Can I Get A Refund from Ealing Council?

November 27, 2008

“The guilty catch themselves” (Anon)

As a result sustained campaigning by this website and the local press, Ealing Council has announced that it will be refunding some yellow box junction tickets that were incurred since 20th June 2008.

The significance of this date is that it is when Shaid Iqbal, Head of Highway Management and Ian Ransom of the Mouchel Group were informed in writing by the Department for Transport that they were not prepared to authorise the yellow box junctions that did not conform to the legislation, namely the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002.

The non-compliant locations are:

  • Avenue Road & High Street
  • Lower Boston Road & Uxbridge Road
  • South Road & Hamilton Road
  • South Road & Cambridge Road
  • South Road & St Joseph’s Drive
  • Broadway & The Mall

And there was some doubt over Uxbridge Road & Mansell Road

So, June 20th is the date on which it can be proved beyond doubt that the members of Ealing Council knew they were operating outside the law and issuing Penalty Charge Notices fraudulently.

Prior to that date, in 2007, the Adjudicators at PATAS had been telling them that the yellow boxes were unlawful, and there is evidence to suggest the Department for Transport had advised Mouchel employees verbally that the above locations were considered unlawful as far back as February 2008.

But it really does not stop there. It is an established principle of British law that liability for any error does not start from the time that you discovered you were operating in error, but from the time that you started operating in error. If they found out they were issuing unlawful tickets on the 20th of June, then by definition they were issuing unlawful tickets on 19th June, and on the 18th June, and so on.

In other words the fraud has been perpetuated from day one, since Ealing started enforcing these box junctions back in 2004. They must refund all the money collected at these locations, not just since June 2008. Until they do, the Council will have ‘dirty money’ on its balance sheet.

It’s time for a concerted effort. If you have a PCN from Ealing Council that was issued before 20th June and you still have the paperwork then we would like to hear from you.

Send an e-mail to the address below with your PCN number, date of issue and the yellow box junction location, which must be one of those listed above to ealing@motoristslegalchallenge.co.uk.

The is ought to be a resigning matter, but no doubt as usual the guilty will survive and the innocent will suffer as a consequence.


Ealing Council Forced to Pay Costs

October 30, 2008

Just a quick post to say that I has 17 PCNs cancelled yesterday against box junctions in South Road. What is even more astounding is that the Adjudicator awarded costs of £750 against the Council on the grounds that it was “wholly unreasonable” for them to pursue the appeals after they had been repeatedly warned by PATAS that PCNs for South Road/St Joseph’s Drive, South Road/Cambridge Road and High Street/Avenue Road were unenforceable.

If you have a case before PATAS for any of these locations then you must ask for costs citing London United Busways -v- Ealing. If you have received a decision in the last 14 days there is still time to get a claim in. You cannot claim lots, and you cannot claim for being inconvenienced. Usually you can claim back travel expenses, postage and stationary. OK, it may not seem a lot, but a large quantity of small claims will soon add up. Ealing will also bear the stigma of being one of the very few councils stupid enough to have upset the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service so much that they have seen fit to award costs – something that very rarely happens.

This is not the end of the story by any means. Watch this space…


Please Support this Legal Challenge

September 27, 2008

“The sword of justice has no scabbard.” (Antione De Riveral)

Neil Herron

Neil Herron outside the Royal Courts of Justice

Last Thursday 25th September the parking campaigner Neil Herron made an application to the High Court for permission to seek leave for Judicial Review.

This Judicial Review comes about as a result of 55 parking tickets that Neil took to appeal against Sunderland Council. Despite overwhelming evidence of non-compliant lines, signs and parking bays the appeals were refused. The Council won.

If the Judicial Review is successful it will -

1. Invalidate the vast majority of Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) in the country;

2. Force Councils to ensure that all signs and road markings comply with the law before they can start enforcement; and

3. Demonstrate that the parking adjudication services are not independent of the Councils, as they claim.

This is the first time that anyone has mounted a legal challenge against what we all know to be the “tax farming” activities of the Local Councils. Neil’s success will result in the refund of millions of tickets.

Motorists are the most persecuted members of society. High fuel prices and tax, increases in the road fund license, congestion charges, road pricing, speed cameras, moving traffic violations and parking wardens.

