Friday, March 26, 2010

Council enforcing parking under contract law ...

Exeter Council issue the tickets 'under contract law' and receive the money. Where is the appeals process? Where is the scrutiny? Who authorised this and under what powers?
A full investigation needs to be launched immediately into this and all the other 'inconsistencies' in parking enforcement in the Devon area.
Anyone with information can pass it on to

Exeter hospital parking patrols to stand down
Exeter Express and Echo

Thursday, March 25, 2010, 07:21

COUNCILLORS have backed plans for the city council to pull out of patrolling the car park at Exeter’s main hospital.
The council’s civil enforcement officers will continue issuing fines at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital until May 31. After that the hospital has to make its own arrangements.
The council suspended enforcement in October after discovering it was issuing tickets under the wrong traffic order.

The mistake has left the authority having to pay back £35,000 in refunds to motorists who were issued with tickets.
The city council’s executive committee was told that enforcement had started again this month following a new agreement with the hospital.

But it would cease at the end of May because of the “disproportionate amount of staff time to oversee it”.

John Rigby, the city council’s director for economy and development, told the committee that discussions with the RD&E had concluded with an agreement to stop enforcement.
Councillor Percy Prowse said the council had been too slow in realising its mistakes in issuing tickets at the car park.
He said: “I requested in May last year that we ought to suspend issuing tickets, but it didn’t stop until October.”
He said motorists who have been issued with tickets at the site this month may also be entitled to a refund.

But Mr Rigby told the Echo the council had a legal agreement to patrol the site and the council was confident tickets issued this month were legal.
He said: “The city council is enforcing the RD&E’s own parking policy on the basis of a contractual arrangement in accordance with the provisions of the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970.
“It is satisfied the new arrangements are enforceable and in accordance with the RD&E’s new parking policy the council has been issuing penalty tickets since Monday, March 1. The contract will end on May 31.”

A spokesman for the RD&E NHS Hospital Trust said options were being considered and no decision had yet been made.

Council admits to unjust enrichment ...

... but thinks that it can get away with asking the motorist to provide evidence that they paid a ticket.

Let us hope that the councillors now start to take a closer look at exactly what has gone on over the past two years and initiate an investigation of their own.

The council officers are fully aware that they had no legal authority to issue tickets and as such the council has no right to keep the money.

A little reminder here for the councillors and here with

regard to their own personal liability should they fail to act.

And remember, THE COUNCIL has all the details of the persons who have paid and THE COUNCIL is required to keep those details.

There is a great deal more to be revealed in relation to parking matters in the South West and it is about to get very serious indeed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What happens when council officers tell lies ...

Many council officers have 'misbehaved' in many ways and told lies that would even make Pinnochio blush.

However, not having wooden noses it is often difficult to prove when a council officer is lying ... and that is why hard evidence is required.

Evidence of a very serious nature is being collated against a number of local authorities who, let us be polite, have 'misled' the Secretary of State into granting Civil Enforcement powers. If any of these council officers think that they will be protected by their council's insurers then I would suggest that they look at the legislation below. Any council officers who attempts to support or protect fellow officers will be in the frame as well. Point to ponder as all you read this.

There is no 'amnesty' should an officer retire or resign, and they may also personally face claims for damages should a civil case be taken against them or criminal matters investigated. I am aware that lawyers are already instructed in at least one case. Perhaps the first arrest of a council officer will bring home the gravity of councils 'attempting to expose individuals to the risk of a loss' through deliberate wrongdoing or recklessness and send a warning shot across the boughs.

Meanwhile, thanks to those out there with honesty and integrity who are not prepared to be the 'patsies' for civil servants who seem to have forgotten a long time ago that their duty is to serve (and be civil while they're at it).

Statutory Instrument 2004 No. 3082
The Local Authorities (Indemnities for Members and Officers) Order 2004

Restrictions on indemnities
6. - (1) No indemnity may be provided under this Order in relation to any action by, or failure to act by, any member or officer which -
(a) constitutes a criminal offence; or
(b) is the result of fraud, or other deliberate
wrongdoing or recklessness on the part of that member or officer.

