Greedy council is pocketing cash that belongs to motorists

Camden issues around half a million penalty charge notices (PCNs) a year and makes a profit of about £20m on its parking account, the second highest in the country. Until August 2006 the council issued invalid penalties which did not show both the date o

Camden issues around half a million penalty charge notices (PCNs) a year and makes a profit of about £20m on its parking account, the second highest in the country.

Until August 2006 the council issued invalid penalties which did not show both the date of the contravention and the date of issue of the ticket as required by law. It avoided the High Court by conceding appeals because if it lost there it would have had to repay the invalid tickets. When a resident went to the county court over the issue, Camden spent thousands on solicitors and barristers.

Unfortunately, the judge ruled he did not have jurisdiction, and finally Camden got out of gaol only when a High Court judge would not give leave to appeal for a judicial review because the PCN was by then four years old.

The layout of many of Camden's loading and parking bays do not comply with the Transport Signs, Regulations and General Directions 2002 (TSRGD), which has the force of law; compliance must be exact.


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The Operational Guidance to Local Authorities: Parking Policy and Enforcement, published by the Department for Transport in March, states "Authorities should not issue PCNs when traffic signs or road markings are incorrect.

"An authority may be acting unlawfully and may damage its reputation if it continues to issue PCNs that it knows to be unenforceable".

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I do not pay to park in invalidly marked bays, and have successfully asked the council to cancel the resulting tickets. It has not always done this for other people, presumably because it thinks it can get away with pretending the bays are valid.

Last November I saw a car ticketed in an incorrectly-marked bay in Steele's Road NW3. I asked that the ticket be cancelled. The response was that "the PCN has not been cancelled. I cannot discuss the specific circumstances of the penalty with you, as you are not the registered keeper of the vehicle".

I wrote asking whether the council would cancel tickets issued for invalid bays in Swains Lane and Fellows Road in November.

The response was "we will not be cancelling PCNs... because we are satisfied that the bays were clearly marked, irrespective of any subsequent changes". They might have been clearly marked, but they were not legally marked.

Last August I advised Camden that many of its loading bays were non-compliant. The council undertook a review of loading bays; it had issued 5,086 (about £250,000 worth) of PCNs to vehicles in invalid bays over a year.

The council said it would "not be repaying motorists retrospectively and outside of the statutory appeals process offered to them by the Road Traffic Act 1991" - which few are familiar with, let alone the finer points of bay markings. Thus it is keeping money to which it is not entitled.

The council has now admitted that many of its road markings are invalid. Challenged to stop enforcing, it responded "we will continue to take enforcement action wherever a vehicle is deemed to have committed a parking or moving traffic contravention within Camden. Furthermore, you may be assured that any representations from motorists will be considered on a case-by-case basis".

The council's story that it will consider representations is dissembling. In practical terms it knows full well that a negligible number of motorists have ever heard of TSRGD. The onus is on the council to get its signs correct, not on the motorist to have to claim that the council is wrongfully taking money from him or her because of its slovenly administration of parking management.

The council is operating a trickster`s scam which is based on exploiting motorists' ignorance. Its ethical standards are those of a down market secondhand car dealer.

The councilors and officers involved in Parking 'Services' long ago forgot - if they ever knew - that councils are given powers by Parliament to help citizens, not to harass and defraud us.

ALEX HENNEY

Swains Lane

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