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Councils must make parking fines fairer, says watchdog

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06/02/2017
Motorists are paying unnecessary parking fines because local councils are not giving them the correct advice about how to challenge their tickets.

A report by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) said councils should do more to inform motorists of their rights when issuing parking and traffic penalties.

“Providing clear and transparent information would improve the trust between motorists and authorities and save motorists from paying unnecessary charges,” the report said.

Common problems exposed in the report included councils not telling people of their appeal rights (including access to an independent parking adjudicator), and not being available to discuss issues people have with the penalty notice.

In addition, local authorities did not always properly consider ‘informal challenges’ to parking penalties. This is where motorists can appeal against a parking ticket left on a vehicle within 28 days before a formal ‘notice to owner’ is posted to the registered keeper.

In one case a woman received a penalty notice when she had parked across a dropped kerb outside her house while getting her elderly grandmother safely into the home. She challenged the fairness of the penalty charge, but still enclosed a cheque in order not to miss out on the 50% discount period. The council disregarded her challenge and simply banked the cheque.

In another case a man was pursued by bailiffs for a parking fine given to the previous owner of his home. The previous owner had not told the DVLA he had moved. Despite telling the council about the issue, the man was left to deal with the enforcement agents on his own.

Michael King, local government ombudsman, said: “Local authorities need to ensure parking enforcement is fair for all. We investigate complaints where people are aggrieved about how they have been treated, and we’ve found the council to be at fault.”

Local authorities issue around 10 million parking, bus lane and moving traffic tickets a year – officially known as penalty charge notices (PCNs).

Motorists in England have a statutory right of appeal to an independent parking adjudicator: London Tribunals or The Traffic Penalty Tribunal in the rest of the country. The LGO considers parking penalty complaints usually when there is doubt about whether this process was followed correctly.

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