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Ombudsman calls for more fairness over parking fines

Councils in England should do more to make parking fines fairer, the Local Government Ombudsman has said.

In a new report highlighting the common issues found in the complaints it receives about parking and moving traffic penalties, the Ombudsman says people are sometimes being treated unfairly and may be paying fines unnecessarily.

The report, Fairer Fines, found that common problems include not telling people of their appeal rights (including access to an independent parking adjudicator), and not being available to discuss issues people have with the penalty notice. In addition, local authorities do not always properly consider ‘informal challenges’ to parking penalties. This is where motorists can appeal against a parking ticket left on a vehicle within 28 days before a formal ‘notice to owner’ is posted to the registered keeper.

The LGO report describes a case where a woman received a penalty notice when she had parked across a dropped kerb outside her house while getting her elderly grandmother safely into the home. She challenged the fairness of the penalty charge, but still enclosed a cheque in order not to miss out on the 50% discount period. The council disregarded her challenge and simply banked the cheque. Another case involved a man who was pursued by bailiffs for a parking fine given to the previous owner of his home. The previous owner had not told the DVLA he had moved. Despite telling the council about the issue, the man was left to deal with the enforcement agents on his own.

Local authorities issue around ten million parking, bus lane and moving traffic tickets a year – officially known as penalty charge notices. Motorists in England have a statutory right of appeal to an independent parking adjudicator – London Tribunals, or The Traffic Penalty Tribunal in the rest of the country.

“Local authorities need to ensure parking enforcement is fair for all,” Local Government Ombudsman Michael King said. “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.”

The report also includes tips on how motorists can avoid problems if they wish to challenge a PCN which they think is unfair.