Thursday, June 17, 2010

Will this affect the BPA Award winner's reputation?

In March this year Lambeth Council won the British Parking Association's Enforcement Award. Now a scandal is set to rock the council. Raj Mistry has been dubbed 'a New Breed of Parking Manager' and appears on the front cover of this month's Parking Review.
Let us hope that actions in relation to the story below are swift and public.
Crooked Lambeth Council staff 'let themselves off parking fines'
Thursday 17th June 2010
By Matt Watts »

Crooked council workers have avoided heavy fines by letting themselves off parking tickets, a town hall whistleblower has claimed.

A member of staff at Lambeth Council exposed the actions of an unknown number of workers from the town hall’s parking monitoring team who have allegedly been cancelling their own penalty charge notices(PCNs).

The corrupt practice within the team that is supposed to oversee the parking fine appeals process allegedly took place up to April this year, but only emerged in a whistleblowing report published last week by the town hall.

Other allegations against staff included misuse of emergency parking badges, which employees had been using outside their own homes or when out shopping.

Neil Herron, head of parking lobby group Parking Appeals called the behaviour sickening.
He said: “This is on a par with the MPs’ expenses scandal. We can’t have civil servants abusing their positions in such a fashion.
“Given the difficulties many motorists and commercial fleets have with PCNs issued, often after the most minor of contraventions, this sort of behaviour will stick in everybody’s throats.”

Eight people have allegedly carried out a potential breach of trust in the parking division and action against them has been instigated by the council’s human resources department, according to the report.

Lambeth Council said for legal reasons it could not reveal exactly what they were guilty of.
The whistleblowing allegations update report, that was due to be discussed by Lambeth’s standards committee on Tuesday, stated: “Action is being taken against staff who are using their position in a number of ways that risk serious reputational damage to the integrity of the parking enforcement and dispensation processes maintained by the council.”

The council prides itself on a “firm but fair” parking policy, that saw the number of parking tickets given out by Lambeth parking attendants fall by 50,000 in 2008-09 to 181,375 tickets.
But £8.8m of parking fines were still handed to motorists in the borough in 2008-09, more than the cities of Manchester and Birmingham combined, according to campaign groups the Drivers’ Alliance and Taxpayers’ Alliance.

Mr Herron said Lambeth could not expect people to see the parking policy as fair until bad practice by workers was stamped out.

A Lambeth Council spokeswoman said: “The council places great importance on whistleblowing by staff as part of our determination to prevent and root out any fraud or malpractice. Lambeth is committed to a zero-tolerance approach against any wrong-doing, and our employees are well aware of that.
“They also know we value their contribution and co-operation in helping to ensure this. All allegations are investigated thoroughly and the council complies fully with its duty to protect whistleblowers.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Which Council is in for a big, embarrassing fall from grace?

Rumour has it that staff at one London Borough have been cancelling their own PCNs and giving themselves parking dispensations.

Let us hope that this is not the 'vision for the future of parking enforcment' they had in mind when winning awards. Perhaps if council parking departments were reminded that they are delivering a service and ARE NOT private businesses

If true, then this is just as bad as MPs fiddling their expenses. Civil servants are not above the law and any such abuse must not be allowed to be swept under the carpet and evidence must be passed to the Police.

If true there must be public censure and dismissals no matter how high up the ladder the officers involved. Quiet pay-offs and resignations must not be allowed.

More to come in the next few days.

A helping hand for the motorist

A timely reminder given that the word behind the scenes is that councils are going to up the ante when it comes to parking fine revenue in order to make up any shortfall in their budgets.

A helping legal hand for the motorist
Daily Telegraph
4th April 2010

Philip Johnston argues why it's important to keep fighting when you think you've been unfairly penalised under one of many poorly administered or disproportionate motoring laws.

In Motoring a fortnight ago, David Williams detailed the avalanche of laws bearing down on drivers – from decriminalised parking offences to road pricing and pernickety new requirements like SORNs (statutory off-road notifications). But he could not have imagined in his wildest dreams that it might become illegal to smoke in your own family car.

OK, so far this is just an idea put forward by some very eminent doctors and has few supporters at Westminster. But had you suggested 10 years ago that smoking would be banned in pubs you would have been thought slightly mad, so don't rule it out in the next 10 years.

