Saturday, February 27, 2010

North East press covers the Manifesto launch

Copy on its way to Sunderland Council ...

Neil's the driving force behind parking reform
Published Date: 26 February 2010
By Tim Booler
A BOLDON businessman is the driving force behind a national campaign for parking reform.
Neil Herron has organised a manifesto calling for changes to implement "fair parking and traffic management procedures" to benefit motorists across the UK.Launched at the House of Lords, the 103-page Motorists' Manifesto is backed by organisations including the AA, Safe Speed, the Drivers' Alliance and the British Motorcyclists' Federation.

It also has a fighting fund – set up by Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall, and actor Tom Conti – to support legal action against councils the campaigners claim flout the law to raise cash. Mr Herron, who runs Boldon-based Parking Appeals Ltd, said: "We hope the public supports the campaign to put an end to parking enforcement as a stealth tax."

The document has been drawn up by the London Motorists' Action Group, the Drivers' Alliance and the Motorists' Legal Challenge Fund, in conjunction with industry policy-makers.

Mr Herron said he hoped the Motorists' Manifesto will spark reform to end "systemic failings since the implementation of decriminalised parking in the 90s".

The former Sunderland market trader added: "The use of private 'for profit' contractors does not sit well with accountable local authority services."The lack of regulation and scrutiny by an inspectorate and lack of political will has meant that many an authority has turned a collective blind eye. "Britain's motorists are now prepared to fight back. We want a system that is fair, just and transparent, and our manifesto represents a line in the sand and the start of a new way forward."

The British Parking Association (BPA) said it recognises some issues referred to in the manifesto, and "wholeheartedly supports the need to ensure that all parking enforcement is undertaken fairly, reasonably and legitimately".

Friday, February 26, 2010

Support the Fighting Fund

Tom Conti launches motorists’ legal challenge fund to end injustice
26 February 2010
By Mike Brooke

A FIGHTING fund has been set up for motorists to take on "draconian" traffic enforcement and to expose "unlawful practices" by private clampers.The Motorists' Legal Challenge Fund was launched in the House of Lords by the actor Tom Conti and Lord Lucas this week to support high profile court cases.

It is spearheaded by the London Motorists' Action Group and the Drivers' Alliance, supported by public donations.

"It is the fivers and tenners from ordinary members of the public that will send out a strong message to those in authority," said campaign spokesman Neil Herron."The motoring public must no longer put up with the abuses. It is time to expose unlawful practices by private clampers and councils alike and fight the injustice of draconian enforcement."

The fund is already backing High Court challenges including a case claiming "lack of independence" of a tribunal system that's funded by and managed by the very authorities issuing traffic tickets, and a case over the legality of controlled parking zones where councils ignore regulations laid down by Parliament.

Neil added: "It is a daunting task for anyone to take on the State with its unlimited resources and face losing everything standing up to injustice."But a stand has to be made if we want the State to be the servant of the people and not the master."

The campaigners are starting a Motorists' Challenge newsletter to build up a network and give drivers a voice to "bite back" at draconian regulations and unlawful practices.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Parking: How Town Hall ‘steals’ motorists’ money

Respect goes to Councillor Knight for being the only elected member of any London Council to turn up to the launch of the Manifesto in the House of Lords. Would have been nice to have seen Councillor Chalkley there to speak on Westminster's behalf.

Camden New Journal
25 February 2010

CAMDEN has been named and shamed as one of the worst areas in the country for unfair parking by campaigners who launched a weighty new manifesto at the House of Lords on Tuesday.

Examples from the borough’s kerbsides litter a thick investigative report which concludes that there needs to be a “root and branch” change to the way parking penalties are dealt with.
The Motorists Legal Challenge Fund group, authors of the report, are asking MPs to consider the issue in the run-up to the general election and have recommended a new independent adjudicator to deal with grievances about tickets and wardens is set up.

None of its members are standing for election but the new group brings together the London Motorists Action Group – of which Hampstead actor Tom Conti is a trustee – and The ­Drivers’ Alliance as a unified pressure group.

Group secretary Alex Henney said in his experience parking enforcement in Camden in the past had amounted to “stealing” money through fines. One of the main claims of the group is that when local authorities realise they have made an error, they still often quibble over repaying fees.

Mr Henney said the idea of a new adjudicator came about because “there was nowhere else for people to go”.“What are you supposed to do?” said Mr Henney, who lives in Highgate. “We’ve been to appeals. We’ve been to the councillors. We’ve been to court. We’ve been to the police in some cases. We’ve been told we can’t go to a local ombudsmen anymore with our complaints – so the fact is there is nowhere else for us to go apart from expensive judicial reviews – over an £80 parking ticket.”

Other members of the group include Lord Ralph Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall, who chaired the meeting, and long-term campaigner Neil Herron.

“If local authorities want to make a success of the law enforcement powers they have been granted then they need to earn the respect of the general public very quickly” said Lord Lucas.

The group want more “common sense” on the street, including more discretion for drivers who are just a couple of minutes late back to a meter. Another thrust of the manifesto is the familiar claim that local authorities see penalising “trivial” errors through fines as a way to raise money.

Camden’s unwanted namechecks in the full report include the sudden jump in the cost of builders’ permits from £5 per day to £33 last year and the introduction of a credit card surcharge for payments which is currently being challenged in the courts and could lead to large amounts of refunds.

Driving lessons – ‘We’re getting better’

ENVIRONMENT chief Councillor Chris Knight revealed his own car has been towed away in the past two weeks, costing him more than £250 in penalty fine cash.
But, as he admitted to having clocked up his fair share of parking tickets in the past, Cllr Knight said: “I deserved it. If you are parked in a silly place, wrongly, then you will get a fine.”
Cllr Knight, a Tory, was the only executive member from a local authority to attend Tuesday’s press briefing and to digest the Motorists Challenge Fund report in full.

