatened with court because they put their rubbish out on the wrong day.
One, Alan Smith, said: 'This is ridiculous. There is a lot of antisocial behaviour in this area and all the council can do is pick people up for putting the bins out a day early.
'Gangs of kids are riding around on quad bikes and setting fire to trees, but there's no response to that.
'Residents are an easy target because the council busybodies know where they live.
'But no one can be bothered to find out who are these youngsters on the streets at night.'
The figures for fines were welcomed by the Government.
Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw said: 'I am really pleased to say the number of local authorities using the system to tackle littering has increased.'
The Local Government Association, representing town halls, also defended the fines.
A spokesman said: ' Litterdropping is by far the biggest enviro-crime councils have to deal with.
'Local authorities strive to keep where you live clean and tidy and will not tolerate people who drop rubbish and spoil the area for the rest of the community.
'We are using fines and onthe- spot penalties to make sure council tax is kept down.'

Monday, November 20, 2006

BBC Inside Out programme goes national

At 7.30pm tonight BBC 1 re-broadcast one of the most shocking pieces of documentary footage ever seen. It showed NCP parking attendants in Sunderland making racist comments and comments against disabled people. NCP's Communications Director was not as smug as his usual self as he attempted to 'defend' the indefencible.

Trouble is for NCP and the Council is that this is just the tip of a very large iceberg. The rest is in the hands of the Police. Remember, the Council told NCP to change the wording of their PCNs on 16th June 2005 to comply with Section 66(3) of the 1991 Road Traffic Act. They didn't do it until 30th November 2005, issuing over 12,000 PCNs in the meantime BUT the Council processed every one of those PCNs AND kept the money ... and they have refused to refund it.

I suspect that when the Department for Transport is forced to intervene ... and again remember that the Council told them all their lines and signs would be correct by the time DPE commenced on February 3rd 2003 ... the Council leadership which has failed to act decisively at any stage of the proceedings, will have to resign.

Cover up after cover up is not acceptable in this City. Our MPs have been silent and the portfolio holder and NPAS representative Joseph Lawson has been conspicuous by his absence.

It appears as though the Council spin machine is intent on a damage limitation exercise stating that NCP might lose the on-street enforcement which will be taken back in house with off street being kept by NCP.


There is no place in the city for a ruthless commercial operation working hand in hand with the Council to the detriment of the City's businesses and residents.

The Council meeting on Wednesday will be very interesting indeed.

NCP may lose some city parking duties

Sunderland Echo
Monday, November 20, 2006
By Craig Thompson
Chief Reporter

On-street parking could soon be back under the control of Sunderland Council as the fall-out from an undercover investigation continues.
On Wednesday, council chiefs are expected to recommend bringing some parking services back "in-house" amid growing concerns that public confidence in the current system has hit an all-time low.
It follows a BBC probe that revealed workers making racist comments and jokes about the disabled, leading to the suspension of six NCP attendants.
The contents of the Inside Out programme - screened in the North East - will again be shown to a national audience at 7.35pm today as part of the Inside Out England series.
Since the initial programme was broadcast, Sunderland Council has been forced to take a fresh look at its current contract with NCP, weighing up its options in the wake of the growing criticism.
At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, it has been recommended the council negotiate a variation on the current contract that would see the enforcement of on-street parking transferred back in-house.
NCP would retain responsibility for all off-street parking, including the city's main car parks, until the end of the contract in 2010.
But Tory leaders have hit out, claiming the move would send out the wrong message and are calling for a termination to the whole of the contract.
Councillor Lee Martin, leader of the opposition on the council, said: "Effectively, this is the council wanting to look like it has done something, when, in fact, it's done very little.
"NCP will be keeping the most lucrative part of the contract. If you're going to take away part of it, you should take it all away."
The council argues that it would not be able to demonstrate "value for money" in terminating the entire agreement.
It believes renegotiating the current contract would "help restore confidence and build a better relationship" with the public.
NCP claims it has already taken a number of measures to improve its service in Sunderland including diversity training and scrutinising the company's recruitment process.