The aim of this law would be to prevent children being exposed to smoke in confined spaces; but because of the difficulties of seeing if there are kids in the vehicle, all cars would need to be smoke-free zones.

Of course, some privately owned vehicles already are smoke-free under the existing ban. If they are a place of work, such as a taxi or the cab of a lorry which is part of a fleet, then smoking is forbidden.

There may be an argument on safety grounds for banning smoking because it is a distraction from driving; but so is putting on a CD, reaching for a sweet or adjusting the wing mirror. Where do you stop?

It is all a question of proportion – and, as far as the motorist is concerned, the Government has already gone too far – though this is not entirely the fault of Whitehall. Local councils are culpable for the expansion of parking zones into leafy suburbs where they have no purpose other than to raise money.

The 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act makes it clear that charges must not be levied to raise revenue, but only to make appropriate traffic-management provision. Yet most councils ignore this. 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.

Last year, more than nine million parking tickets were issued – up from 5.7 million in six years.

Parking laws in this country are unjust and often incompetently administered. Yet who speaks up for the harassed, frustrated and angry motorist who feels powerless to do anything about it? Certainly not the political parties because they run the councils that make the money.

There is a coalition of motoring organisations which recently published a Manifesto on the Reform of Parking and Traffic Enforcement calling for the parties to commit to tightening the regulations to ensure that parking charges and penalties are properly and legally applied. This is backed by the London Motorists Action Group (, the Drivers Alliance ( and The Motorists' Legal Challenge Fund (motoristslegal

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.

But again help is at hand: specialises in fighting such cases – and winning them, too. Did you know, for instance, that a ticket in a CPZ is invalid unless there are signs indicating a restriction at all entrances to the zone? You would be amazed how many local councils fail to follow the letter of the law, as they must.

For other motoring offences that still fall under the criminal law, like speeding, there is an option to go to court. But who will risk it when the Justice Ministry brings in plans so that defendants who can afford it have to pay their own legal costs? Or why go to the small claims court to fight an unfair clamping by a bunch of roadside cowboys when it can take 18 months to get a hearing?

But it may be worth the hassle – and there are practical guides to negotiating the maze of motoring laws, the best of which is probably (for England and Wales) Fight a Motoring Ticket: How to Claim Against Parking, Speeding and Other Motoring Offences by Jeanette Miller and Jonathan Egan. This is essentially a self-help kit explaining the legal procedures involved and the best way to maximise your chances of success. Certainly, if we all give up at the first hurdle then the tyranny will spread.

If they are going to quote the law at us, we should make sure they are observing it as well. If you are fined simply because your parking ticket has fallen off the windscreen, take time to check that the penalty notice was legally issued, properly worded, accurately dated and does not charge extra for processing credit-card payments. Often the authorities get it wrong. Don't let them play fast and loose with the laws they expect the rest of us to follow.

Philip Johnston is the author of Bad Laws (Constable) £8.99 available from

Friday, June 11, 2010

Support Help for Heroes ...

and our troops in Afghanistan

Silksworth soldier's Becks surprise
Sunderland Echo
Published Date: 10 June 2010
By Ross Robertson

(left) Dan Herron and David Beckham during his recent surprise visit to the troops in Helmand, Afghanistan.

This is serviceman Dan Herron's goal-den moment.
The 19-year-old Army mechanic met David Beckham when the former England captain visited troops in Afghanistan.

Mum Rachel Watson, 40, from Silksworth said: "Dan said he was really cool. He said he put the Army uniform on and made it look cool."

Dan is serving with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, attached to the Duke of Lancaster Regiment in Shawqat, Helmand Province, one of the bases to get a visit from the football legend.Dan, a former Venerable Bede pupil, signed up when he was 16 and trained at Harrogate before going to Bordon, Hampshire, to learn specialist skills.

"I'm very proud of him, but it is a worry," said Rachel, who also has an 11-year-old daughter, Elise.
"He's a mechanic so he's been sorting the vehicles out. He's been out a few times to recover vehicles that have been blown up by IEDs (improvised explosive devices), but I don't like to think about that."