He said: “I always say that learning is 95 per cent listening and 5 per cent making mistakes. I am prepared to listen to what these guys have to say and try to take onboard any points they have.

If you want to use the analogy: Tony Blair went to talk to the IRA.

It’s been ­hostile in the past over parking but I have actually listened to what’s been said, some of the things that maybe haven’t worked so well, and we are changing. I think ­people are seeing that.

“I think people can see it has got fairer and with the new contracts and new training that is coming in, I think there will be even better results in the next year or so.”

In the 2006 local elections, the man then sitting in Cllr Knight’s position was Labour councillor John Thane. In a protest at parking policies, he was singled out in the campaign with leaflets distributed in his Highgate ward urging voters to drive him out of the Town Hall.

Motorists posed in John Thane pirate masks in the months before his eventual defeat. Cllr Knight has yet to face the same venom as parking supremo.
“If you look at what these guys are saying today, they are saying Camden has got better and that I have been more gracious,” he said.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Police seize documents from the Traffic Penalty Tribunal

Let us hope that the Police leave no stone unturned in this investigation. It follows closely on from the admission from the Council that the Traffic Orders for the Devon and Exeter hospital car parks have 'not been legal' since 2008. This will then go to the core of Devon's application to the Department for Transport for Civil Parking Enforcement powers.

Furthermore, it is understood that Mr. Harry has instructed a firm of London solicitors to represent him and that a private action is being considered against a number of individuals.

His case is also being assisted by the Motorists Legal Challenge Fund.

Councils' parking tribunal evidence probed by Exeter police
Tuesday, February 23,

POLICE are investigating allegations that a council employee falsified details on a map which was given as evidence at a tribunal.
The probe was launched after concern was raised by Peter Harry who was given a penalty charge notice after he left his car parked in Southernhay East, Exeter, in March last year.
The 67-year-old from Dawlish appealed against his fine and took the matter to a tribunal. He claimed the markings on the road were not legally correct.

An adjudicator ruled against him but after obtaining evidence from the tribunal, held in Manchester, Mr Harry went to the police with his concerns prompting a criminal investigation.
He claims that a council worker from Exeter City Council or Devon County Council, both of which have responsibilities for administering parking in the city, had realised that Southernhay West had been wrongly put as the location on the penalty notice and had changed it to Southernhay to defend the appeal.

He said: “The councils provided a map, showing the location of my vehicle, underneath the marked reference placed on the map is the word Southernhay. On the PCN the location is given as Southernhay West.
“In actual fact I was parked in Southernhay East which would have made the PCN invalid. But sooner that cancel the ticket, I believe they decided to take another route in order to enforce the unenforceable by doctoring the map, which is an attempt to pervert the course of justice.”

Devon and Cornwall police confirmed yesterday that an allegation of perverting the course of justice was currently being investigated.

A spokesman said: “Police have made preliminary inquires following an allegation of perverting the course of justice in relation to documents being altered to assist a prosecution. At this stage we have not established if a crime has been committed so it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”

It is understood that senior officers have been to Manchester and have seized documents which had been filed in relation to the appeal.
It is not clear at this stage which authority was responsible for carrying out the alleged alteration of the map.
No one from either the county or city council was available for comment yesterday

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Business boss calls police in parking row

Bizarre comments from Sunderland City Council .. yet again. At least Camden's Councillor Knight (see post above) has had the decency and humility to accept his council's failings with a great degree of contrition. Sunderland however, seem to maintain that it is just 'one man's war' against the council. Perhaps Mr. Odunaiya should watch the video clips
Sunderland Car Parking pt1 of 3
Sunderland Car Parking pt2 of 3
Sunderland Car Parking pt3 of 3
and then look at why an Internal Investigation was launched in 2005. Then look at why all the signs were corrected and why council officers ignored advice from the DfT and Government Office for the North East.
Question on everyone's lips is why, after the BBC Inside Out Documentary was broadcast on 2nd Ocober 2006 did it take until 30th November 2007 to remove NCP Services or was it National Car Parks from the contract?

Here's one from Elton to Sunderland's officers responsible ...

Jarrow & Hebburn Gazette
Published Date: 18 February 2010
Tim Booler
A BOLDON businessman has complained to police about a council parking contract.
Northumbria Police's economic crime unit is believed to be looking at matters raised by campaigner Neil Herron, who runs Boldon Business Park-based Parking Appeals Ltd.

It relates to Sunderland City Council's handling of the transfer of the parking enforcement contract when NCP Parking Ltd was replaced by NCP Service Ltd in 2007/8, and whether that adhered to European Union procurement directives.
Mr Herron said: "There are concerns over whether it was done without proper scrutiny."
He added that because of alleged "evidence issues," and similar problems occurring in other council areas, it needed to be reported.
Northumbria Police confirmed it had received a complaint "which is being reviewed".
The complaint has also been lodged with Sunderland Council's auditor, and has delayed the signing-off of its annual accounts.
In a recent report to the authority's ruling cabinet, district auditor Steve Nicklin said: "I received a formal objection to the 2007/08 financial statements in relation to car parking enforcement.
"Similar objections have been received at other authorities, which means we're obliged to consider them together and co-ordinate a consistent response.
Also, I have recently received correspondence from the same objector, indicating that he also wishes to object to the 2008/09 accounts.
"Until these two objections have been resolved, I cannot issue my formal certificate to confirm that the audit has been completed for 2007/08 and 2008/09.
However, I am satisfied that the issues raised do not have a material impact on the financial statements."

Sunderland Council said it is aware of the complaints lodged with Northumbria Police.

Ron Odunaiya, executive director for city services, added: "Mr Herron has conducted a long-running campaign against the city council and its officers in relation to parking matters, and this latest correspondence should be seen in that context.
"On this basis we have no further comment to make."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

We are now watching the watchers ...'Basildon Beast' caught out

Anyone else with photographs of CCTV Smartcars post them onto the Facebook site 'Rage Against the Parking Machine.'

