Tickets were issued at 12 separate locations within the borough, but Newham only wrote off the unpaid PCNs on the basis that they didn’t to repay drivers who had paid up immediately. The council has now agreed to write to the remaining 4,952 motorists to offer a refund. Councils can only use camera models that have been specifically authorised by the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) for parking enforcement, but Newham had used unapproved cameras.
Newham isn’t alone in having to raid its own coffers to pay back wrongly-fined motorists — last November, Westminster council refunded more than 5,000 tickets at a cost of £278,000 due to misleading signage. Waltham Forest has recently had to write off £250,000 in fines for an incorrectly signed bus lane while Hackney council was accused of failing to follow guidelines on CCTV enforcement.
No-one could reasonably object to ticketing motorists who blatantly disregard parking restrictions or other rules of the road but it’s a bit much for councils to fail to even get their signage right and then insist on keeping illegally-earned income. Not to mention the zeal with which they tend to pursue parking and traffic infringements. Both Newham and Westminster appeared near the top of a list of councils using bailiffs for debt collection (albeit not all for unpaid parking fines). Some councils have been criticised for passing on such debts too quickly and without adequate investigation though recent changes have just come into force to prevent bailiffs using aggressive and misleading tactics to collect payment of debts.
The default response to complaints about traffic and parking enforcement is usually along the lines of ‘don’t break the law then’. But when some councils appear to be actively trying to increase revenue from contraventions rather than reduce the number of tickets in the first place it rather defeats the object of a fine.
Photo by TheFella in the Londonist Flickr pool.