Assembly on the move - but of its own accord

The Northern Echo
Saturday 18th November 2006

THE controversial North-East Assembly was on the move last night - with officials denying they had been forced out of their home.
The assembly, which has been based at the Grade I-listed Guildhall building on Newcastle's Quayside, is moving to a new headquarters in Team Valley, Gateshead, from Monday.
It had only paid a peppercorn rent on the Guildhall, which is owned by Newcastle City Council.
Last night, anti-assembly campaigner Neil Herron, from Sunderland, an arch-critic of the assembly, said: "Newcastle Liberal Democrats probably can't afford to subsidise it with ratepayers' money any longer."
However, Councillor Alex Watson, leader of Derwentside District Council and chairman of the assembly, said there had been no pressure placed on it from the council to move on.
The assembly, which has a £2m annual budget, has said the move will give it more space after it recently merged with the Regional Housing Board to increase its staff to 30.
Coun Watson said there was no legal agreement in place with the city council, which meant it could have been given notice to quit at any time.
He said: "They have always given us verbal assurances that we were okay, but they could have served notice on us at any time to get out.
"We have statutory obligations we need to meet to make sure our staff are secure and housed in premises that meet health and safety at work obligations."
Coun Watson said money was available from the Government to pay for accommodation and the assembly would pay the going commercial rate at its new base.
An assembly spokeswoman said: "It is very much an accommodation issue - the Guildhall is bursting at the seams. It might look huge from the outside, but there is not much office space."
11:07am Saturday 18th November 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Driver Gets Tickets as He Tries to Save His Dying Wife ... and again, it is an NCP Parking Attendant slapping on a ticket

NCP are making the news on a regular basis ... for all the wrong reasons again. If anyone ever doubted whether decriminalised parking was simply a cash-cow for all connected with the industry read the story below ... and remember to watch BBC 1 7.30pm Monday.

The failings lie with the training regime and management. The on-street PAs simply do what they are instructed ... issue, issue, issue. Let the motorist appeal.

Daily Mirror
18th November 2006
By Robert Stansfield

A DRIVER who pulled over when his wife had a fatal heart attack was booked by traffic wardens.
The distraught pensioner was forced to stop on double yellow lines outside a doctors' surgery to call 999.
He went with his dying wife, who has not been named, in the ambulance but returned to his car to find a £50 ticket.
Read it here

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Cost of Regional Assemblies risen from £5 million to £17.5 million in five years

Regional quangos cost the taxpayer £1m for every day

It might interest you to know that we have been informed by a source that WVDC has been asked along with other County Durham local authorities to stand guarantor for the pensions of the staff at the North East Assembly and the Association of North East Councils.

Naturally, this perfectly reasonable request will be granted using YOUR money.

This comes at a time when the Assembly is quietly moving itself from the prestigous Guildhall building on Newcastle Quayside to a location on Gateshead's Team Valley where it will pay a commercial rate.

It looks like the pressure we created over a year ago on the legality of the extra financial 'support' Newcastle were giving the Assembly has been successful.

After occupying the Guildhall for over 6 years at a peppercorn rent the true cost to the Newcastle ratepayers, due to loss of a market rent for such a prestigous building, is expected to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The story of the moonlight flit is covered here

Questions to Newcastle City Council will follow.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Shadow Tyneside Minister confirms that regional assemblies will be scapped

Alan Duncan, the new Shadow Minister for Tyneside was on the Mike Parr Breakfast programme this morining.
We first met when he was a Shadow in Hague's Cabinet...he came to Sunderland during Steve Thoburn's Court case to hand over a £20 donation.
As the criminal trial for selling bananas in imperial measures adjourned for lunch we took Alan to a lovely restaurant ...McDonald's and got the photo for all the following days papers...Shadow Minister eating a Quarterpounder. Steve Thoburn prosecuted for selling in imperial measures, but McDonalds untouched.