We will watch the watchers.

Gotcha! Council’s spy car caught out
Tuesday 16th February 2010
By James Colasanti »

AN angry resident has turned the tables on Basildon Council’s CCTV spy car by catching it parked illegally, twice over.
Karen Smith, 44, hid in a Wickford funeral director’s to take this shot of the Smart Car, parked, not only on a yellow line, but on the pavement too.

She had just returned from the stables where she keeps her horse when spotted the spy car partly blocking the pavement in Irvon Hill Road, for the second morning running.
Karen, of Market Avenue, Wickford, said: “It was there for about ten minutes and it really annoyed me because I always see it hovering around this area, trying to catch mums dropping off their kids on the school run.
“So I hid out of site in the undertakers and took a photo on my mobile phone.”

The spy car has been the scourge of motorists across the district since it took to local roads in September.

In November, it was criticised by taxi driver Gary Lynch, who was given a £70 ticket for parking in a layby in Laindon for a couple of minutes to help an elderly, frail passenger to her front door.
Mrs Smith said: “I’ve heard a lot of stories about people who have been hard done to by this car, so I thought it was a hypocritical it was parking how it liked.
“I really don’t think there should be one rule for the Smart Car and one for the rest of us.”

Brian Boyce, manager of parking enforcement for Basildon Council, said: “The officer stopped the vehicle for a few minutes to carry out vital log paperwork.
“Although Irvon Hill Road is a quiet stretch of road, officers have been advised not to park in such positions again.”

The Beast of Basildon

The Beast
By Guy Basnett,
News of the World


MOTORISTS are under attack from a CCTV car dubbed "The BEAST" - because it stalks the streets snaring unsuspecting drivers by the thousand.
When the traffic offences predator is on the loose it can snare up to 54 motorists a DAY who've parked their cars illegally.

The two-door Smart car might only be a titchy beast, but drivers don't stand a chance escaping when it's on the prowl in Basildon, Essex.

Its lethal weapon is a camera perched on a 15ft telescopic mast which can spot cars parked in the wrong place up to 110 metres away, and even log them just by driving past - picking up the vehicle details, exact location and type of rule break.

In Essex the local council has nicknamed the car the "Beast of Basildon" because of its success rate, a document leaked to the News of the World reveals.
The £50,000 vehicle is fitted with GPS and automatic number plate recognition so it can capture car details and issue £60 fines if motorists park in loading bays, clearways, bus stops, taxi ranks and in restricted areas near schools and pedestrian crossings.

It can also film in high quality to enable prosecutions. But drivers don't know they've been booked till the ticket arrives in the post.
CCTV cars are being increasingly used by councils to patrol Britain's streets, replacing traffic wardens as the new hi-tech scourge of drivers.
And unlike wardens they don't get abuse for handing out tickets. The leaked document revealed 1,672 penalty charge notices were issued in the 70 days since The Beast was launched - making an average of 24 a day. The highest doled out in a single day was 54.
The papers also reveal Basildon Council admits motorists have grumbled about "The Beast", but officials are surprised they haven't made more fuss. The document said: "We've had a few complaints but not as many as we were expecting."
Our source said: "Councils talk about these cars targeting known parking trouble spots and how well they've been received by the community.
"But behind closed doors they're bragging about how many people they can catch with these
nasty little cars.
"They can't help boasting that it can be used to catch people committing loads of other offences. And bring in more and more cash in hefty fines."

Around 50 councils are thought to be using CCTV cars now, including Westminster Council in London - which hopes to increase its fleet to four - Eastbourne, Medway Council in Kent and Manchester City Council.

Police forces have also joined the trend. Greater Manchester Police uses a CCTV Smart car to target drivers committing motoring offences, such as texting or using handheld mobile phones. The vehicles can also act as mobile CCTV tackling anti-social behaviour.

But parking campaigner Neil Herron fumed: "These vehicles are just another tool to fine as many people as possible and bring in revenue.
"It's unbelievable that a council will call the car 'The Beast' and boast how many people have been fined."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Illegal credit card surcharge on Staffordshire PCNs

After seeing the press statement from the council perhaps a little reminder is in order. You cannot break the law to enforce the law.
Once that is understood and all PCNs are cancelled and then refunded then the public will start to have respect for enforcement.

Here is Elton with a message for Stafford borough and all the other councils out there ...

Motorist gets ‘illegal’ ticket
Burton News

Hall officials have been left with red faces after handing a driver an ‘illegal’ parking ticket.East Staffordshire Borough Council slapped the unnamed motorist with a £70 fine — which can be reduced to £35 if paid within 14 days — for parking in Hawkins Lane, Burton, on Friday.

However, an investigation by Internet advice group has since revealed the penalty is ‘illegal’ because it tells credit card users they are liable to pay a 1.6 per cent levy — a move outlawed in March 2008. According to the group, Government guidance tells local authorities there ‘are operational savings to debit and credit cards’ so they ‘cannot justify applying surcharges for their use’.

This clause allows drivers to contest parking tickets on the grounds they would end up paying above the prescribed amount on the penalty ticket.The council said that the fine issued to the driver was from an old batch of tickets and that staff using them had been told to cross out the line about the surcharge.

A council spokesman said: “The council removed the 1.6 per cent levy on credit card payments in September 2009, following a ruling made by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, the national adjudicator for parking appeals, on an appeal issued by a London authority.“While the ruling does not set a legal precedent, the council made the decision to remove the charge.“The back of some of our penalty charge notices still make reference to the levy and our civil enforcement officers have been asked to delete this sentence.“While this did not happen on this occasion, we can confirm that measures are in place to ensure that the 1.6 per cent charge is not levied on any credit card payment for a penalty charge notice.“The driver had still parked the vehicle in contravention of a parking restriction and the council remains committed to keeping our highways clear for responsible users.”

