Thursday, June 30, 2011

CCTV Smartcar enforcement blunder ... voluntary restitution?

After recent successes at PATAS regarding uncertificated CCTV Smartcars the pressure is mounting on councils to volunteer refunds or face investigation by the District Auditor and other agencies, especially if it becomes apparent that enforcement continued in the full knowledge of non-compliance.

Lord Lucas (Conservative)

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to take action to ensure that enforcing authorities abide by the statutory prohibition on penalty demands being issued in furtherance of civil parking and traffic enforcement by means of closed circuit television apparatus (CCTV) which has not been certified by the Secretary of State as an Authorised Device; and what action they will take to ensure the refunding of penalties unlawfully taken from motorists due to the use of CCTV apparatus that was not an Authorised Device.
• Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 28 June 2011, c413W)

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)
Where a Local Authority imposes a penalty charge using a system of cameras, it must have been certified as an approved device by the Secretary of State. We are satisfied that the civil enforcement regime for the use of CCTV set out in legislation is clear and understood by relevant local authorities. It is for those authorities to comply with legislative requirements and we have no plans to take any further action to ensure that they are doing so.
If a local authority has imposed a penalty notice and has subsequently realised that the proper legal basis for the imposition of that penalty notice may not have been in place, then it will be open to that authority to consider whether it is appropriate to make a refund.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The implications of this ICO decision will send shockwaves around many councils ...

Mark my words ... this decision will unleash a whole host of Freedom of Information requests from individuals and groups across the country.

Excellent work by John Greenwood.

Consider it a rumbling of thunder in the distance at the minute ...

An end to ‘status quo of secrecy’ at Bolton Council?
The Bolton News
Sunday 19th June 2011

THE outside business dealings of senior town hall staff could soon be made public after Bolton Council was issued a High Court threat by the country’s information boss.

The threat comes after transparency campaigner John Greenwood asked for details held on the council’s register of interests in a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

When the council refused, Mr Greenwood, from Breightmet, reported the council to the government’s Information Commissioner.

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The commissioner has now ruled that the details of the register of interests should be released. The register records the name of council officers and any personal interests they have, such as ownership of property, family associations, business interests, shareholdings and membership of organisations that may conflict with their decision-making role.

Mr Greenwood said: “This is a major victory for the public and those wanting open, transparent governance over Bolton Council who sought to keep the status quo of secrecy.”

As part of the decision notice issued to Bolton Council, the commissioner acknowledged that releasing some of this information would intrude into their private lives and may cause them distress.

He also found, however, there was a case for disclosing it in the public interest because the officers are responsible for decisions that affect the local community and involve spending public money.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has also released guidance that could open the floodgates for similar requests to other authorities across the country.

Bolton Council has been given 35 days to release the information or risk being reported to the High Court.

A spokesman for the authority said the council is seeking advice with a view to appealing the matter.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Are you appealing enough? Careful where you Parke!

Not a question to decide whether you appealing or attractive to the opposite sex but a question as to why more people don't challenge their PCN.
Real reason is that having a 50% discount for early capitulation levelled at your head makes most people think that it's not worth the fight no matter how unjust or unfair the PCN is.

However, your chances of success are quite high and don't always take it for granted that the council will win should you fight all the way to adjudication. It is sometimes the underdog who causes the upset!

Drivers Told To Fight Unfair Parking Tickets
Friday June 03, 2011
Lulu Sinclair, Sky News Online

Motorists are being urged to consider contesting car parking tickets if they think they have been given one unfairly.

Fewer than 1% of drivers took issue with their fines in 2009/10 out of a total of almost 4.25 million tickets, according to the chief adjudicator of the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

But of those who did, just under 60% won their case, Caroline Sheppard revealed.

She is head of a team of 24 lawyers who rule on appeals from dissatisfied drivers within the 250 or so councils in England and Wales which are responsible for parking tickets.

The adjudicator makes her plea in a new report which says councils on the whole are issuing slightly fewer tickets than before.

"Parking tickets are a strong source of revenue for councils "

"The aim of the tribunal is to provide an easy, convenient, fair and informal service for motorists," Ms Sheppard said.

"We believe it is important for people to understand better the rules and regulations, for councils to exercise discretion in cases where it is due, and finally, for people to know that they have the right to appeal to an independent adjudicator if they want to continue to challenge a penalty after the council has rejected their case."

A spokeswoman for the tribunal chief said she was keen to let people know there was an appeal system, if they thought they were being unjustly treated.

"This is open and accessible to motorists who think they have a case and we want to make sure people know about it."

Another source of irritation among drivers is the private parking system where parking fines are disproportionate to the "crime", and the chief adjudicator is calling for an independent ombudsman to be set up, to allow rights of appeal to drivers.

Take Parking Tickets To The Tribunal
The Traffic Penalty Tribunal deals with the final stage of the appeals process.

You can appeal to it if:

:: You have been issued with a Penalty Charge Notice by a council.

:: You have already made a formal appeal in writing to the council.

:: The council rejected your appeal and sent you a Notice of Appeal form.

:: You then have 28 days to appeal to the tribunal.

Source: Traffic Penalty Tribunal

Neil Herron, the former metric martyr turned campaigner for fairer parking, is pleased motorists are being made more aware of what they can do but warns it is a Catch 22 situation.

"The more people know about methods of complaint, the more they will use them and the more overloaded the system will eventually become."

He remains sceptical that councils use parking restrictions as a way of managing traffic, arguing that they are a growing source of revenue, particularly when central funding to councils is being cut back.

"Councils rely on people just paying up," Mr Herron told Sky News Online.

"You usually have the incentive of 'half-price' fines for 14 days so you're taking a risk if you decide to appeal. If you lose, you'll have to pay double right away.

"But remember, your chances of success are greatly approved once you get into the formal legal process, so don't be put off.

"The rules are built on unstable foundations. If you feel that your ticket has been unfairly or unjustly issued, then fight it. You stand a good chance of winning!"

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