(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1)(a), an indemnity may be provided in relation to -
(a) subject to article 8 below, the defence of any criminal proceedings brought against the officer or member; and
(b) any civil liability arising as a consequence of any action or failure to act which also constitutes a criminal offence.

(3) No indemnity may be provided under this Order in relation to the making by the member or officer indemnified of any claim in relation to an alleged defamation of that member or officer but may be provided in relation to the defence by that member of officer of any allegation of defamation made against him.

Temperature's rising in London ... and across the country.

There are rumblings and mumblings in other parts of the country and a number of criminal complaints actively being investigated. It is also understood that complaints have also been made against Government officials and the IPCC are involved in one due to the fact that an allegation was not investigated.

Police drop Westminster Council parking fraud inquiry
BBC News
Westminster had denied wrongdoing
Police have dropped an investigation into allegations of fraud at Westminster Council's parking unit.

The case concerned the awarding of a multi-million pound parking enforcement contract to private firm NSL Services that campaigners said was "improper".
But a Met spokesman said: "The information provided was investigated and no criminal offence was disclosed."
Group No To Bike Parking Fees (NTBPF), which made the claim, said police had not fully examined the evidence.

European Union law says contracts worth more than £156,442 must be opened to tender to any interested company and advertised in the EU's official journal.

The investigation could have been a lot more thorough. We had four people working on this case - and none of us were contacted at any stage
Warren Djanogly, No To Bike Parking Fees

Westminster's parking contract is worth about £13m-a-year and was previously being carried out by private parking firm NCP.
But in 2007 NCP was sold and broken up into smaller companies with the new firm, NSL Services created.

NTBPF alleged that at that point the contract was given directly to the new company without going through proper tendering processes.
The group has been examining Westminster Council since the authority began charging motorcyclists to park in central London.

But in an email to Westminster's chief executive Mike More, a Scotland Yard officer wrote: "Having examined the documents that the allegation has been based upon I am satisfied no criminal offences have been committed."

'Unanswered questions'
Mr More said: "From the outset we stated that we were confident this contract had been properly let by our officers and these claims were totally unfounded.
"We are pleased that police have concluded their investigation and have cleared our staff of any wrongdoing."

But Warren Djanogly, of NTBPF, said he had been told earlier this month that the case was to be passed to the Serious Fraud Office.
Mr Djanogly said: "Unfortunately it seems the investigation could have been a lot more thorough.
"We had four people working on this case - and none of us were contacted at any stage. There are still many unanswered questions."

Politicians ... heaven or hell?

With an election in the offing just have a read of this and remember the promises they make ...

While walking down the street one day a Member of Parliament is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.'

'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter.

'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'

'No problem, just let me in,' says the man.

'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'

'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the MP.

'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him. Everyone is very happy and in evening dress.

They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly & nice guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises....

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

'Now it's time to visit heaven.'

So, 24 hours pass with the MP joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.'

The MP reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.'

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above. The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.

' I don't understand,' stammers the MP.

'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable.
What happened?'

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, 'Yesterday we were campaigning.. ... Today you voted.'

Thought it wasn't about making money ...

Parking fines 'don't cover attendant costs'
Parking fines recovered by Northern Ireland's parking attendants do not cover the cost of employing them.
Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Almost £18m was spent on NSL Ltd, the private company which provides traffic attendants in Northern Ireland since 2006, according to figures obtained by SDLP MLA John Dallat.
Just over £10m was collected in parking fines by NSL Ltd during the same period.
Mr Dallat said the payments by the Department for Regional Development appeared excessive.

Mr Dallat said: "This appears to be an excessive amount of money and over the past two years the cost of this scheme has increased by 20%.
"Clearly the expense of this scheme needs to be controlled otherwise it (will) become an albatross around the neck of the Department of Regional Development which is already experiencing unprecedented financial strain."
But the company said the money represented best value for competitively advertised services.
The scheme cost £17.7m over three years since the financial year 2006/07. A total of £10.1m was received in penalty tickets.

Tim Cowen, a spokesman for NSL, said: "NSL is paid by the department for a range of services including parking enforcement and car park management. We do not receive any income from PCNs (penalty charge notices).
"When NSL was awarded this contract it was through a public competitive tendering process, which ensures that public authorities get the best price for contracted services."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Watching the watchers ...