Neil Herron, a spokesman for, said: “It makes a reassuring change for a council to immediately admit the mistake.“Let’s hope they do the decent thing and cancel all the pending tickets that have the 1.6 per cent charge and investigate why this error occurred in an open and transparent fashion.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Westminster parking contract fraud investigation ...

Police probe parking 'fraud' at Westminster Council
BBC News

Police have begun an investigation into allegations of fraud against two senior officers at Westminster Council.
The case concerns the awarding of a multimillion-pound
parking enforcement contract to private firm NSL Services

Westminster Council denies any wrongdoing .

A Met spokesman said: "We can confirm we have received an allegation of fraud. The allegation is being looked at and we are unable to discuss it."

A spokeswoman for Westminster Council in central London said the allegations were unfounded.
European Union law says that contracts worth more than £156,442 must be opened to tender to any interested company and advertised in the EU's official journal.
Westminster's parking contract is worth about £13m a year.

It was previously being carried out by private parking firm NCP.

"We remain confident the parking contract was properly let
by our officers and allegations of fraud are completely
unfounded "
Westminster Council

But in 2007 NCP was sold and broken up into smaller companies.
A new firm, NSL Services, was then created.

It is alleged that at that point the contract was given directly to the new company without going through proper tendering processes.

Parking campaign group No To Bike Parking Tax Campaign provided information to the police that led to the investigation being started.

Chairman Warren Djanogly said: "It was my civic duty to take the evidence collected to the proper authority.
"I have had no other course of action other than to bring this matter to the attention of the police."

Mike More, chief executive of Westminster Council, said: "This allegation is part of an ongoing campaign by a motorbike protest group.

'Co-operating with inquiries'
"We remain confident the parking contract was properly let by our officers and allegations of fraud are completely unfounded."

Mr More said the council would fully co-operate with police inquiries.

A spokesman for NSL Services said the suggestion there was anything wrong in the way the contract was handled was "nonsense".
He added European rules on tendering of public services allowed for contracts to be passed on in this way, as long as the contract had the relevant clause.

"The contract with Westminster does have such a clause," the spokesman said.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Misleading parking signs removed

Hampshire County Council introduced new parking restrictions at Fleet in May 2006 and put up pairs of parking notices of their own invention which contradicted each other and confused drivers.
So misleading were the signs that the local press immediately picked up the story after angry drivers complained ...

New signs confuse motorists

May 25, 2006
by Stephen Lloyd
SHOCKED drivers were hit with fines totalling nearly £2,500 in just two days after falling foul of
new town centre parking restrictions.
More ...

Contrary to the Department for Transport’s very clear Traffic Signs Manual, they didn’t include an essential yellow line on the road with a yellow plate to show when parking was prohibited. For reasons impossible to understand, despite the DfT having told the House of Commons Transport Select Committee that there were already “too many examples of signs that are so confusing that drivers find it difficult to comply with them”, and contrary to DfT’s own Signs Manual they approved the signs arrangement which has confused thousands of drivers for nearly four years.

The issuing of PCNs immediately rocketed to outrageous proportions, as one shopkeeper said at the time the easy ticketing of parked cars was like shooting fish in a barrel.

"Ticketing of Parked Cars was like shooting fish in a barrel"

Instead of immediately abandoning the signs which amounted to the blatant entrapment of thousands of drivers misled into believing they had at least 30 minutes parking at any time of day – which is exactly what the parking notice shows – the council persisted with these pairs of signs which they knew to be hopelessly ineffective and why.

Local campaigner and committee member of the Motorists Legal Challenge Fund, Peter Ashford, who has fought a running battle with Hart District Council and the county council for nearly four years to have the ineffective signs replaced recently won a parking appeal when representing a local victim of the signs, Jon Louch, at what the tribunal described as a test case.

The local press reported last week ...

Council's £300,000 risk for 'misleading' parking signs
By Stephen Lloyd
February 04, 2010
CONTROVERSIAL parking restriction signs in Fleet town centre are misleading, a national adjudicator has ruled.
It follows two appeals in which drivers have had their £70 parking fines thrown out.

Mr Ashford said: “The adjudicator agreed that the 11-fold increase in penalty charges issued after the unsatisfactory parking signs came into operation was more than enough indication that the signage was not effective.”

Peter Ashford repeatedly provided the council with evidence that the signs were misunderstood by most drivers (including a parking adjudicator’s statement that they were confusing) but he was systematically rebuffed by officers and councillors, one of whom (then responsible for parking) wrote that the council cannot take advice from members of the public!

The adjudicator of the recent appeal, Hilary Tilby, quoted at length from a February 2008 communication in which the county council admitted their full knowledge that drivers were confused by the ill-conceived parking signs. She agreed that the 11-fold increase in penalty charges issued after the inadequate parking signs came into use was more than enough indication that the signage was not effective.

She found that the council had failed to implement signage that was clear and not ambiguous and she also criticised the DfT for failing to deal with the fact that the signs they had approved for use in Fleet Road “were clearly not doing the job”.

The adjudicator’s conclusion was, what the councils had always known, that “the parking signage was and remained misleading”.

On receipt of the appeal decision the council immediately removed one of each pair of notices leaving just the loading notices to make each parking bay into a part-time loading bay, but they have failed to mark the road as Loading bays – guaranteed to continue misleading the motoring public.

It is now quite clear that this was more about raising revenue than managing kerbspace and there should be a full independent investigation. In the meantime, if anyone who has had a PCN at this location contact the Motorists Legal Challenge Fund

Motorists Legal Challenge dubbed the 'unofficial parking watchdog.'

Motorists Legal Challenge exposes councils breaching the Data Protection Laws

It appears as though three councils failed to renew their registration for the Data Protection Public Register with the Information Commissioner's Office.

We await details of Brentwood and Ribble Valley but Hyndburn Council have admitted that they failed to renew three years ago.

If your data has been processed illegally, ie. by a council that has failed to register, then this needs to be raised as a complaint with the ICO here

Meanwhile, here are the headlines, with the Motorists Legal Challenge Fund now being billed as 'the unofficial parking watchdog.'

