Ombudsman calls for action over 'unfair' council parking fines

COUNCILS must do more to make parking fines fairer, the Local Government Ombudsman has said.

In a new report, Fairer Fines, it said local authorities issue around 10m parking, bus lane and moving traffic tickets every year.

But some do not always inform people about their appeal rights, including the statutory right to take their case to an independent parking adjudicator.

Furthermore, councils do not always properly consider "informal" challenges to penalties. A motorist can appeal against a parking ticket left on a vehicle within 28 days before a formal notice is posted to the registered owner.

In one case investigated by the LGO, a woman who received a penalty notice when she parked across a dropped kerb outside her home while she helped her elderly grandmother into the house. The woman challenged the fine but also included a cheque so she did not miss out on the 50 per cent discount period. The council disregarded the challenge and simply banked the cheque.

Another case saw a man pursued by bailiffs for a parking fine given to the previous owner of his home, who had not informed the DVLA they had moved. Despite telling the council about the issue, the man was left to deal with the enforcement agents on his own.

Michael King, the local government ombudsman, said: "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."

Cllr Martin Tett, the Local Government Association's transport spokesman, said councils are "on the side of hard-pressed motorists".

"The income raised through on-street parking charges and fines is spent on running parking services and any surplus is only spent on essential transport projects, such as tackling the roads repair backlog, which could reach £14bn within two years, and creating new parking spaces," he said.

"Councils, who have experienced substantial reductions to their budgets, are having to deal with the consequences of a huge increase in traffic on our roads and competition for parking places. By 2040, councils are expected to deal with increases of up to 55 per cent in traffic and up to 86 per cent in congestion levels.

"In the vast majority of cases, councils have robust procedures in place and deal rigorously and fairly with any issues about parking fines."