Rachel, who works as a PA to her brother, parking campaigner and businessman Neil Herron, said the family was involved in raising money for Help for Heroes to show support for Dan and his comrades. She recently raised £200 for the charity by asking for donations instead of gifts on her 40th birthday."It's a great charity and I fully support it, but I don't think we should have to raise money to help our lads – it should be done automatically."It shouldn't need a charity, the Government should do it."

Neil, Dan's uncle, is taking on a series of challenges for Help for Heroes, including the British Gas Great North and Great Scottish one-mile swims, as well as the Bupa Great North Sunderland 10k run next month.

He said: "The dedication of Dan and the rest of the boys is the reason why I chose Help for Heroes as the charity for the two swims and Sunderland 10k."

To sponsor Neil, visit

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Help for Heroes ... hope you can sponsor me

Doing my little bit to support this very worthy cause. My 'imperial v metric' challenge includes 2 one mile swims and a 10 kilometre run to be completed in a combined time of less than three hours.

Savage amusement will be gained from witnessing me in a wetsuit interfering with water and that should be worth a fiver of anybody's money.

Please visit my Just Giving page (below) to support.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Aberdeen parking cases could invalidate £millions of Scottish parking tickets

At first glance the stories below seem quite incredible on a number of fronts. However, setting aside why or how the motorists accrued so many PCNs (often it is down to incorrect addresses or DVLA data) a number of questions need to be raised:

  1. Is Aberdeen Council irresponsible for allowing anyone to build up such a level of parking fines and then attempting (and succeeding in one instance) to bankrupt the motorist? It is understood that some of the PCNs go back more than three years.
  2. Why did Aberdeen Council ask the Scottish Government to give them Special Authorisation for non-prescribed bays when the TSRGD 2002 and the working drawings produced by the DfT clearly show the requirements?
  3. If the Special Authorisation was granted in 2008 for the unlawfully marked, non-prescribed bays then does Aberdeen Council accept that prior to that they were unenforceable? If so, have they expended as much effort into refunding motorists wrongly ticketed as they have in pursuing those with outstanding PCNs?
  4. Was a Scottish Parking Adjudication Service decision the trigger highlighting the unlawful nature of the bays?
  5. As Aberdeen has had to get Special Authorisation for non-compliant 1028.4 bays then this is an acceptance that such bays (with double terminal marks) are not prescribed and therefore not lawful. It follows that other Scottish (and English and Welsh authorities) will now be forced to suspend enforcement of such bays or apply to the DfT (in the case of England and Wales) or the Scottish Government to have their illegally bays Specially Authorised or be forced to correct them.

The Department for Transport now has a dilemma after previously refusing such requests.

Driver takes legal advice over ‘invalid’ parking fines
woman ran up more than £18,000-worth of tickets
By Lindsay Watling

A north-east motorist who ran up more than £18,000 in parking fines was taking legal advice last night after claims the tickets she was issued by Aberdeen City Council were invalid.
Claire Williams, 27, of Croftland, Pitmedden, is facing court action by the council after she ignored dozens of penalty notices.

However, leading parking campaigner Neil Herron, of Parking Appeals, said some of the tickets may be “unenforceable” due to out-of-date bay markings.
Mr Herron said to comply with guidelines issued by the Department for Transport, bays had to be outlined with a single white line.

However, the bays in North Silver Street, one of the roads where Ms Williams frequently parked, have a double white line at each end.
Mr Herron said this meant the bays were unlawful and any tickets issued would – technically – be void.
“You can’t break the law to enforce the law,” said the Sunderland-based campaigner.
“The council must comply with the law. If they haven’t, the tickets aren’t worth the paper they are written on.”

However, the council is standing by its decision to take Ms Williams to court, highlighting a special authorisation granted by the Scottish Government in 2008 permitting the continued use of the North Silver Street bays, even though the current markings are out of date.

A government spokesman said: “Scottish ministers have devolved powers under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to authorise non-prescribed traffic signs and road markings.
“Following a request in 2008 from Aberdeen City Council, a special authorisation for the use of non-prescribed road markings in controlled parking zones in Aberdeen, including North Silver Street, was issued to the council.”