East Lancashire councils in data protection mix-up
Blackburn Citizen - Sam Chadderton - ‎Feb 12, 2010‎
Neil Herron, spokesman for 'unofficial parking watchdog' the Motorists Legal Challenge Fund, said: “It's refreshing to see a full and frank admission. ...

East Lancashire councils in data protection mix-up 11:00am Friday 12 February 2010
Lancashire Evening Telegraph
TWO East Lancashire Councils have been accused of unlawfully processing personal details after a data protection mix-up.

BRENTWOOD: Oops they've done it again
PARKING fines, benefit claims and planning applications are all being processed unlawfully by Brentwood Borough Council in yet another act of incompetence that could cost the authority thousands of pounds.
The Gazette can reveal that our
10/02/2010 11:55

More will be revealed shortly with regard to an even bigger blunder that has 75% of the councils in the country scrambling for legal advice.

Seems that some councils just cannot help themselves ...

Despite the fact that the Operational Guidance to Local Authorities states:

10.17 Paying by online debit and credit cards is convenient for many motorists and is more secure for local authorities. The electronic card readers automatically seeks authorisation for values previously agreed between the card holder and the card company, and automatically bars any ‘blacklisted’ cards. Auditors favour the use of online debit and credit cards to avoid creating bad debts and minimising collection costs. There are operational savings to debit/credit cards so authorities cannot justify applying surcharges for their use.

Some councils just cannot help themselves.
Here we have a PCN from Staffordshire Borough Council which has a '1.6% levy' on all credit card payments.

The Chief Executive has been put on notice that this renders the PCN void and unenforceable.

Anyone with a PCN from Staffordshire Borough Council simply needs to tick the box 'The PCN exceeded the prescribed amount.'

The Motorists Legal Challenge will take up the case should the council refuse to cancel the PCN.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just an oversight ...oh really?

On BBC Radio Lancashire this morning the leader of the council said that failure to register was 'just an oversight' and therefore was no worse than not having a TV licence! (I seem to recall that people get fined for such oversights).

However, if an 'oversight' is acceptable then here is a suggested defence for a Penalty Charge Notice issued by Hyndburn Council:

" A PCN has been issued to my vehicle as I was parked in contravention. However, this was an oversight on my behalf and I can confirm that I have put procedures in place for it not to happen again. Please confirm that the PCN will be cancelled."

East Lancashire councils accused of data protection mix-up
Lancashire Telegraph
Friday 12th February 2010

TWO East Lancashire Councils have been accused of unlawfully processing personal details after a data protection mix-up.
Hyndburn Borough Council and Ribble Valley Borough Council both failed to renew their registrations with the Information Commissioner’s Office register of data controllers.

Any organisation that uses personal information about members of the public must be registered.

It means both councils have committed a criminal offence - and they were only made aware of the lapse when the Lancashire Telegraph informed them this week.

The error means that technically, departments such as council tax, benefits, planning, and housing, should have stopped until the registration was renewed.

A spokesman for Hyndburn Council said: "Due to an administrative oversight on our part the council's registration as a data controller under the Data Protection Act 1998 had lapsed.
“We have taken immediate action to rectify the position and have re-registered with the Information Commission with effect from today.
“We are obviously very sorry that this has happened.
However, we are satisfied that we have sound procedures for handling personal data about our customers, and that the lapse in registration has not prejudiced anyone in any way.
“We have now put in place procedures to ensure that this doesn't happen again.”

A spokesman for Ribble Valley Borough Council said: “The authority is fully registered for data protection with the Information Commissioner’s Office, but our recent renewal notice showed an increase in the cost of our registration from £75 to £1,000 per year. “Understandably, we questioned this significant increase, but following discussions with the ICO we will be paying the invoice.”

A spokesman from the ICO confirmed the councils face prosecution if they do not renew and could be fined in court.
She said: “Under the Data Protection Act organisations that process personal information have a statutory requirement to notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that they are a data controller. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.”

Neil Herron, spokesman for ‘unofficial parking watchdog’ the Motorists Legal Challenge Fund, said: “It’s refreshing to see a full and frank admission. However, the consequences will now be for others to decide, including members of the public. Their data, including parking tickets, has been processed illegally.”

South Somerset Council ... £5.00 is not fine!

Sometimes it beggars belief how arrogant councils can be. Keep reminding yourself that these people are civil servants meant to serve the public and they are not allowed to act like Robber Barons!!!

Motorist from Somerset appeals against parking charge

Parking fines are £30 and rise to £60 if they are not paid within 14 days.
South Somerset District Council has defended its policy of imposing a non-returnable £5 fee even if motorists win an appeal against a parking fine.

Dave Gill and his wife had bought and displayed a ticket in their car but were handed a parking fine in Yeovil.
After challenging the decision they discovered the £5 fee would not be refunded even if they were successful.
The council said this covers the cost of processing the appeal and does not reflect the true, much higher, cost.

Parking fines issued at council-owned car parks are £30 but increase to £60 if they are not paid within 14 days from the issuing the notice.

Dave Gill, who is still waiting for a decision on his parking fine, said: "If you appeal against a £60 parking ticket you still ending paying £5 for that appeal, which to me is the rub if you like... the point is really not the money but it's about the principle... it takes five minutes to write that ticket out."

