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Parking trouble.

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Eddie Mair | 07:42 UK time, Thursday, 29 May 2008

On our sister programme iPM, we always say - share what you know, so we can bring to wider attention something you think is important that's not being reported in the mainstream. With the help of our listeners we did just that about motoring fines, back on May 16th.

On breakfast telly today, and online, the story is receiving more coverage. Thanks for letting us know first.

This week on the iPM Podcast, how secure is your electricity supply? Again, thanks to a listener sharing what they know, we're investigating.


  • 1. At 08:19am on 29 May 2008, needsanewnickname wrote:

    Good for iPM and the ifroggers!

    btw, did you know that the Today programme's message board is about to be closed down?

    I hope the PM blog is safe...

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  • 2. At 09:05am on 29 May 2008, JohnG1946 wrote:

    Two points: firstly, I am fighting a parking fine for a mistaken assumption on my part that parking was free in a deserted car park at Blandford Forum after 6pm on a Saturday. I made that mistake because I come from a much larger town which does not levy such unwarranted charges. Leaving my mistake aside, Is there no law of "unfairness" which protects us against such arbitrary and unreasonable decisions by councils? Have they the remotest idea how such experiences poison tourists against ever setting foot in that town again?

    My second point concerns BBC 1's GMTV interview with a council for London's Councils. The point of arbitration came up, and it emerged that Councils do not feel they need to submit to an ombudsman's ruling. The question was then asked as to what the point of an ombudsman was - a question which the interviewee steadfastly refused to answer. No wonder that my straight-as-a-die grandfather, a senior local politician, hated all other politicians!

    I'll leave it there, before I froth all over my keyboard ...

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  • 3. At 09:13am on 29 May 2008, RJMolesworth wrote:

    I like the idea of running an electricity extension cable from the Netherlands. Perhaps we could have one from Norway too. I guess this works because of the time difference so there is a difference in peak use times. This could be a good case for different time zones for Wales and Scotland to assist the electricity generators flatten out the peaks.

    I also like the secrecy caused by the wholesale market for electricity. I have this vision of the moles in the generators with Swiss bank acounts feeding the traders with the latest gossip. Perhaps I have been captivated by Ian Flemming's 100th birthday mania.

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  • 4. At 09:26am on 29 May 2008, mittfh wrote:

    Judging by the experiences of many I must be incredibly lucky...

    I've absent-mindedly overstayed on several P+D carparks without being caught (although if when I leave my car I see a warden on patrol I make sure I get back well before the ticket runs out!), several 10 minute parking bays, and even a major supermarket's ANPR system (which you'd think would be infallible - and I haven't got special numberplates to confuse the cameras).

    However, most of this was before deregulation, when there weren't as many wardens on patrol - now several towns seem to be swarming with them. I'm normally a bit of a cheapskate and if there's a free space or supermarket with free car parking within 5 minutes walk of the town centre, I'll use that rather than pay up to £1/hr for the privilege of parking.

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  • 5. At 09:36am on 29 May 2008, RJMolesworth wrote:

    John @ 2.
    You drove into a carpark in a strange town (lets face it they don't get much stranger than Blandford Forum) and you didn't look at the parking fees notice? Now you have to admit that was sin for which you should be justly punished.
    The problem with your argument is that nobody ever goes to Blandford Forum twice anyway. Once was enough for me and I didn't get fined.

    I have some simpathy for the Metropolitan Authorities, particularly the London Boroughs. They have an enormous car parking problem and no assistance from central government. Instead, HMG gave them an opportunity to control parking and make the money to pay for it. How could they resist the temptation to generate more and more income? The answer for motorists is the County Court. When the Courts destroy their income stream they will modify their behaviour.

    As for the Ombudsman, Councils are creatures of statutue. If they don't feel required to take notice of the Ombudsman look to statute and central government for the reason.

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  • 6. At 09:45am on 29 May 2008, Anne P. wrote:

    The most damaging effect in the long term of government and councils using motorists as a quick and easy way to make money is that it obscures the need to find solutions to the genuine problems of congestion, pollution and climate changing emissions that vehicles contribute to. You simply alienate those whose habits you need to change.

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  • 7. At 09:58am on 29 May 2008, Big Sister wrote:

    I'll definitely post something on this later - SO is in the throes of appealing against a parking fine that was never served on him. This is an issue to do with parking attendants, or whatever they're now called.

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  • 8. At 10:23am on 29 May 2008, JohnG1946 wrote:

    Dear RJMolesworth @5,
    Re mine @2:
    Fair cop. Mea culpa. I stated as much in a letter to the BF* Council dd 6 May, to which I have not yet had the courtesy of a reply (!). My point is that my "sin", under the circumstances I outlined @ 2, hardly warrants a penalty of £110 - or am I missing the point somehow?