Mr Herron said the council was using the authorisation as an excuse not to update the parking bay markings and that similar requests from other local authorities had been refused.
He said: “They have been given an amnesty while they put everything right. The same amnesty has not been afforded to many London councils who are in a similar predicament. This looks like a firefighting exercise to protect the council.”

Ms Williams, who did not appear at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Wednesday when the council started its action to recover the unpaid fines, confirmed she would be taking legal advice, but declined to comment further.

Exclusive: Man ran up £17,000 of parking fines in Aberdeen
Businessman ‘made bankrupt’ over unpaid penalties
Evening Express
By Gavin Roberts

A MILLIONAIRE property boss in Aberdeen has been declared bankrupt after running up £17,000 of parking fines.
Hassan Nazer, 30, racked up £17,000-worth of fines over vehicles parked in Aberdeen’s Bon Accord Terrace.
Council bosses lodged a civil case at Aberdeen Sheriff Court to have Mr Nazer declared bankrupt.
Today, Mr Nazer said he was unable to comment on the case until the legal matters were resolved.
The row centred on parking fines issued to four cars parked outside Piccolo Pizzeria and Restaurant on Bon Accord Terrace.
It was understood Mr Nazer was not in the North-east when the case called on April 14 and was not represented by a solicitor.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Just desserts ...and this is where the law DOES concern itself with trifles!

Daily Mail
27th May 2010

'Just desserts': Andrew Baker, 29, outside Birmingham Crown Court. He has been jailed for two years over a car clamping scam
A rogue car clamper who fleeced more than 100 victims out of tens of thousands of pounds was jailed yesterday for two years.

Andrew Baker targeted motorists whether they were legitimately parked or not, clamping their cars within minutes of them arriving at car parks across three towns or cities.

Many of the 29-year-old's 'vulnerable' victims were accompanied by children while others were left stranded or in tears after being 'held to ransom' by staff from his Inter Park UK firm.

A court heard ruthless Baker made at least £12,105 from the scam, but that figure was calculated only on the earnings he accrued from the 36 victims who were prepared to give evidence against him.

It means the true figure is more likely to be up to three times more than that amount.

The firm made as much as £3,000-a-day after charging motorists up to £445 to release their vehicles from car parks across Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Milton Keynes.
The firm, which was set up in 2005, claimed on its website to be working 'closely alongside Trading Standards and West Midlands Police', a ploy, the judge said which was intended to give the operation a 'false cloak of legitimacy'.

But Baker had failed to obtain a licence to run the business, despite being warned to do so by the Security Industries Authority and Trading Standards teams.

Birmingham Crown Court heard that the firm operated largely out of small, on-street car parks. But while Inter Park UK did clamp some motorists who were parked illegally, many were targeted despite displaying a valid pay and display ticket.

Often the firm's signs warning motorists they could be clamped were so small or poorly lit they could not easily be seen.

Baker, a career criminal with previous convictions for burglary, robbery, obtaining property by deception, harassment and theft, was jailed today following an investigation by Birmingham City Council's Trading Standards.

Sentencing, Judge Philip Parker QC told him motorists had been 'bullied, robbed or in ordinary terms fleeced'.
He added: 'Your website was a travesty of the truth by suggesting you worked closely with Trading Standards and the police.
"It was clothed with a false cloak of legitimacy, and to that extent as a fraud it was cruel.'

The conman, from Shard End, Birmingham, had previously admitted conspiracy to defraud drivers between March 2007 and March 2008.

Two of his accomplices, Mohammed Islam, and Gary Gwilliam, were sentenced in court alongside Baker and were fined £500 each after admitting false representation.
Islam, 47, from Bordesley Green, Birmingham, and Gwilliam, 54, from Bentley, Walsall, were also ordered to pay back £325 and £365 respectively to two motorists they had cheated out of cash.

One of Inter Park's victims, Russell Williams, 40, from Moseley, Birmingham, said outside court that Baker had received his 'just desserts'.
In January, Ministers announced the creation of an independent tribunal offering drivers the prospect of obtaining unlimited compensation from clampers following a victorious Daily Mail campaign.

The Mail's Curb the Cowboy Clampers campaign was aimed at ending the £1billion-a-year 'legalised mugging' racket operated by unregulated firms.

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