A spokesman for South Somerset District Council said: "We could, within our rights, say that the penalty has to stand.
"However we state in the appeals process that is issued with each penalty that if a valid ticket can be produced, or season ticket, residents permit, disabled badge for example, that if they haven't displayed correctly then we may cancel the fine for a £5 administration charge.
"We are very reasonable and when we can see people have accidentally not displayed a ticket we do usually let people off the full fine but we do need to gather minimal costs to cover the time spent sorting out the appeal, which includes the time spent by our staff, logging it, sending out correspondence, etc.
"We would advise that drivers do a quick check to make sure it hasn't slipped or blown away.
"The £5 is usually accepted as a fair compromise by our residents as they can see that it wasn't correctly displayed and time and resources had to be spent to make sure the appeal was considered and approved."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Diplomatic Row continues

Diplomatic parking bays 'unlawful since the 80s'
Islington Gazette
11 February 2010

ALL tickets handed out in two "unlawful" parking bays could have to be repaid by Islington Council.The two bays - in White Lion Street, Angel, and Cowper Street, Finsbury - are reserved for diplomats. But Islington Council failed to get the proper permission from the secretary of state for transport before installing the road signs - which means every parking fine and car-towing carried out is unenforceable. The White Lion Street bay is reserved for the Eritrean Embassy, while the Cowper Street one is used by the International Mobile Satellite Organisation, which has full diplomatic status under an agreement with the Government.

Islington Council insists the revelation about the bays will have little effect, as no tickets were issued in either bay last year, but anyone issued with tickets in the bays since as far back as the 1980s could have a case for their money back.Across the capital, there are 346 diplomatic bays in total, and Westminster, Camden, and Kensington and Chelsea councils are all in the same boat.

Neil Herron, of the Motorists' Legal Challenge group, said: "The diplomatic bays issue will have huge implications. This is 22 years of unlawful unlawfully derived income. "If councils paid more attention to getting everything right they would not now be in the position of having to refund millions. This is what happens when corners are cut in the pursuit of a cash cow. "Fairness and justice is a two-way street and councils now have a duty to refund those fined unlawfully."

An Islington Council spokesman said: "There are two diplomatic bays in Islington and no Penalty Charge Notices for either of them were issued in 2009. We were unaware of an issue regarding special authorisation for signage in these bays and are looking into this.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The tip of a very large iceberg ...admission of criminality by council leader

This is the first of many councils to fall from breaching the Data Protection principles. They have a legal duty to be transparent about why they want your data, what they intend doing with it and who they want to share it with.

The saving grace, if there is one in this instance, is the full and frank admission that the council are guilty of a criminal act and that an investigation is being launched immediately. however, there are panic stations in other councils who have failed to register parking enforcement as a purpose. We have captured the registration details of every council. Now let's watch as panic ensues. Perhaps now the penny will drop for all authorities, Government departments and politicians that there are dire consequences for failure to regulate or heed the concerns that have been raised by many over the years. In the coming weeks we will release details of the criminal investigations now launched in a number of areas that will change the face of the 'parking industry.'

BRENTWOOD: Oops they've done it again
Brentwood Gazette
Wednesday, February 10, 2010, 11:55

PARKING fines, benefit claims and planning applications are all being processed unlawfully by Brentwood Borough Council in yet another act of incompetence that could cost the authority thousands of pounds.

The Gazette can reveal that our bungling council has committed a criminal offence – and could face prosecution – by failing to renew its registration with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) Data Protection Public Register.

This means the council could be forced to rescind parking fines, CCTV images may be unusable in courts and planning applications, various licences, benefits, council tax and housing bills are all being unlawfully processed, which could render them invalid.

These latest shocking revelations – in which Brentwood is one of only two councils in the country without a data controller registration – comes as the authority tries to recover from embarrassing revelations, including damning verdicts on the council's accounts and extravagant pay-offs to outgoing Town Hall chiefs.

But what's worse, the council were blissfully unaware their registration had lapsed and they were in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 until the Gazette got in touch this week.

Brentwood Borough Council leader, Louise McKinlay said: "This is totally unacceptable as far as I'm concerned.
"As soon as officers made me aware I instructed that an internal investigation be carried out, and this is underway now.
"I am getting legal advice on the full implications of this officer oversight and will be making sure that processes are in place for this to never happen again."

A spokesman for the Motorists' Legal Challenge Fund, Neil Herron, said they had already made an official complaint to the ICO and warned that Brentwood council should not be processing any data regarding its 70,000 residents.

He added: "Local authorities punish the most minor of trivialities – such as overstaying parking limits by just a few minutes or being inches over a white line – but obviously they need to get their own house in order first.
"It is a criminal offence to process any personal data without being registered. They would have been sent a reminder both three months and then one month before it lapsed."

He added: "Anyone who has received a penalty charge notice whilst the council has not been registered would be perfectly within their rights to request that the PCN is rescinded, and should the council fail to do so, then raise a complaint with the Information Commissioner."

A spokesman from the ICO confirmed the council faced prosecution if they did not renew and the maximum penalty was £5,000 at magistrates' court or an unlimited fine at crown court.
She said: "Under the Data Protection Act organisations that process personal information have a statutory requirement to notify the ICO that they are a data controller. Failure to do so is a criminal offence."

Cllr Louise McKinlay said the council will be re-registering.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Suspended Bays signs ... more cancellations and refunds to come?

This story may well light the fuse and have an inpact on PCNs issued in all suspended bays right across the country. As the High Court beckons for a number of pending cases it is anticipated that a great many more will follow.

Incensed motorists demand fine cancellations
Bucks Free Press
5th February 2010
By James Nadal »

INCENSED motorists are demanding their fines are cancelled because of “diabolical” temporary Parking signs.

Drivers have bombarded Wycombe District Council with complaints about suspended bays in Institute Road, which they say were unclearly marked and initially in the wrong place.
The new restrictions have been put in due to building work along the street.
An e-mail from a WDC official to one disgruntled resident, conceded signs had been moved from a bay after it realised they had been put in the wrong place.

Motorists accused wardens of simply waiting to fine them after talking to site builders who witnessed the tickets being issued.

Mandy Wishart, of Highfield Park, Marlow, who runs a pensioners' club in Slough, said: “The signs weren't big enough and there was literally one at each end of the road, now they are all the way along the fence.
“I was very angry, especially when the builder said to me the warden had been stood there all morning just waiting for people to park and booking them.”