Richmond Council defends 'spy' car parking on double yellow lines
Friday 19th March 2010
By Chris Wickham »

This was the moment a council car used to catch law-breaking motorists was caught breaking the very rules it is meant to enforce.

Tom Galvin, of Hampton Wick, spotted the Richmond Council Smart car stopped on double yellow lines in Broad Street, Teddington, at about 8am last Wednesday.

The managing director of Chiswick-based property maintenance firm Adrem took this snap – which is likely to leave law-abiding motorists more than a little miffed.

He said if they do not allow flexibility for residents who sometimes parked illegally for short periods they should not be entitled to it either.

He said: “I have no gripe with the council, it does a good job generally – it is a difficult job trying to keep [everyone] happy. But I feel we are watched and picked up on for every little misdemeanour, when you get a ticket from this [car] it feels like you have been mugged and there is a hypocrisy to it.”

Mr Galvin said many of his staff were often handed fines for going about their daily business.
Councillor David Trigg, Richmond Council, cabinet member for traffic, transport and parking, defended the car stopping where it did and said it had dispensation to do so briefly when necessary.

He added: “In this instance the car saw evidence of a vehicle which had been parked illegally on a double yellow line in Broad Street, Teddington.
“In order for the civil enforcement officer driving the CCTV car to take this evidence safely, he had to stop on the double yellow line, or he would have blocked traffic.
“He had moved away again within three minutes. The council runs a firm, but fair, parking enforcement service. Motorists should be aware of parking restrictions which are either signposted or obvious through double yellow lines.
“We aim for a fair enforcement policy and we will always give full attention to any appeals made.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Data breach has serious implications ...

Once someone who has been prejudiced begins taking legal action will the ICO be as blase about the failings?

Legal threat to council after parking fines blunder
Stuart Pike
Accrington Observer
March 19, 2010

The council unlawfully processed personal data ranging from parking fines to police checks for over four years, leaving their decision open to legal challenge.

Hyndburn Council remained unregistered with the Information Commissioner’s Office for a total of 50 months between November 2005 and February 10 this year. This is a criminal offence.
The licence, which costs just £35 per year, gives authority to process personal data across the spectrum of council decisions, any of which could technically now be open to challenge.

These include assessment and collection of council tax and business rates of over £40m a year, benefits, environmental health, planning, licensing and prosecution of offenders.

It also means the council could have handled data unlawfully from sources including the police, courts, debt collection agencies, probation services, religious organisations and social security.
Council bosses have apologised for the ‘oversight’, but insist that no one has been prejudiced by the lapsed registration. But the borough’s Labour group has written to chief executive David Welsby demanding to know the full implications of the failing.

The ICO has said it will not take further action, but campaign groups say the ‘gross error’ means the council could now face recourse from anyone with a ‘grievance’.

Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, said: "For Hyndburn Council to have been unregistered for so long is a gross error that deserves far greater punishment than the slap on the wrists the ICO has given. Residents hand over huge amounts of personal data to their council - from wages and tax payments to their children’s health records - and we rely upon there being a system in place to prevent a local bureaucrat profiting from access to this data.
"People living in Hyndburn should be outraged that their privacy has been compromised in this manner and this matter should be investigated immediately."

Neil Herron, of Parking Appeals, said: "Every single thing where data has been processed could be liable.
"The chances of someone challenging over a £30 parking ticket are very slim. But there might be a company that has £1M worth of parking tickets.
"It could also affect council tax liability orders. You’ve also got to look at if they were processing data for Criminal Records Bureau checks.
"Anybody aggrieved by the actions of the local authority could take action. What they would have to do would be to complain to the Information Commission that the data had been processed illegally. It’s not good enough for them to say they’re registered now."

Ex-councillor Tim O’Kane, a former portfolio holder for data protection issues, claimed that over £100m in council tax had effectively been collected ‘illegally’ due to the mistake. Don’t forget that about 10 per cent of council tax bill pays for all the police wages. How can the police not be concerned that tens of millions of their money was collected illegally?"

