Motoring fines worth millions of pounds are wrongly issued to drivers in Lambeth every year, the Brixton Blog can reveal.
The cancelled fines – issued for breaking parking rules and for driving in bus lanes – add up to millions of pounds every year.
The news comes as the BBC reported that enforcement officers in Camden and Ealing have claimed they are giving out “dodgy” parking tickets to fulfil quotas set by councils. Like Camden and Ealing, Lambeth also has a contract for parking enforcement with NSL, the UK’s biggest parking contractor.
The Parking Management Act prohibits councils from setting targets for the number of tickets they issue. However, Lambeth council’s contract with NSL sets out expected issue rates at 218,000 Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) a year.
Phillip Brown’s ticket was issued on New Years’ Eve last year. “We contested a fine we received after parking in Bernay’s Grove in one of the pay and display bays. I put the ticket on the dashboard and when I got back to the car I’d got a ticket because the ticket was the wrong way up.” The fine was waivered when he contested it online.
“We were baffled to find a parking fine when we came back,” he said. “So we challenged it. When we did that, the council showed us pictures of our vehicle – and the pictures proved there had been a valid ticket on show!” He added that the council had since cancelled the charge and issued an apology.
Data released to the Bugle under the Freedom of Information Act shows that in 2012 the council cancelled 43,723 of the 195,705 penalty charge notices that it issued – or 22%. The number was even higher in the two previous years: in 2011 it cancelled 24% of all fines and in 2010 it cancelled 26%. So far this year the number has fallen: 12% of all fines issued between January and August have been cancelled.
A spokesman for Lambeth council was keen to highlight this reduction, saying in a statement: “These figures show both the number of penalty charge challenges and the number of cancelled penalty charge notices are falling in Lambeth.”
He added: “Anyone who believes that the penalty charge notice they have received is unfair should challenge it.”
Lambeth’s penalty charge notices range from £60 fines to £130 fines, meaning that even if all the 2012 fines were at the lowest rate, the council wrote off more than £2.6m in invalid fines.
The data also shows that about half of all appeals against the motoring fines were successful in the past three years.
Another resident, chef Katayun Sethna, has been issued three parking tickets for her Vespa scooter and successfully contested each of them. On one occasion, she was given a ticket while parked outside her flat despite having a permit. Another time, she was told by the warden that she wouldn’t be issued a ticket after the council did not send the usual reminder to renew her residents’ permit. Katayun wrote to the Bugle, “a month later I got a letter warning that I had ignored a PCN and was due for either a massive fine or court action. This is the PCN that the guy never issued me!”
Cllr Imogen Walker, cabinet member for environment and sustainability, said: “In Lambeth we have a very well-run parking department that helps keeps our roads clear and is effective at encouraging drivers to park legally.
“We take every appeal seriously, and the falling number of successful appealsdemonstrates our commitment to fairness in this important area.”
A spokesman for the council also denied that it set targets for issuing parking fines. He added: “Our contractors have been given guidance that they can expect issue between 205,000 and 207,000 tickets a year. This is not a target – it’s a figure issued so the contractor can forward plan the number of staff they will need.
“All Lambeth council contracts are focused on quality and not quantity.”
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