Council 'avoids' parking fine refunds
Susanna Wilkey CAMDEN Council is hiding behind a smokescreen of lawyers to avoid paying back millions of pounds in illegal parking fines, a lobby group has said. Parking Appeals Ltd has accused the council of dragging its heels, after a parking adjudicato
CAMDEN Council is hiding behind a smokescreen of lawyers to avoid paying back millions of pounds in illegal parking fines, a lobby group has said.
Parking Appeals Ltd has accused the council of dragging its heels, after a parking adjudicator declared all tickets given since January were illegal.
The Ham&High exclusively revealed the court decision in June, which found the council's extra surcharge - introduced in January - for those paying parking tickets by credit card was not only illegal, but invalidated any ticket it appeared on.
Since then Camden has not only removed the credit card charge on parking but all other Camden services and offered to repay the surcharge to anyone who has paid it.
Yet the council has stopped short of repaying entire fines until they have finished receiving "legal advice".
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Neil Herron from Parking Appeals says two months is too long to wait for lawyers. He urged Camden to do the right thing before he starts his own legal bid to force their hands.
"In the interests of justice and fairness Camden should just pay the money back," he said. "They are in a hole so they should stop digging - do not order two extra shovels from B&Q.
"Do the decent thing and move on.
"It is quite clear that this credit card charge is unlawful and invalidates the PCNs - there has been an adjudication saying this and Camden got it wrong so they should pay all of the money back - not just the surcharge.
"If Camden spends more ratepayers' money defending the indefensible that is even worse.
"We were confirmed right when the council stopped all credit card surcharges. We want them to pay it back very soon and then they can draw a line under all the problems with maladministration in parking and move on."
If Camden Council fails to act Mr Herron says the public will be willing to challenge them.
Next week he, together with several businesses and residents in Camden, is meeting with lawyers to discuss taking legal action against the council in a bid to get the money refunded.
He said: "If they do not pay it back there will be a class action against them from businesses and residents in Camden in order to get this unlawfully derived income back."
The council said processing bills was costing �250,000 a year and the credit card surcharge was introduced to recover these costs. It has said those people who have paid a credit card charge since January on any service may now apply for a refund.
A spokeswoman for the council said: "Following the decision made by the Parking Appeals and Traffic Appeals Service (PATAS) adjudicator in June, the council has closely reviewed its overall protocol and decided to suspend credit card charges on all payments from Tuesday, 28 July 2009.
"We suspended charges on PCNs from June 9 and in the interests of fairness and consistency, we are suspending charges on all payments.
"We are seeking further legal advice and will take a decision on the next steps once this has been received."
The ruling will also affect Harrow, Kingston and Merton Councils which has also been charging people a surplus to pay by credit card.
Camden council refused to comment on why their legal advice was taking so long.