She said the fact signs had been changed proved the original mistake.

Anita Petersen, of Shelley Close, Medmenham, got a ticket on January 28, after Parking in the same spot she has used for years.
She wrote to the council to say she was “an innocent victim of a poorly organised change to a local Parking regulation and that the council is at fault.”
Mrs Petersen wrote: “The council has made no real effort to warn motorists of the change in regulations other than a couple of poorly worded A4 bits of paper stuck on parking signs some distance away from the area where most motorists were parking.”

Paul Simmons, 61, of Hill Farm Road, Marlow Bottom, a B & B proprietor said it was “unfair” and “unacceptable” his wife Suzanne's appeal had been rejected.

Andrea Wicks, a fashion buyer, from Harleyford Estate, ticketed on January 29, said: “If you park somewhere for 20 years you don't expect to look for a parking sign every time you park, especially when the sign is behind a hedge.”

Darryl Abrams, 60, a retired surveyor, of Little Marlow Road, said: “It's diabolical, I looked at the sign and thought it had definitely expired.”

He was ticketed on Tuesday January 26.

The Free Press asked WDC if it would reconsider the fines considering the volume of similar complaints.

Spokesman Sue Robinson said each appeal will be considered “in isolation”.
She said: “The temporary suspension signs we put up are bright yellow and designed to be prominent.
“The signs were put up following instructions from the contractor but were changed to improve access and to free up more available spaces.”
“WDC cannot cone off spaces. Cones would not work in isolation as they can (and sometimes are) moved by members of the public.”

Parking bay restrictions in Institute Road are already contentious following Buckinghamshire County Council's admission signs and lines are wrong.
However, tickets have continued to be issued by WDC.

Is nothing sacred ... or is there more to this?

At first glance it may look like another jobsworth council is set to make the headlines again.

However, closer inspection of the evidence reveals a microphone boom on the left of the photograph in what appears to be a scene from a drama rather than an actual 'live' event.

Thought I'd post this before it becomes urban myth.

Conflicts of Interest for Adjudicators?

From the former Department for Constitutional Affairs website re: Adjudicators.
Once you have read it then you can decide whether the fact that the Traffic Penalty Tribunal Chief Adjudicator, Caroline Sheppard is employed by Manchester City Council represents a conflict of interest. More ...

The governing principle is that no person should sit in a judicial capacity in any circumstances which would lead an objective onlooker with knowledge of all the material facts, reasonably to suspect that the person might be biased. As a general principle therefore, a barrister or solicitor advocate ought not to sit or to appear before a tribunal, at a particular hearing centre, if he is liable to be embarrassed in either capacity by doing so.

As a general rule, it is undesirable for judicial office holders who are solicitors to sit at a tribunal or hearing centre where they or any partner or employee of theirs regularly practises. This is to help avoid them being assigned to adjudicate in a case (or several cases) from which they would have to stand down. If a fee-paid (part-time) judicial office holder who is a solicitor does sit at such a hearing centre or a tribunal, then the Lord Chancellor regards it as the judicial office holder's personal responsibility (and not that of the staff of the tribunal or the hearing centre) to ensure, as far as possible, that he avoids any potential conflict of interest which might require him to stand down from a particular case.

Fee-paid (part-time) judicial office holders should not sit in a case involving their own firm or client, or otherwise where to do so could give rise to the perception of prejudice in the administration of justice. They should comply with the existing case law governing pecuniary or other interests in deciding whether to declare an interest in, or to stand down from, a particular case e.g. Locabail (UK) Ltd v Bayfield Properties Ltd and Another [(2000) QB 451; in re medicaments and related classes of goods (No 2) (2001) 1 WLR 700; and Lawal v Northern Spirits Limited (2003) UKHL35].

Fee-paid (part-time) judicial office holder should not sit on a case if he has a personal, professional or pecuniary interest in that case; or if any business or practice of which he is a member in any capacity has such an interest.

Judicial office holders are expected to refrain from any activity, political or otherwise, which would conflict with their judicial office or be seen to compromise their impartiality, having regard for example to the comments of the Court of Appeal in the case of Locabail. Fee-paid (part-time) judicial office holders should also be aware of the risk of a perceived lack of impartiality arising from published articles or public pronouncements, etc. (Timmins v Gormley [(2000) 2 WLR 870]).

Fee-paid (part-time) Adjudicators should exercise caution in any reference to their appointment on, for example, letterheads or in chambers advertising literature.

Fee-paid (part-time) Adjudicators hold office only when he or she is serving judicially and should not use their office as a means of pursuing personal, professional or commercial advantage

Serious errors in council contracts

The spotlight is going to shine on loacal authorities parking enforcement contracts shortly. Hope all is in order and the necessary procurement rules have been followed.
Should contracts have gone out to tender?

Stoke-on-Trent City Council made 'serious' bid errors By Liz Copper
BBC Midlands Today,

Much of the work was aimed at renewing or building homes
A council in Staffordshire has said it made "serious" errors in the way it awarded contracts.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council paid Kinders Ltd more than £3.2m for work it has carried out across the city in the past four years.
The firm did nothing wrong, but the contract should have been put out to tender, the council said.

It has begun an inquiry and said it would not rule out taking disciplinary action against its staff.
The council said the payments were for jobs carried out "on an as-and-when basis".

No competition
Phil Crossland, the council's director of transportation and planning, said: "As a public authority it's not good practice.
"We should have seen the amount of work coming up and it should have been tendered as a proper term contract."

Much of the work was carried out as part of the government-backed Pathfinder regeneration project.
The project aims to renew and replace homes. Instead of large contracts being awarded, the work was done in a piecemeal way.
As the work was not advertised, there was no competition, which may have resulted in the council paying more than it needed to.
Rob Flello, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, said he would raise the issue with housing ministers.
He added: "I mean, £3.2m - it just breaks all the rules in terms of procurement policy. We're talking about millions of pounds - outrageous."

