December 9 2013 Latest news:
by Tom Marshall
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Camden parking bosses took legal action to muzzle BBC over ‘dodgy’ PCN claims
Camden’s parking contractor failed in a bid to stop the BBC broadcasting bombshell claims that its staff were issuing “dodgy” tickets to meet unlawful targets.
Solicitors for NSL, the UK’s biggest parking enforcement contractor, sent a letter to the BBC calling for it to suspend transmission of Monday’s edition of Inside Out London, which featured an investigation into parking practices in Camden.
Council officials were also fuming at the allegations and have complained to the broadcaster this week.
The programme included anonymous interviews with “whistleblowers” who alleged that some NSL staff were manipulating their pocket books and falsifying facts in order to issue more penalty charge notices (PCNs) in Camden and Ealing, where the company also has a contract.
The former employees said there was pressure to meet certain quotas, a practice which is prohibited under the Traffic Management Act.
NSL has vigorously denied the claims, and told the Ham&High that three parking wardens, or civil enforcement officers (CEOs), have been dismissed this year in Camden for falsifying their pocket books – but not in relation to issuing tickets.
Dr Belinda Webb, head of communications at NSL, said: “In terms of CEO dismissals, we have had three this year for falsification, none of which have been during the course of issuing PCNs. However, they have been caught in shops or cafes when their pocket books state they have been patrolling.”
The documentary focused on the wording of the firm’s contract with Camden Council and suggested the council may have set unlawful targets for the numbers of tickets issued, although both NSL and Camden categorically deny this claim.
A table of “key performance indicators” (KPIs) within the contract features a column headed “year one target” which seems to give a “PCN issue rate by deployed hour” of “1.3”.
Keith Oliver, senior litigation partner at Peters & Peters Solicitors and former Highgate School pupil, said there was a real chance a court could find the contract “arguably unlawful”.
If that happens, all parking tickets issued under the contract could also be deemed unlawful.
He told the Ham&High: “If you have in a contract a KPI whereby CEOs should meet a PCN ticket rate of 1.3 tickets per hour, common sense would say that represents a target in all but name. Whether it is in fact a legal target is something a court would have to determine.”
Camden Council said the BBC was wrong to suggest the KPI was a target rather than a forecast.
The council said it has “no impact” on what is paid to NSL and that there are no financial incentives for the number of penalties issued.
A spokesman added that the number of PCNs is falling, which suggests there is a “fair and proportionate enforcement regime”.