A council spokesman said: "Due to an oversight on our part the council’s registration as a data controller under the Data Protection Act 1998 lapsed. We have taken immediate action to rectify the position and have re-registered with the Information Commission (ICO)". We are obviously very sorry this has happened. However, we are satisfied that we have sound procedures for handling personal data about our customers, and the lapse in registration has not prejudiced anyone in any way."

A spokesman for the ICO said: "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." He added that as the council has now registered no further action will be taken.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

No one makes mistakes in contracts ... or do they?

Westminster car-clamping finds a flaw in the oinkment
Simon English
Evening Standard 16th March 2010

In February, Westminster council unveiled which firm it had chosen to run a £50 million, four-year parking contract (clamping and ticketing drivers, basically).
Competition to land the tender was fierce and the winner, Mouchel, had reason to be pleased. The press release announcing the news has since been pulled from the council website — why, I asked?

Westminster tells me it has “suspended the procurement process” for its on-street parking enforcement “following the discovery of a flaw in the contract document”. What this means isn't entirely clear but the whole bidding process now has to be repeated at considerable cost to council taxpayers. NSL, which held the previous contract, is also presumably being paid extra to continue its work.

Westminster's parking department is no stranger to controversy. There are, so far as we know, two inquiries into contracts awarded by the department. One of them sees allegations of fraud levelled at two Westminster officials — police are investigating.

Neil Herron of, a one-stop shop for motorist complaints about grasping councils, reckons there is something thoroughly fishy about how Westminster conducts its parking affairs. There may be more news to emerge here…

Monday, March 15, 2010

Illegal parking tickets in Nottingham

Drivers could have received illegal parking-tickets

(Left) PARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE -- Ray Bramley by the 'No Waiting At Any Time' sign

Hucknall Dispatch
Published Date: 12 March 2010

A HUCKNALL man who has had a parking-ticket quashed fears other drivers might have paid fines when they didn't need to.
Ray Bramley, of Braunton Close, parked his car on a strip of land outside the Green Dragon pub car-park on Watnall Road last May. He received a ticket from a warden working for Notts County Council. But Mr Bramley believed he had done no wrong because he was parked on private land.

A traffic-penalty tribunal agreed with him and the £70 ticket was dropped last October. But now a 'No Waiting At Any Time' sign has been put up on the land by the county council, leaving Mr Bramley confused.

He said: "How can the council get away with putting that sign there? It is private land."Even after a tribunal ruling, the sign is still there."The council just seem to push things as far as they want and get away with it. They use bully-boy tactics."I wonder how many other people paid a fine for parking where I parked, when they didn't have to."How much money have they made from this land? Will they pay any back?"And why did my case go on for so long? I proved early on it was private land. It is just plain ignorance."
They rejected two appeals and I had it hanging over me for six months. The appeal process needs revamping."

The land, which sits between the pavement and the wall of the pub car-park, belongs to Trust Inns, who run the pub. The firm was surprised to hear the 'No Waiting' sign was there -- because it had told the council to move it last October.

Lyn Perry, of Trust Inns, said: "We did not give permission to the council to put the sign there. We wrote to them saying we wanted it removing. We sent proof of ownership of the land and photographs."We will be writing to them again as we did not know the sign was still there until you told us."

When contacted by the Dispatch, the council was unavailable for comment.

Has the Secretary of State been misled? You decide ...

In advance of being granted Civil Parking Enforcement powers a senior officer at Devon County Council had to confirm that all lines, signs and TROs had been checked and were compliant. This is to comply with the requirements of the Operational Guidance to Local Authorities

As can be seen from the application (left) this was done. Once you have read the extract then read the admission from the council at the bottom.
Was the Secretary of State misled? There is more to come ...

