Monday, November 23, 2009

Council avoids repaying fortune in parking fees

This is Exeter
Friday November 20, 2009
MOTORISTS have been slow to reclaim money paid to a Devon council which is believed to have been issuing invalid parking tickets.
A freedom of information request has shown that no one has yet come forward to claim a refund from Teignbridge District Council for Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) that were issued between May 2008 and August 23 this year when a credit card surcharge was in place.
The Echo revealed earlier this year that the district council was facing the potentially huge claims for issuing PCNs, which stated the recipient would incur a 1.7 per cent administration charge if they paid by credit card.
However, this meant the overall penalty exceeded the amount that can legally be charged, leading to claims they were unlawful in their entirety.
Teignbridge District Council is currently offering refunds of just the surcharge. However, Neil Herron, of the company Parking Appeals, said the total cost of the PCN should be refunded.

During the period in question, a total of 9,877 parking tickets were issued — deriving an income of nearly £250,000.
But campaigners who questioned the legality of the charges said the authority should automatically refund motorists and be "shouting from the rooftops" instead of waiting for claims.
Mr Herron said: "The money should be refunded automatically. The council has no right to levy the charge. The PCNs are unlawful — they are not entitled to keep the money.
"The district auditor must get involved and declare the amount of money unjust enrichment and unlawful.
"I am not surprised that no one has applied for a refund. It is up to the council to write to everyone using the same form it used when it requested the money in the first place to make people aware of what they are entitled to and the procedure they must go through to claim it."
Mr Herron, who has seen several councils deal with the same problem, said Teignbridge was among the worst he had dealt with.
"There are some really good councils that, as soon as they released what had happened, volunteered the refunds and contacted the people involved," he told the Echo.
"Others ran a series of adverts in the local press while some feel they are entitled to keep it. This will come back and bite them in the long run as people have the right to their money back. If Teignbridge is saying no one has been in touch what effort have they made to contact people?
"They just need to do the decent thing. We are encouraging motorists , if they benefit from a windfall through a mistake in law, to share their good fortune with a local charity. The council should not be allowed to keep it."
It is understood an objection is currently in the hands of the district auditor who has yet to make a ruling. A Teignbridge District Council spokesman said: "In keeping with many authorities around the country Teignbridge is happy to refund credit card surcharges applied to penalty charge notices where customers have chosen to pay by card. While it isn't economical to write to individuals, we would encourage anyone who wants to claim a refund of the 1.7 per cent surcharge, worth from 43p to 60p depending on the ticket, to contact us."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NSL Services Ltd - Who gave you permission to talk to the TV crew?

In the summer of 2009 a Channel 4's Cutting Edge film crew were given permission from Westminster City Council to make a documentary on the experiences of immigrants who were new to the UK and who became parking wardens (CEO's).

The wardens were allowed to speak freely to the journalist with the film crew, or so they thought.

Westminster City Council outsource their parking enforcement to a company called NSL Services, previously known as NCP Services Ltd.

One CEO told the film crew about NSL's unfair practices, and how Westminster City Council for CEO's to bring in high numbers of parking tickets (PCN's). This is undercover footage of that wardens interrogation on the 1st September 2009 at NSL's Westgate head office by Kenneth Henslip NSL's Head of Professional Standards.

The CEO was not allowed representation or given the minutes of the interrogation. The Channel4 documentary is called Confessions Of A Traffic Warden, was shown at 9pm on Thursday 19th November 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Camden is set to wage new war on motorists

Ham & High

By Susanna Wilkey

Motorists in Camden were hit with a double whammy this week when the council gained new impounding powers and launched a judicial review to fight parking ticket appeals that went against them.

On Mondey the council voted to give itself new powers to seize the cars of ticketed motorists without warning. Together with Westminster Council, it will trial the project which gives them the power to impound vehicles with three or more unpaid PCNs that are not the subject of an appeal, even if they are parked legally when tracked down.

The council will be able to pick up the cars in the two boroughs and three others in London - a move which campaigners say is "draconian".

Opponents also say the scheme will affect innocent drivers because of mistakes by wardens and difficulties establishing car ownership.

To get their cars back those affected will have to pay all the fines plus towing charges, or pay a bond to release the car if they dispute the council's actions.

Paul Pearson from who lives in West Hampstead and works in Marylebone, said: "This will end up persecuting the wrong people. People will have their cars towed when they sometimes don't even know they have tickets because they have been lost in the post or gone to the wrong address. This seems totally ridiculous"

Lobbyist Neil Herron, of, said: " The DVLA database is never more than 90per cent accurate. You could have people who have just bought a car and then have it towed away even though the parking tickets belong to someone else, like a previous owner. These local authorities couldn't run a whelk stall so to give them the power to tow away cars because they have three outstanding PCNs should not be happening."

The judicial review move follows two separate judgments from the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (Patas) which ruled that a 1.3 per cent administration fee charged to those paying paring fines by credit card was illegal.

