Author Topic: Southwark's Labour council ‘unfairly’ fined thousands of drivers £2.6m  (Read 353 times)

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Labour council ‘unfairly’ fined thousands of drivers £2.6 m

Small print on notices contained procedural impropriety about how long motorists had to appeal.

Steve Bird 15 June 2024

A Labour council which “unfairly” fined thousands of motorists millions of pounds is being urged to issue refunds after a mistake in the wording on its penalty charge notices (PCNs) meant they were “legally void”.

In just five years Southwark council raised more than £2.6 million by issuing 43,300 fines to motorists who had strayed into bus lanes in the London borough.

But it has now emerged the small print on those fines contained a “procedural impropriety” about how long motorists had to challenge the PCNs.

Campaigners have carried out a series of test case appeals at London Tribunals, which hears challenges to motoring fines, to establish whether the wording needed changing.

Adjudicators heard how bus lane contravention tickets did not use the correct language set out by the London Local Authorities Act, which grants councils the power to fine motorists.

The Act states that the 28-day time limit to challenge a PCN should start from “the date of notice” about the fine. However, the council had wrongly stated on its tickets that the month-long window for legal challenges started from “the date the penalty charge notice was served”.

Notice and served dates differ

In one ruling Richard Thompson, the adjudicator, wrote: “the date of the notice and the date on which the notice is served are invariably different dates”. Quashing the £130 fine, he wrote: “the penalty charge notice does not comply with the statutory provisions. This amounts to a procedural impropriety and I therefore allow the appeal.”

A number of other appeals based on the same error were not challenged by the council and were also cancelled.
Phillip Morgan, who discovered the incorrect wording and has helped people challenge fines said motorists were a “soft target” for councils looking to raise money.

“I am deeply concerned by the incompetence of staff by London council’s parking departments,” he said.

“Their failings range from the inability to copy and paste mandatory information from the laws to the inability to fairly and correctly assess representations and appeals from motorists who, to me, are soft targets used to obtain revenue.”

Bus lane fines have risen

A Freedom of Information request revealed that since 2019, a total of 46,397 bus lane fines have been issued by the council. That number has risen from 7,673 in the financial year 2019/20 to 13,304 in 2023/24. The revenue obtained rose from £427,849 five years ago to £746,616 in 2023/24.

The council’s response to the data request adds that wording to the PCNs changed in February “to stop appeals to the parking adjudicator based on technicalities around date (issued or served)”.
Pointing out how many “legally void” were issued owing to a driver making a minor mistake, Mr Morgan said it was “ironic” that they had been cancelled because of the council’s own minor mistake
.
“It is one rule for the council, and another rule for the motorist,” he said. “When errors like this have been pointed out, the council should reimburse motorists unfairly fined. Instead, they have come up with nonchalant excuses and corrected the wording on their bus lane PCNs to avoid technical appeals.”

‘Penalties promote public safety’

Southwark council said: “Southwark council issues penalty charge notices for motoring offences in the interests of public safety for all road users. They are issued within a legal and statutory framework, which includes the rights of appeal. Income received from penalty charge notice fines goes towards road upgrades and projects to help make streets safer and more accessible.

“In February 2024 we updated the wording of our PCNs to fully comply with the requirements of the London Local Authorities Act 1996, reducing the time drivers have to consider the notice or pay the fine. Our original wording stipulated drivers had from the time the notice was received, rather than when it was sent, allowing them more time in the process.”

“We  have no plans to cancel PCNs that haven’t been successfully appealed within the statutory parking appeals process.”

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At least two Southwark officers wrote that their PCNs were compliant and correct.  ::)

This one refers to Case No: 2240167920 which is subject to a costs hearing.

With regard to your comment, I would inform you that the 14 days is applicable to the payment of the discount rate of £65 and the 28 days for the full charge of the PCN at £130.00. I can confirm that both are from the date of service of the notice and the PCN is correctly issued and valid for the contravention.


Olamide Olagbaju
Southwark Parking Services

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This one refers to 2240215025:

We have noted the points raised in your letter regarding the PCN based on the wording of the PCN. I can confirm the wording stated on the PCN is correct and in line with the legislation.


The case Mr Bird cites is: 2240143117. I was authorised literally 20 minutes before the hearing. I only asked the adjudicator under the circumstances for an adjournment IF he did not allow on the dates issue! For Heaven's sake, I know the law!

Lambeth are next on my list. A costs hearing against them too in July. I do not take too kindly to a council writing to my client (not copied to me) that I had not done two certain things which I had!

https://www.ftla.uk/the-flame-pit/tommy-poirot-to-expose-all-london-councils'-bus-lane-enforcement/msg26266/#msg26266

 


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