Mr. Duncan in response to my question confirmed that if they won the next election they would scrap the regional assemblies.

The second question was in relation to the 2010 deadline on the use of imperial measures even for supplementary indication and would the Conservatives quash the directive ... he stumbled into ... well it is not up to us ... giving the game away as to who the real masters are.

The final question was 'Would the Conservatives posthumously 'pardon' Steve Thoburn or help quash his conviction?' In true political style he talked this one out and was saved by Mike Parr's intervention.

Parking protest suffers setback ... or has NPAS walked into an elephant trap

The story below comes following a statement by the Sunderland City Council press office.
However, what they have done is compound the mistake that NPAS made.
The reason why I had not posted the decision was due to the fact that the NPAS adjudicator, Andrew Keenan, had made a number of errors in his Judgment.
I had appealed 26 not 28 PCNs.
The judgment stated on the front page in each case ... 'appeal dismissed.'
The adjudicator made a statement to the effect that stated that 'all the lines and signs in Sunderland are correct.'
However, in the reasons for the judgment he allows two appeals because ... wait for it ... the signs were not correct!

So the Council couldn't wait to trumpet their apparent 'victory' and compounded the NPAS mistake by handing a factually incorrect statement to the press. A request for a correctly worded decision has been made to NPAS who will be forced to issue another apology highlighting their incompetence has been made and a review of the adjudicator's decision has been requested as he has made mistakes in fact and in law.
The complaint to the Local Govenment Ombudsman will follow.

NPAS will be desperate to avoid another hearing because there is new evidence which will prove acutely embarassing to them and Sunderland City Council. However, it is currently being assessed and may be a few days before it can be released.

Meanwhile, the BBC Documentary highlighting NCPs 'practices' will be shown again on Monday night ... BBC 1 at 7.30pm.

I think that the Cabinet Meeting on Wednesday at Sunderland City Council will be a difficult one for Council Leader and his colleagues who have shown a total lack of competence to date regarding getting a grasp of the Parking problem. Will they keep NCP or sack them?

All but two of 28 ticket appeals are rejected
Sunderland Echo
Thursday, November 16, 2006
By Ross Robertson

Protester Neil Herron's bid to expose what he claimed were flawed city council parking regulations has failed, after he won just two of his 28 ticket appeals.

Mr Herron deliberately parked in restricted areas to collect tickets as evidence to highlight his campaign.

He went head-to-head with Sunderland Council over the fines at a hearing held by the National Parking Adjudication Service (NPAS).

But NPAS adjudicator Andrew Keenan rejected all but two of the appeals.

Mr Herron claimed that traffic orders in the city were conflicting and unlawful, while signs and lines were riddled with errors and misleading to motorists.

But Sunderland Council said the NPAS decision meant the parking regime in the city was not flawed.

A spokesman for the council, which was represented in the adjudication by top barrister Stephen Sauvain, said: "The decision means that the overall integrity of the scheme has been upheld.
"The vast majority of motorists use the city's parking facilities responsibly, observing the lines and signs which aim to ensure efficient and safe use of the city's roads and car parks.
"We hope that in the light of this adjudication everyone will continue to do so."

Mr Herron said he intends to appeal against the adjudicator's ruling, claiming legal and administrative errors were made in the decision-making process .
"This is simply round one in the appeals process and it is necessary to request a review," he said.
"If the Sunderland public think that there are no problems with the signs and lines in the city, then they must be scratching their heads as to why the council has paid back more than £60,000 to motorists illegally fined."

Mr Herron also claims that parking tickets are still being issued in Frederick Street, where he was successful in appealing against two of his tickets because it was found that there was no valid traffic order in operation.

Under traffic regulations, parking bays must measure no more than 6.6m and the traffic order for Frederick Street covers a 94m stretch of the road.

But when drafting the order parking chiefs forgot to include a disabled bay and motorcycle bay on that stretch of road.

Leaving those details off the written regulations meant it was unlawful to issue tickets in that area.

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