The council scrapped the policy in June but campaigners say it should pay back the £6.5 million of tickets paid out by motorists before the adjudications.
Now Camden has submitted a request for a judicial review, expected to be heard in April. A spokeswoman said: "Camden Council believes the recent decisions by Patas are legally flawed. We will be asking the High Court to review and overturn them."

Mr Herron welcomed the judicial review case as he expects the council to lose and be forced to repay the money.

He added: "I am confident the adjudicators reached the correct decision. If Camden was wholly confident, it should have continued charging. They should also ask themselves how much public money is being spent by going down this route."

But parking boss, Cllr Chris Knight, has defended both actions. He said the council believes fines paid with the credit card surcharge are still valid and the new impounding rules will help the borough catch 2,716 cars with three or more fines outstanding."

He said: "We are losing huge amounts of money through unpaid PCNs. It is a fair process and we are already undertaking pre-debt recovery programmes which identify the owners of the vehicles and the offenders if they are not the same people."

'Big brother' plan to spot-check and tow cars owing more than three fines

London Evening Standard
Ruth Bloomfield

Legally parked vehicles could be towed away as traffic wardens in London are to do spot checks, hunting for vehicles with a backlog of unpaid tickets.
Drivers who owe for more than three parking tickets or traffic fines risk having their cars impounded under the pilot, which starts on 4 January. A database of vehicles with unpaid fines is being created. Drivers whose cars are towed could end have to pay more than £500 to retrieve them.
London Councils, the umbrella group of local authorities organising the trial, says the scheme is vital to stop persistent fine evaders. It involves six boroughs: Ealing, Camden, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Wandsworth and Kensington and Chelsea. If successful it will be rolled out across the capital. Ealing has suggested a removal fee of £200 plus £40-a-day storage charges on top of the fines.

But Neil Herron, of, said: "It is going to be a nightmare of red tape and litigation and smacks of Big Brother."
An AA spokesman said drivers who have only three penalty notices should not be a priority: "Some people have hundreds of unpaid PCNs and it is they that should be the focus."

Parking tickets not valid

Basingstoke Gazette
By Patrick Knox

Tuesday 10th November 2009

DRIVERS were wrongly issued with fines after experimental parking controls were found not to be valid.

Motorists were issued with tickets, totalling £1,375, for parking in controlled areas in the Penrith Road area of Brookvale, Kings Furlong and North Whitchurch.
But officers in Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council introduced the controls under the wrong legislation – meaning they could not be lawfully enforced. So far, no driver hit by a fine has been reimbursed.

Councillor Clive Sanders, Cabinet member for community safety and development, made the disclosures after being quizzed by Whitchurch borough councillor Keith Watts at a full council meeting on the total value of the fines.

Cllr Sanders said: “The professional advice available was that there was a possibility that the orders could be flawed and it was inappropriate for the council’s enforcement officers to continue issuing the fixed penalty notices.”

Of the 53 penalty notices, Cllr Sanders said 27 have been paid with a total value of £950. But he added the council has not refunded those who had paid up because it did not have enough details and was not allowed to access the DVLA database to obtain vehicle owner details. Those who have not paid have had their fines cancelled, he said.

The controls, which came into force in March, included areas of no or restricted waiting, controlled parking zones and a residents’ parking scheme.
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council introduced the restrictions as “experimental traffic regulations” in response to parking problems in the area.

But council lawyers spotted that fines could be challenged because the controls should be enacted under section 45 of the Road Traffic Act of 1984. Parking attendants enforcing the restriction were then told to stop issuing penalty notices on September 18.

Now the council is seeking to introduce a permanent traffic order in Brookvale and Kings Furlong, Whitchurch, and the Penrith Road area of Beggarwood.
Cllr Watts, who represents the Whitchurch ward, said afterwards: “Anyone who has paid a fine should be tracked down and refunded.”

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Human Ticket Machine

'Human Ticket Machine': Traffic warden on course to hand out record-breaking 2,000 tickets in his first year on the job
By Daily Mail
05th November 2009

Britain's most prolific traffic warden was unmasked yesterday - a Yellow Peril who has dished out over 400 tickets in his first two months on the job.

Geoffrey Stobbart, 53, dubbed the 'Human Ticket Machine' by locals, has issued 416 £70 tickets in Kettering, Northamptonshire, between August and October.
At his current rate he is on target to hand out 2,000 tickets this year - twice the rate of John Woodgate, Britain's previously toughest warden, known as 'The Terminator'.

Employed by Kettering Borough Council, Geoffrey covers 695 pay-and-display parking spaces in the town, as well as double yellow lines and surrounding residential areas.
The town had been left without a traffic warden for three months after his predecessor retired earlier this year.

Now Mr Stobbart, from Corby, s working 37 hours a week to stop motorists parking illegally across his patch - and says he is 'proud' of his performance.
But motorists and drivers' groups yesterday slammed his 'unblinking dedication to making lives a misery' and potentially threatening Christmas trade.
Gene Picton, 25, who works at a motor spares shop in Kettering, said Mr Stobbard was known as a 'parking tyrant' who ticketed his brother dropping children at nursery.
He said: 'Lots of my family members and half my customers have mentioned being ticketed by him.
'My brother was furious after he got a ticket while he was dropping his daughter off at nursery and said the guy was a parking tyrant.
'He had to pay a fine and was really angry. This guy patrols the street day and night. He's a human ticket machine.'