Key criteria when applying for the power to enforce parking regulations

12.1 The key criteria on which DfT will be need to be satisfied are that:
­ - the authority has reviewed its existing parking policies
and analysed how CPE will contribute to overall transport objectives;
­ - the authority has consulted as required and taken account of theirviews in finalising the application;
­ - proposed penalty charges are proportionate to the scale of the traffic management issues facing the enforcement authority;
­ - there is consistency with neighbouring schemes so that motorists and others affected can understand how it works; and

What an authority should do before taking on parking enforcement power
Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs)

13.6 The appraisal of parking policy should include the scope and relevance ofall existing on-street and off-street TROs. It should include how they need to change to meet the authority’s parking policy objectives.
The review of the TROs should check whether the restrictions indicated by traffic signs and road markings are the same as those authorised by the TRO and make them consistent if they are not.
­ have been reviewed;
­ - are consistent with each other; and
­ - are in a good state of repair.
167 Principally the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 (S.I. 2002/3113) or subsequent editions substituted

This now requires a full investigation into the rest of the application for Civil Parking Enforcement powers as it appears as though there are issues with regard to the report commissioned by the council and performed by consultants Parsons Brinkerhoff which highlighted thousands of incorrectly marked restrictions ie. not compliant with TSRGD 2002.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Westminster parking contract blunder ...

I am sure that there will be many motorists out there who have made simple mistakes and have ended up with a penalty. However, the biggest parking enforcement council is 'allowed' to just sweep another 'mistake' under the carpet and start again.
It's about time that someone, somewhere got a grip before there is no credibility left and parking enforcement is brought into total national disrepute.
Nothing short of a full, independent investigation showing warts 'n' all will be acceptable, and would finally put all matters beyond doubt.

Inquiry call after Westminster Council admits bungle
BBC News

Westminster has been embroiled in numerous parking rows in 2010
A full investigation into Westminster Council's parking department has been demanded by campaigners after BBC London learned it cancelled the tendering of a contract due to a legal flaw and must start from scratch.

The council named Mouchel as preferred bidder for the four-year, £50m contract to provide parking enforcement services for the central London borough.
But the process was scrapped when in-house lawyers pointed out they had "judged the preferred bidder on price criteria which went beyond what was originally published to tenderers".

Westminster insists both contracts were properly tendered and maintains it acted within the rules at all times.
Mouchel has made no comment.

It comes after two separate inquiries were launched into contracts previously awarded by Westminster's parking department.

In one of the inquiries, the EU is investigating Partnerships in Parking (PiP), a body set up by the council to allow several local authorities to join forces to buy cheap parking services.

Westminster is supposed to be the flagship parking enforcement authority and yet, once again, we have another blunder
Neil Herron, parking campaigner

Canadian company Verrus was awarded the contract to provide pay-and-display services, pay-by-phone, parking tickets and debt collection to the councils.
But it is alleged that, when additional councils joined PiP, they broke European Union rules by automatically starting to use Verrus, rather than tendering it out.

In the other inquiry, which started in February, police are investigating allegations of fraud against two senior officers at Westminster Council.
That case concerned the awarding of another multi-million pound parking enforcement contract to a different private company.

'Flagship authority'
The latest revelation about the Mouchel contract has led parking campaigner Neil Herron, of Parking Appeals, to call for a full investigation into contract procedures at the authority.
He said: "Westminster is supposed to be the flagship parking enforcement authority and yet, once again, we have another blunder.
"We have seen illegal controlled parking zones, Diplomatic Bays not compliant and police investigations.
"It is about time a full, independent investigation was conducted into the whole of the parking enforcement regime."

Leith Penny, Westminster Council's director of city management, said: "Westminster Council has suspended the procurement process for parking enforcement following the discovery of a flaw in the contract document.
"To be fair and transparent to those involved in the process we have decided to end the
current procurement process.
"We will instead start a new accelerated procurement process with a successful tenderer expected to be announced in about three months time."

It is the latest in a series of controversies to embroil Westminster Council's parking department.
In February, BBC London revealed Westminster's diplomatic parking bays had not had the correct authorisation for three decades, meaning millions of pounds of fines may be unlawful.
In January it was caught ordering officers to find ways to use parking to make more revenue, in an apparent breach of the law.
Westminster took £72m of revenue from parking last year, almost twice as much as the next highest earning London council.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Dangerous driving and anti-social behaviour in the West End ...