    *PS No, gentle reader, it doesn't stand for that; it stands for Blandford Forum. However, your error is quite understandable ...

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  • 9. At 11:13am on 29 May 2008, U11204129 wrote:

    So the PM blog community should be on the side of the motorist?

    But, but, but......how illegal is illegal parking on a double yellow, how bl**dy dangerous can that be?

    How anti social is parking in a disabled person's slot (yes, comics everywhere, if you are not disabled)?

    How good is it to take up more than your fair share of available parking time by occupying a 4 hours max slot all day?

    How good is it to bilk a rationing system that encourages people to campaign for better public transport?

    Hey, lets dump our cars down a residential side street this Saturday whilst going to the match. The residents are out shopping for an hour and the ground car park costs.

    So iPM shows the PM Blog community how to avoid fines that are in justice deserved!!! (It's at one of the iPM links to this item)

    Then why not show the local authorities how to lay an 'order in council' to collect the fines anyway. A good retrospective legislative correction.

    Next it will be the iPM tax loophole service.
    I'm sorry but surely the PM blog community doesn't need stuff like that from its reporters. Moderation, please.

    So I'm with RJM at 5, para 2, (even if it is a little tongue in cheek)

    Meanwhile I await with my usual sense of pleasurable anticipation, Big Sis's (7) promised pronouncements on the subject.

    Until then, sorry, but I can't see how being on the motorist's side involves helping them to avoid the spirit of the law in every cases of miscreant parking.

    And I can't see how it's PM or iPM's job to help with that either. Even if the PM blog community wants them to.

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  • 10. At 11:24am on 29 May 2008, miraculousginger wrote:

    i particularly enjoyed toping up my parking ticket at the hospital while we waited hours for them to give us some forms after the birth of our son in november.

    as for town parking, apparently bank holidays are no longer "sundays" as a lot of people i know found out recently when they all awoke to find tickets on their cars.

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  • 11. At 12:07pm on 29 May 2008, JohnG1946 wrote:

    Sorry, pmLeader @ 9; you've walked into this one by missing the point. No-one disputes that strict legal sanctions are needed to control thoughtless flouting of reasonable ordinances, traffic or otherwise. The point is that, if WE are constrained to use only reasonable force in protecting ourselves, what gives traffic authorities the right to enforce UNreasonable laws unreasonably? In all honesty, can a penalty of £110 for mistakenly parking in a dimly-lit, deserted parking lot after 6pm on a Saturday be considered in any way reasonable?

    "Spirit of the law!" you cry? Please explain where in our national philosophy it is implied that elected Councils should enrich themselves outrageously via absurd over-reactions to trivial offences.

    Cry, the beloved nation, if our authorities are beyond criticism for the levying of unreasonable penalties! Is a local politician or political body, once elected, immediately elevated to a sacred position, removed from the ethical considerations which govern the rest of the population?

    I'm afraid, pmLeader, I have to refer you to the second point in mine of @2 and remind you that Divine Right is no longer an admissible defence.

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  • 12. At 12:16pm on 29 May 2008, Gillianian wrote:

    miraculousginger (10) We don't even get free Sunday parking any more.
    I'm lucky in that I live a mile away from the town centre, so I usually walk. I'm also a bit luckier than mittfh (4). We get 2 hours free parking at the supermarket on the edge of the town!

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  • 13. At 1:01pm on 29 May 2008, miraculousginger wrote:

    i wonder how long before the big carparks aren't free between 6pm and 6am.

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  • 14. At 1:48pm on 29 May 2008, U10783173 wrote:

    I live in a reasonably small town and the car-parking charges are really quite reasonable when compared to other places that I have visited. So I don't have any problem with the charges and I don't have any problem with people being fined for parking beyond the time limit or what they have "paid and displayed" for.

    What really bugs me though, is the sight of "Parking Attendants" scurrying round the carpark just ouside the office at 6.15 p.m. checking the cars for tickets. (The parking is payable up to 6.30pm) I have never seen this carpark full, it is largely vacated between 5.00-5.30 p.m. and only a few cars remain after 6.00pm.

    The only possible reason for issuing tickets after this time is to generate revenue. There is no benefit to motorists who can't find a space or any other aadvantage that I can think of.

    It consequently colours my view of the whole "parking and traffic" operation and makes me understand why some people view it as more mercenary than anything else.

