Watchdog Calls For Fairer Parking Fines

Motorists are being forced to pay unfair parking fines because councils are failing to apply the law correctly and inform them of their rights, according to an official watchdog.

The criticisms come in Fairer Fines, a report from the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) highlighting a number of areas where it wants to see improvements.

It has identified examples of councils failing to let members of the public know they can appeal to an independent parking adjudicator when they believe a fixed penalty notice is unfair.

Authorities are also failing to make staff available to talk about concerns over the legitimacy of fines where this is in dispute.

In other cases councils don’t give sufficient deliberation to “informal challenges”, in which drivers have 28 days to appeal before the registered keeper is sent a formal notice in the post.

Among the worst examples the LGO came across were…

  • A lady parked at a lowered kerb in front of her own home so her elderly grandma could get out of the car safely. The woman wrote to the council explaining the circumstances but included a cheque in the same envelope, so she would receive a 50 per cent discount on the fine if her challenge was unsuccessful. Instead of properly considering her appeal, the local authority concerned just took the money.
  • A man informed the council that bailiffs were pursuing him for money because someone who had lived in his house before him had failed to pay a parking fine and not given Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency his new address. Even though the new resident made the council aware of the problem, they did nothing to help explain the situation to the bailiffs.

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

“To help build trust between local authorities and motorists, authorities should provide clear and transparent information, follow correct guidance and listen properly to legitimate concerns.

“If motorists genuinely feel a parking ticket they’ve received is unfair, they should be aware that they have a legal right to appeal to an independent parking tribunal and the council should not reject valid concerns out of hand.”

As well as giving local authorities guidelines on improving the way they deal with parking tickets, the Fairer Fines report also has advice for drivers who want to challenge fines they believe are unfair.

Every year councils give out an estimated 10m penalty charge notices, which also include bus lane infringements and some other offences.

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