Cllr Chalkley states that CCTV cameras have been installed in areas with 'known problems with traffic and anti-social behaviour.'
Cllr. Chalkley then states 'motorists will think twice before driving dangerously or inconsiderately.'
So there are problems with anti-social behaviour and dangerous driving and Westminster intends to 'cure' this by issuing PCNs ... for parking contraventions!

Now that Mr. Chalkley has identified the 'reasons' for the use of CCTV he needs to produce a copy of the Crime and Disorder strategy required under Sections 5 and 6 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
He will need to provide evidence of the anti-social behaviour and dangerous driving to which he refers and how his strategy will address this, along with details of the consultations he has held, or intends to hold, with the relevant Metropolitan Polce officers in order to not only reduce crime but also reduce the fear of crime.

100 extra CCTV cameras mean more parking fines in Westminster
David Williams,
Motoring Correspondent

The number of motorists fined for parking offences in central London will rise from today as 100 CCTV “spy” cameras are switched on.
The move follows a reprieve of nearly a year for drivers after the wireless cameras had to be switched off because they did not meet Department for Transport guidelines on image quality.
Westminster council has now fixed the £15 million digital network of cameras, increasing the pixellation, at a cost of £495,000 and had them re-certificated.

The software was also upgraded at an extra cost of £330,000.
The cameras go “live” today and the first parking fines will go out within days.

Officials say the cameras were responsible for around 20 per cent of parking fines in the borough prior to being switched off. Last year Westminster issued a total of 686,310 parking fines.
Click on the image below to see the full version

Today the council published an internet map revealing the location of each camera and said there will be “Street Enforcement Camera” signs at street level.

The cameras are in the West End, Belgravia, Trafalgar Square, Knightsbridge, Oxford Street and on central London's main bridges.

The cameras were meant to have been back online more than six months ago but it took longer than expected to gain official certification for the upgraded devices, the council said.
Danny Chalkley, Westminster's cabinet member for city management, said: “We have sought a fairer approach to parking enforcement and are committed to getting it right first time round. CCTV is an effective tool in ensuring this happens.
“Cameras in Westminster are used in areas where there are known problems with traffic and anti-social behaviour and we hope that by highlighting the locations of these cameras motorists will think twice before driving dangerously or inconsiderately.”

Saturday, March 06, 2010

More investigations, more questions ...

Easiest way to clear all this up is for a full, independent investigation. Local authority 'business' must be transparent and accountable.

Westminster Council's parking department faces EU probe
By Ed Davey
BBC News, London

Westminster Council has insisted it did not break any rules
Westminster Council's parking department is being investigated by the European Union over alleged contractual irregularities, BBC London has learned.

The inquiry concerns Partnerships in Parking, a body set up by the council to allow local authorities to join forces to buy cheap parking services.

In February, BBC London revealed police are holding an inquiry into another contract awarded by the department.

Westminster Council has insisted it did not break any rules.

Partnerships in Parking (PiP) was set up by Westminster's head of parking Alastair Gilchrist and Councillor Danny Chalkley.

Transport for London and six local authorities in the city joined when it was first started up. They said they hoped to get a better deal for parking enforcement services from the private sector.

We are aware of this enquiry and have responded to the commission's request for information
Councillor Danny Chalkey

Canadian company Verrus was awarded the contract to provide pay-and-display services, pay-by-phone, parking tickets and debt collection to the councils.

But it is alleged that, when additional councils joined PiP, they broke European Union rules by automatically starting to use Verrus, rather than tendering it out.

The British government chose not to investigate the case. But the European Union launched its own enquiry - and ordered the UK government to account for its own decision not to.
The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) then asked Westminster Council's legal team to draft a reply to the EU.

Infringement proceedings
An OGC spokesman told the BBC: "I can confirm that we have been in discussions with the European Commission and Westminster Council and we will be able to update you in due course."

A European Commission spokesman said: "There is indeed a case. We sent a letter of formal notice on 20 November 2009 - this is the first stage of our infringement proceedings.
"UK authorities replied on 22 January. This reply is currently under assessment - next step not yet decided.
"If we're content with [the] UK government reply, we close the case. If we're not, then we move to the second stage of infringement proceedings."