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  • 15. At 2:17pm on 29 May 2008, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    There is a convenience store at the end of my road, on a narrow one-way street. I regularly see cars parked outside it, on the corner and the double yellow lines, blocking the pavement. Many of them are police-cars going to the police-station just up the road.

    I don't know quite who is likely to do anything about that particular bunch of people parking illegally!

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  • 16. At 3:16pm on 29 May 2008, U11204129 wrote:

    14 Intermittent horse sense.

    You mean all goods in excess supply should be reduced in price, possibly to zero - a free good.

    11, do you mean I should get my money back for a fine I got this last winter for failing clearly to display my parking permit when the front window was iced up so the Warden couldn't see it?

    Various. Revenue raising eh? Would you believe it, local taxes etc, are even more unpopular than car parking fines. The thing about unfaif fines is that anyone not caught at 6.20 in the example from 14, thinks it serves anyone who is, right.

    I would think that fines in proportion to income would appeal to y'all.

    PS What about library fines? The banks can only charge for the cost of letting you know you've overspent. Similarly I would have thought, the libraries and your overdue books. i've had 8 particular books out for 7 years from my local library. Nary a reservation, nary a reminder (computerised) anywhere close to when the books fall overdue. So I've paid £300 on them over the years. Which serves me right, everyone says, and that's how everyone feels about 'trying to get away with it' parkers.

    Lets challenge the unjust charges (hospitals, failure to make it free ). Helping to exploit a loophole will help more undeserving than deserving.

    As for the maladministration point, it's completely lost on me. You think the local authorities knew what they were doing didn't satisfy the law, that their lawyers thought they could get away with it? More likely, like the tax loophole cases, smarty pants lawyers have gone through it with a fine tooth comb 'cos they don't like public bodies in general.

    C'mon Big Sis, 7, my breath is still bated.

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  • 17. At 4:26pm on 29 May 2008, U10783173 wrote:

    pmLeader (16) - Once again, you miss the point!

    Where I live, when we had Traffic Wardens, they issued tickets for illegally parked cars, they directed traffic when necessary and generally kept the traffic moving to everyone's advantage.

    The Wardens are no more, being replaced by Attendants, who do not direct traffic, don't assist in keeping traffic moving and solely search for illegally parked cars. After 6.00pm they issue tickets to cars in an almost abandoned public carpark to cars that could legally be parked on the street where all parking restrictions ceased at 6.00pm.

    There is no benefit to anyone other than the financial one to the local authority and the private firm operating on their behalf. There is certainly no advantage to the local populace that the Authority is meant to serve.

    As for "... all goods in excess supply should be reduced in price, possibly to zero ." - no, I never said that. But it is interesting to note that that is exactly what happens at 6.30pm!

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  • 18. At 4:44pm on 29 May 2008, Big Sister wrote:

    Okay. Parking fines.

    A few weeks ago, in London, SO had difficulty finding a parking space for a brief business call he had to make. In desperation, he parked on a single yellow line outside the business premises, and, luckily, the person he needed to see was standing outside. In the intervening five minutes he was there, a parking attendant 'hove' into site (I love that word - v. Bertie Wooster!). SO rushed over, the warden having begun to note his details, and explained his dilemma, saying he would leave immediately, and asking to be given a reprieve on this occasion. The parking attendant indicated this was okay, no ticket was issued and SO drove away.

    A few weeks later, his firm received an enforcement notice for double the usual fee because 'a parking fine hadn't been paid'. The council say that it was handed to him (which it wasn't) and ignored by him. He is now going to appeal. It will end up being a case of his word against that of the parking attendant, which doesn't auger well for him, I guess.

    How can he prove a negative? The system is clearly stacked against the consumer.

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  • 19. At 6:35pm on 29 May 2008, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Big Sister @ 18, doesn't SO have a witness in the person of his business contact? I would think that someone giving evidence in his behalf might help, and the chances are that showing up a lying traffic attendent would appeal to almost anyone even if s/he doesn't drive.

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  • 20. At 6:53pm on 29 May 2008, Big Sister wrote:

    Chris: He's tried to contact the person (though he's not sure if he witnessed the whole event) but to date the person hasn't got back to him.

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  • 21. At 00:35am on 30 May 2008, U11204129 wrote:

    17. Intermittent horse sense again.

    You mean there are anomalies? I would have thought your case was covered by 'unjust charges'.

    20. SO 'rushed' over? Big mistake! It's like not being ultra polite in a doctor's surgery 'cos you feel so bl**dy ill. A clear case of threatening behaviour to staff.
    It's like Mastermind. If they've started then they'll finish, and throwing it in the space where your car was constitutes service.

