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Camden Council to trial debt clinics after criticism over 'intimidating' parking fine letters

PUBLISHED: 11:10 09 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:57 09 May 2019

Camden Traffic warden Gayton Road in Hampstead

Camden Traffic warden Gayton Road in Hampstead

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Camden Council will set up debt clinics later this year, after it was criticised for parking letters which left residents feeling "intimidated and confused."

Draft Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) and reminder letters sent to people who have been given parking tickets in Camden. Picture: Harry TaylorDraft Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) and reminder letters sent to people who have been given parking tickets in Camden. Picture: Harry Taylor

The clinics will be trialled this summer, three years after a high-profile suicide documented in a BBC docudrama.

Hampstead Town councillor, Maria Higson, who has raised her concerns with the council - told the Ham&High she had worked on a number cases where people had been fined and could not pay. She also criticised the wording of the letters, and the difficulty those in debt face when contacting the council.

She said: "They get letters that are very difficult to understand and in legal language, taking about 'contraventions' and 'representations'.

"If they want to talk to anybody, there's no number for them to contact. They would have to get in touch with Citizens' Advice."

The debts come from parking tickets given out by traffic wardens. These are then posted to the drivers responsible. Fines can reach a maximum of £513 if they are not paid.

In March 2016 20-year-old courier Jerome Rogers killed himself after two parking fines in Camden spiralled from £65 to more than £1000.

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His case was featured in BBC docudrama Killed By My Debt.

According to council statistics, in 2017/2018 only 22.46 per cent of PCN debt was ever paid off. In 2018 there were 2629 people in Camden with the highest level of arrears.

Cllr Higson said the amount of cases brought to her as a ward councillor is now in double figures.

"The thing that is really upsetting is that three years on, I am getting cases where people have these debts and don't know what to do," she said.

After being contacted by the Ham&High, the council said it would trial the debt clinics, which are in place elsewhere in the UK.

Cllr Higson welcomed the pledge, but said it needed to be part of a wider review. She said the lack of details on the letter if someone can't afford to pay, means it offers "no support" for vulnerable residents.

A council spokesperson said: "Parking enforcement is necessary, but it needs to be done in a way which allows people who are in financial hardship or who are vulnerable to get the support they need.

"We are working alongside enforcement agent Equita to trial a debt relief clinic this summer. We will also consider putting in place instalment plans, although this can be difficult as the law requires penalty charges to be paid within 28 days before the charge rises again."

Have you received fines from Camden Council and been subject to enforcement action? Contact the newsdesk at editorial@hamhigh.co.uk

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