Councillor Danny Chalkley, Westminster Council's cabinet member for city management, said: "We are aware of this enquiry and have responded to the commission's request for information.
"The contract was properly awarded after a tender process carried out in accordance with the law and the council's procurement processes.
"We will continue to work with Verrus to provide effective parking services across central London."

'Too busy'
On Wednesday Mr Gilchrist was due to speak at a conference on parking services to "discuss the merits of the PiP framework agreement" (The agreement to have parking services supplied by Verrus through PiP).
However, he cancelled the event at the last minute. Mr Gilchrist told the BBC it was because he was "too busy" to speak.
It is the second time in as many months it has emerged that the council's parking department is under investigation.
In February, police began an investigation into allegations of fraud against two senior officers at Westminster Council.

That case concerned the awarding of another multi-million pound parking enforcement contract to a different private company.
Westminster insists that contract was also properly tendered.

That investigation followed a series of controversies connected to Westminster Council's parking department.

Earlier in February, BBC London revealed that Westminster's diplomatic parking bays had not had the correct authorisation for three decades, meaning millions of pounds of fines may be unenforceable.

In January it was caught ordering officers to find ways to use parking to make more revenue, in an apparent breach of the law.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The motorists fightback begins ...

Who is going to speak up for the exploited motorist?
Why aren't politicians taking more notice of the increasingly angry motorist who feels powerless to do anything about our unjust parking laws, asks Philip Johnston.
By Philip Johnston
Daily Telegraph
26 Feb 2010

Near where I live in south London is a facility as rare as hen's teeth: a road right by a railway station where it has been possible to park – for free. For years, commuters in the know happily parked there and travelled into the City, leaving their cars all day, hardly able to believe their luck.

Until last week, that is, when meters were installed by the local council, even though the street is a cul-de-sac far from the town centre. Since there is no through traffic, there is no congestion and so no earthly reason why there should be a charge for parking – other than to raise money for the council coffers, which we are constantly told does not happen.

The powers on which local authorities rely are contained in the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act, which makes it clear that charges must not be levied to raise revenue, but only to make appropriate traffic-management provision. My council has ignored this and attempted to cash in. Ironically, because the time limits make it impossible to leave the car all day, nobody parks on the road by the station any more. So thousands of pounds have been wasted on installing the meters and painting the lines.

Parking laws in this country are not only unjust but are often incompetently administered. Yet does anyone speak up for the harassed, frustrated and increasingly angry motorist who feels powerless to do anything about it? You will look in vain for any of the political parties to raise the standard of revolt.

This week, however, a coalition of motoring organisations has published its own Manifesto on the Reform of Parking and Traffic Enforcement. It is calling for the parties to commit to tightening the regulations and so ensuring that parking charges and penalties are properly and legally applied.

In the 52 years since the first parking meters appeared in London, a vast industry has spread across the country, employing an army of nearly 200,000 wardens, administrators, managers, camera operators, line painters, sign makers, wheel clampers and the rest, all of whom have to be paid for from the billions of pounds raised by what is, in essence, a tax.

Parking restrictions were supposed to be solely and exclusively about traffic management and congestion relief, not about raising money. Yet, according to the Local Government Finance Statistics 2009, councils last year made £1.3 billion from on- and off-street parking and spent about £820 million on maintaining and enforcing the regime. So the surplus revenue from parking was more than £500 million, a phenomenal amount of money. Last year, more than nine million parking tickets were issued – up from 5.7 million in six years.

The decriminalisation of parking, which began in London in 1991 and allowed local authorities to take over parking enforcement, has added to the sense of grievance among those fined for infractions because the penalties are often out of all proportion to the offence and there is no means of pursuing justice through the courts.

Parking restrictions are certainly needed in town centres to avoid congestion. But greedy councils with their rows of meters often kill off businesses by making it too expensive for people to stop to shop; instead, they go to the free car park attached to the out-of-town superstore, thereby hastening the decline of the town centre while adding to traffic pollution.

In truth, the mainstream political parties have a vested interest in the system because they all run councils that benefit mightily from keeping things as they are.

Yet if one of them had the sense to adopt the motorists' manifesto – or even acknowledge that there is a problem that needs to be addressed – they might even sweep the country.

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