The council has not broken the law, but it said it would conduct a "forensic audit", which involves looking at thousands of invoices for the completed work.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Police investigating council parking department

Investigations by District Auditors in a number of local authority areas are gathering momentum and the Barry Moss case papers are now lodged with the High Court.

The Motorists Legal Challenge Fund is a publicly supported fund to expose illegality and justice by ensuring matters are resolved through the courts and relies on donations to ensure equality of arms for motorists.

News is set to break shortly however, that a council is being investigated by the Police over a very serious criminal allegation. Lawyers have been instructed and the victim of the injustice has formally made a criminal complaint.

John Terry's indiscretion has meant that disclosure to the world at large will wait, but the press and media are fully briefed and ready to run once the council decide exactly what their stance is going to be and whether they are going to close ranks or take action. It is understood that the penny is starting to drop as to the seriousness of the allegations and possible consequences.

Once the story breaks, if action is not taken then vicarious liability will roll up the chain of command.

There are other serious issues in the same council involving a pending Freedom of Information request which the council are considering how best to deal with as the financial implications are very serious indeed.

We are launching the Motorists Manifesto for Parking in the House of Lords on 23rd February and intend to highlight how councils have been misbehaving with a number of contemporary examples.

More will be revealed soon.

Department for Transport officials going through a bad spell


As the Diplomatic bay farce continues another embarrassing blunder is exposed. Camden's Special Authorisation from the Department for Transport on behalf of the Secretary of State only allows for the legend 'Diplomatic Cars' or 'Diplomatic Vechicles'

It is understood that Camden are blaming the officials at the DfT claiming that they are responsible for the blunder but those at Camden failed to check. It is understood that they are to be sent here before retraining.

These officials really must pay more attention.

When the excuses roll just remember that the motorist is never afforded the luxury of correcting any oversights that they have. It is simply 'pay up.'

Off to check this week's Auto Trader to see if I can buy a Vechicle and then I know where I'll have free parking in Camden ;-)

Diplomatic Row Continues

It seems as though Westminster Council are convinced that they have always had authority for the Diplomatic Bays. In that case there was no need to spend public money getting 'another' Special Authorisation. However, checking their bays it seems that even now there are many which do not even comply with the legal requirements.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's dilemma is that they now have to apply to the Department for Transport for permisssion to use the markings they currently have on the highway. I am sure that they will not be so foolish to continue enforcing.

Meanwhile, there is another, more embarrassing blunder to come.

Monday, February 01, 2010

A £2,000,000,000 a year industry

£2bn parking bill
By Tom Latchem, 19/12/2009
News of the World

GREEDY councils are exploiting motorists by raking in almost £2 BILLION a year in parking fees and fines.

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

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

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

But a spokesman said: "Parking charges are a tool to manage demand for road use and should not be used for raising revenue.

Jennifer Dunn of the Taxpayers' Alliance said: "Motorists are being treated like cash cows. Too often we see unscrupulous and target-driven enforcement of parking."

Top ten revenue earners in London:
1. Westminster £180m
2. Camden £80m
3. Kensington & Chelsea £77m
4. Islington £55m
5. Wandsworth £51m
6. Hammersmith & Fulham £47m
7. Lambeth £40m
8. Tower Hamlets £31m
9. Ealing £30m
10. Hackney £29m.
Top ten elsewhere: 1. Brighton & Hove £38m 2. Birmingham £24m 3. Manchester £20m 4. Leeds £19m 5. Milton Keynes £16m 6. Newcastle upon Tyne £15m 7. Kent £15m 8. Bristol £14m 9. Liverpool £14m 10. City of Nottingham £13m.

It's all about the money. Show me the money

Westminster to ban free parking in the evening
Evening Standard
Sri Carmichael, Consumer Affairs Reporter

Free evening parking would be scrapped across much of the West End in plans being considered by a London council.

The move, which has outraged motorist and tourism groups, would extend parking meter charges and single yellow line penalties until midnight from Monday to Saturday in Westminster's central controlled zones. Currently, there is free parking in those spaces from 6.30pm on such days.

Theatres, restaurants and late-opening shops fear they would be hit by the changes as customers would stay away. Motoring groups claim the council has designed the move to raise money they have lost from drivers during the recession.

Westminster council is also considering raising parking charges with a doubling of rates suggested for St John's Wood from £1.10 per hour to £2.20.
Central zones currently charge £4.40 per hour but this could rise to £5. The F zone south of Marylebone Road is marked as a potential target as well as all other zones except B and C, which are north of Marylebone Road.

Residents with parking permits would be exempt from the new enforcement structure, which was discussed at a council Cabinet meeting on Monday.
The option to raise meter charges was said not to go “above inflation”. But although residents would be exempt from the longer charging hours, the price of their permit could still rise above inflation.

A council report last month said that parking charges needed to go up for “harmonisation” purposes so they are on a par with those in neighbouring Camden that charges £4.80 per hour.
It is understood that council chiefs were asked to find “additional income” from parking and noted it was “earmarked to contribute to” £14 million of savings.

Richard Pulford, chairman of the Society of London Theatre, said: “The proposition is ridiculous and would be gravely damaging. We have a lot of people who come into the West End from out of town by car because they often cannot get back on public transport. To add parking to their cost would be extraordinary. It would be a huge blow to the night-time economy.”

Paul Pearson, a campaigner who runs the website said: “I think it's disgusting, it's just for revenue-raising, pure and simple.”

Cllr Danny Chalkley, Westminster council's cabinet member for city management, said: "As one of the most congested boroughs in the UK there is a huge amount of pressure on Westminster's parking network.
"We have a challenging role in striking a balance between the many competing needs and demands for our kerbside space in order to keep the city moving.
"At the start of the new decade and with the
London Olympics just two years away, now is a sensible time to re-examine parking policies in parts of central London.
"It's important to stress though that no decisions have been taken yet as to any potential changes to parking in Westminster."

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