Councils keep drivers in dark over parking fine rights

Councils keep drivers in dark over parking fine rights
Challenges to parking fines are “all too often” rejected without fair consideration – while many motorists are unaware of their right to appeal at all – according to a government evaluation body.

The Local Government Ombudsman for England’s report highlights a dearth of information available to drivers around challenging parking tickets, leaving many paying out unnecessarily.

The watchdog claims councils are not providing enough advice around the appeal process, and suggests many motorists who do question decisions receive little in the way of explanation.

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It pointed to cases in which motorists saw a formal challenge to a penalty charge notice (PCN) turned down, and were not then told about their further right to appeal to an independent adjudicator.

The RAC says the report paints an “alarming picture”. In December it was revealed that local authorities in England had generated £756 million from all parking operations over the past year.

The ombudsman report uncovered the difficulties often faced by penalised drivers in querying a charge. For example, instances where the only telephone number provided was a payment line, rather than one that could be used for discussion.

There were also cases where councils had used premium rates lines, a system the ombudsman said is “perfectly legal… but not good practice”.

“All too often, we see cases where a council simply rejects the motorist's explanation of why they incurred the PCN, without giving reasons; or fails to consider them properly at all,” the report said.

RAC public affairs manager Nick Lyes said: “This report paints an alarming picture of motorists paying more than they should do because they haven’t been given the correct advice on how to challenge their tickets if they feel they have been done an injustice.

“The RAC’s 2016 Report on Motoring shows that the cost and availability of parking is becoming a far bigger issue for motorists, so in the interests of building trust between local authorities and drivers it is vital that councils provide clear advice on how to challenge parking tickets.

“Motorists who feel a ticket has been given to them incorrectly should be able to challenge it in a fair, quick and transparent manner.”

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In one case brought to light, a woman parked across a dropped kerb outside her house while helping her elderly grandmother into the building.

Upon receiving a ticket and fine, she included a cheque to cover it in her letter of challenge, so as not to lose out on the 50% discount for paying within a fortnight. However, her claim and gesture were ignored, and the cheque was banked without response.

The ombudsman, Michael King, said: “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.”

Copyright Press Association 2017. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.

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