    I still think most people are glad that s/he's paying for their dustbins to be emptied when someone on a double yellow or obstructing a narrow street or squatting in a disabled person's bay or nabbing a slot outside someone's front door whilst they're on the school run or paying for 2 hours and staying for 4 etc, etc gets caught.

    And the iPm and Pm blog items tell such people how to get off through a loophole.

    Not something I would have thought we in the PM blog community would want, and if we did, we'd be wrong.

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  • 22. At 08:20am on 30 May 2008, Big Sister wrote:

    "throwing it in the space where your car was constitutes service."

    I don't think you'll find that's the case.

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  • 23. At 09:51am on 30 May 2008, RJMolesworth wrote:

    John, 110 is rather steep. I would write to the Council again to ask why they had not replied and copy the letter to every Councilor and the local paper. OK, this is time consuming and expensive but justice must be served. Also, evidence that you did not ignore the charge is useful in the County Court. I think, at the end of it all, it should cost you no more that 250 but you'll feel so much better about it than meekly paying up the 110.

    The good news is that it is a civil matter for the County Court, unless you refuse to pay and, if you sell your car now they won't be able to take it and sell it in in lieu of costs. The great thing about the County Court is that every dog can have his day in Court for very little money. I have never won a case but I have always enjoyed the experience.

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  • 24. At 10:55am on 30 May 2008, RJMolesworth wrote:


    I don't think you gave us the full story. Having a quiet morning, I took a look at the web site for North Devon District Council who manage the car parks in Blandford Forum. There are 4 free car parks and the other 5 only charge for parking between 8 and 1800 hrs.

    The penalty is 60GBP but only 30 if you pay within 14 days. If you do nothing for 28 days (i.e you do not pay or appeal), a ‘Charge Certificate’ will then be sent and the charge will increase by 50%. If you receive a ‘Charge Certificate’, you must pay the charge within 14 days. So that gets you up to 90.

    If you do not pay the charge, it will be registered as a debt in the County Court, a court fee of £5.00 will be added and an ‘Order of Recovery’ will be sent to you. So now it's 95.

    If you receive an ‘Order of Recovery’ you must either pay the charge within 21 days or complete a ‘Statutory Declaration’, which is enclosed with this document. If you do nothing, the Court will grant authority for a Warrant to be issued and a bailiff will be asked to recover the debt from you. The bailiff will charge for this.

    So to be charged 110 you must have done a great deal of ignoring of notices and no appealing. Something to add to your mea culpa.

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  • 25. At 12:43pm on 30 May 2008, U10783173 wrote:

    Big Sis - I'm, sure you have probably already come across this. Interesting though.

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  • 26. At 1:02pm on 30 May 2008, Big Sister wrote:

    Horse: No, I hadn't seen that. Thanks for the link. I'll pass on to SO.

    What makes us so angry about this is that, because the ticket wasn't issued, he had no chance to pay at the lower rate, and the first he knew of it was when it was 'out of time' and therefore double the money.

    Frankly I think the warden was one short of his target at the end of the day and threw SO's one in for good measure. But - just how do you prove the ticket wasn't served? I think this may be an area where a little more technology may be required.

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  • 27. At 1:46pm on 30 May 2008, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    pmLeader, I have no objection whatever to people who have clearly broken the rules paying for their offence. What riles me is when people who *haven't* broken the rules get clobbered for something they haven't actually done wrong, or if people who have broken the rules slightly have been clearly told at the time that they must move and not do it again, but not apparently penalised until they find out weeks later that they were to be done for it after all.

    In the case of Big Sister's SO, it seems to me that s/he is being unfairly treated if the ticket was not actually completed and issued at the time and s/he was given to understand that a penalty was not going to be exacted.

    A while ago there was a story on R4 about people who lived in say Monmouth being sent penalty notices about illegal parking in London, where their vehicles had never actually been at all, and it was discovered that some criminal types were fitting random false plates to their vehicles and parking as they chose, safe in the knowlege that some other sucker would have to fight the fine. I think one of the victims proved that the agricultural vehicle with that registered number didn't actually have an engine in it at the time of the alleged offence and couldn't have gone *anywhere* from the repair-garage it was sitting in, but he was one of the lucky ones: the rest had in effect to prove a negative. And I was the victim of what I think was a simple mistake: a car with a number almost identical to mine (a 3 instead of an 8, I think they decided in the end) was booked at 4.10 pm in London, and I could show that on the day in question I'd used my car to collect a child from a school at 3.45 pm more than a hundred miles away. That just cost me several phone calls and a letter with five names on it including those of a local policeman and the headmaster of the school. :-) But if I had been in that part of London, or anywhere near it, that day, I would have had *no* chance of avoiding a mistaken penalty.

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