The Association of British Drivers said Mr Stobbart would drive shoppers and visitors out of Kettering town centre.

A spokesman said: 'If he continues to issue tickets at this rate then Kettering won't have any shoppers left - that would be crippling for local businesses at Christmas.
'The ticketing is just a money making racket for the council and is ridiculous and officious.'

Neil Herron, who runs campaign group Parking Appeals, said Kettering Borough Council needed to look very carefully at its parking regulations.
He said: 'The council should not go down the route of beating people with a big financial stick and it is very dangerous to have one individual effectively controlling town parking.
'They should take a light-foot approach in the run up to Christmas and encourage people to come into the centre not literally drive them away.'

Mr Stobbard, a father-of-five who has three grandchildren, worked as a senior foreman at an aluminium factory until he became redundant and took the warden's job.
Yesterday he defended his record - and said he is being complimented by some locals for doing his job properly.
He said: 'You would think being a traffic warden is a thankless task but I have received a lot of compliments from local residents for the improvements that have already happened.
'There hadn't been any policing of parking for so long that people became complacent and thought they could do what they liked.
'But the town centre has improved immensely already and things are much better now.
'The pedestrianised areas and the market place were a nightmare when I started - market traders said so many cars came through it was like a motorway.
'And weekends were the worst because shoppers used to abuse the residents' parking bays, which upset a lot of local people.
'I have never parked illegally and nor has my wife - I hope I am setting a good example.'
He added: 'I wouldn't call this an achievement - I want to see the number of tickets I issue go down because that means things are getting better.'

Jim Hakewill, leader of Kettering Borough Council, commended Mr Stobbard for making 'a big difference'.
Ruthless traffic warden John Woodgate, 59, held the previous record for most parking tickets issued.
He was dubbed 'the Terminator' by local motorists for issuing 11,000 tickets in 11 years in the small market town of Haverhill, Suffolk.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Leader of Sunderland Council admits Loading Bays behind zig zags are illegal

In June of this year I reported on the illegal and dangerous road markings at a location in Sea Road, Sunderland here

It had been the subject of a complaint going back to 2007 when John Munns from the Department for Transport had confirmed:

" Traffic signs on any road to which the public has access, including private roads, must conform to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 and pedestrian crossing must conform to the Zebra, Pelican, and Puffin, Pedestrian Crossings Regulations and General Directions 1997 (SI 1997;2400).

The combination of these regulations is not always obvious but we now understand that the zig zag should always follow the kerb-line including into any bays . Loading bays minimum width in TSRGD is 2.7m - unless it conform entirely to diagram 1032 in TSRGD. The Signs regulations always have the "loading only" legend outside the bay - authorised exceptions are very , very, raree. (sic)."

Below is the email from the Leader of Sunderland City Council after he, and the Secretary of State was put on notice that their failure to act in relation to unlawful signing at pedestrian crossings at this, and other locations in Sunderland could result in a fatality.

As I write this no action has been taken to correct the restrictions and markings on the highway and the location is illegal and dangerous.

On Saturday 17th October 2009 a 12 year old Sunderland boy was killed at a pedestrian crossing at a location in Sunderland. There are parking bays and a Bus Stop Clearway in the controlled area BEHIND the zig zags.

Perhaps the apologists for councils dumbing down signing law will now realise what happens if you allow councils to chant the mantra ... 'no reasonable person could be misled by the meaning of the sign.'

Look at the bays above. No-one could be misled by the words 'Loading Only.'

Look at the bays on the left with a big 'P' sign next to them. No-one could be 'misled' as to what it means BUT THIS IS ILLEGAL!

25th August 2009
Our ref:
Your ref:

Dear Mr Herron
I refer to your email of 26th April 2009 regarding the above.

I do not accept your assertions about the way in which the Council is treating this matter.
The traffic management arrangements at this location were the subject of public consultation and were introduced to help regulate the use of the highway in such a way as to provide a safe and serviceable environment in which the many competing uses of the available highway space can thrive.

Officers have informed me that the Police have not recorded any injury accidents at this location in the last 15 years.

This is a remarkably good accident record and is significantly lower than that which could be expected in a busy urban residential and shopping area. This situation is monitored on an ongoing basis by officers.

In addition, there are no complaints from residents, visitors and local businesses about the operation of the highway at this part of Sea Road.

The signing and layout at Sea Road has been reviewed and it is recognised that it is not consistent with current regulations. However, due to the success of the scheme introduced, and the potential disadvantages of making alterations, any change needs careful consideration.

Following a risk assessment and a consultation with the Department for Transport, the ‘zig-zag’ markings are to be amended, as is the signing of the loading bays.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Paul Watson
Leader of the Council
Direct Line
0191 561 1322


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