St Albans council admits to five years of car parking blunders

PUBLISHED: 07:01 20 December 2009 | UPDATED: 14:47 06 May 2010

AN ACCIDENT PRONE district council has been issuing erroneous car parking tickets for nearly five years according to a recent report. Conservative group leader on St Albans council, Cllr Julian Daly, has hit out at the council following the publication

AN "ACCIDENT PRONE" district council has been issuing erroneous car parking tickets for nearly five years according to a recent report.

Conservative group leader on St Albans council, Cllr Julian Daly, has hit out at the council following the publication of a recent report into problems with off-street parking, penalty charge notices (PCNs) and Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs).

The report, which was carried out by the council's chief finance officer Colm O'Callaghan, followed an appeal to a tribunal over a PCN issued in March this year against a vehicle parked in Bowers Way car park, Harpenden.

The complainant said that the TRO under which the penalty had been imposed had failed to take account of changes in the Traffic Management Act of 2004 and was in fact invalid because it used out-of-date terminology.

As a result, the council ruled that all motorists who have not paid off-street parking tickets from March last year do not have to pay them.

The report said that the incorrect terminology - referring to the driver of the car being liable, where it should have referred to the keeper being liable - had been present since 2005 and that it made it "impossible" for the council to pursue further enforcement action against fined motorists.

The report, which also noted that there were no check lists or procedures in place to prevent a recurrence of the problem, recommended a "workload review" of the engineering and technical service department which is responsible for parking enforcement within the St Albans district.

Cllr Daly said that he flagged up the problem years ago: "Our party considered the issue of an over-worked department at three consecutive overview & scrutiny meetings in 2006 and 2007 and, although we were told repeatedly that there was nothing to worry about, the portfolio holders at the council resolved to reduce its workload."

He added: "As the report clearly indicates, the council management is responsible for this mistake and it is now paying the price both financially and in terms of its reputation for being accident prone."

Because no action can be taking against the 1,600 unpaid parking tickets in question since March last year, the council has had to waive approximately £24,000 of fines so far, although those who have already paid them are not entitled to a refund because they have, in effect, admitted liability to the offence.

Chair of the Car Parking Working Party Cllr Anthony Rowlands said that a new TRO using the correct terminology was implemented last month and added: "I apologise to residents for the difficulties caused as a result of technical errors. Implementation of the recommendations will follow without delay and a further report will be presented to Cabinet in March 2010.


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