I, for one have had enough of being ripped off. Anything we can do to stand up to the bullies and inject some common sense and fairness into the proceedings has my full support.

For anyone who has been helped or entertained by this website over the past two years – and there are many of you out there – head over to Neil’s website and make a donation. We must stand united in support of Neil. What he is doing, at great personal risk to himself, is for the benefit of every single motorist.

The website is called The Motorists Legal Challenge Fund and you will find full details of how to make a donation.

This is the beginning of the end for those Local Authorities who have been operating outside the law.

Make it Happen. Please Give Generously.


Where Does the Money Go?

June 5, 2008

The following was posted to the site as a comment by a reader, John. In his words:

There is an aspect to the whole story which has not yet been covered in the media.

That is the pernicious role of the private enforcement contractors engaged by many Councils to run their extortion businesses, for example NCP Services (owned by aggressive private equity investor 3i).

As you will know, Waltham Forest has agreed to refund every penalty illegally levied for an unlawful yellow box in Leytonstone. However, they have also now revealed that the council tax payers of the borough will not be getting a refund from NCP Services.

The contractor will get to keep the fee it received for each paid PCN. It also won’t have to pay anything towards the administration costs of re-contacting all those who were fined.

Waltham Forest is currently refusing to reveal how much is paid to NCP Services for each PCN. They say that disclosing the information might “weaken their [NCP's]competitive advantage”. Never mind accountability for wasting public funds. We wouldn’t want a £140 million pound private company to suffer a weakened competitive advantage, would we?

Let’s postulate that NCP gets 20 quid for each paid PCN. Let’s say that there are 4000 paid PCNs to refund for this box. That’s an ADDITIONAL £80,000 squandered for no good reason. A very expensive mistake. That’s ONE box. Big problem.

You can see why councils aren’t so keen to give refunds, and why Nick Lester repeatedly trots out the argument that refunds are not a good use of public money. No, they are not. That is exactly the point. But the nuance is that the fines themselves are not and never were public money, since that is money to which the council has no claim. The fees paid to NCP and others ARE public money, and that money is being irresponsibly squandered because of the nature of the commercial contracts into which councils have entered. That is maladministration, however you look at it.

It isn’t the fault of innocent motorists. It isn’t the fault of NCP Services either. You can’t blame a private company for aggressively pursuing profit. But the aggressive pursuit of profit has no place in law enforcement. It actively encourages non-compliance with unprofitable laws and completely destroys accountability.

Parking/traffic enforcement may seem like a parochial issue, but in fact these are important questions of democracy and the rule of law.


Groundhog Day

June 4, 2008

“Everyone rises to their level of incompetence.” (Laurence J. Peter – The Peter Principle)

You have to believe me if I say that I am not deliberately conducting a campaign against Ealing Council. It’s just that the examples of their apparent incompetence are legion. The tragic consequence of this pointless bureaucratic incompetence is that it can, at best, waste our time, and at worst, it can seriously screw up peoples’ lives.

Take, for example the case of Louise who contacted this site some months ago when she received a visit from bailiffs demanding excessive amounts of money for two Ealing PCNs that she never received. The fact that she had moved home obviously figured in the equation.

Fortunately the system does have safeguards, and she filled an out of time Statutory Declaration in order to halt the bailiff enforcement action. In their wisdom, Ealing Council was unwilling to accept this Statutory Declaration, so (thankfully another safeguard) the matter had to be put before a County Court Judge to resolve the dispute. Read the rest of this entry »


Southall (Ealing) Box Junctions

June 3, 2008

Ealing LogoIn response to the numerous requests I have received for appeal documents I have decided to publish them here on the site. This information relates to South Road/St Joseph’s Drive, South Road/Cambridge Road and High Street/Avenue Road. There is a box junction at South Road/Hamilton Road but I have not heard of anyone getting a ticket there recently.

[28th Sept 2008 - The appeal documents have been updated to reflect recent wins at PATAS]

Please note that the appeal procedure is in two stages:

1. After you receive the PCN you fill in the reverse side and send it back (but remember to keep a copy). Tick the box that says something like “The contravention did not occur.” Then write the reasons as “This box junction is not as prescribed by the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002. Unless it has been authorised by the Secretary of State for Transport it is unenforceable.

2. Ealing will most likely send you a Notice of Rejection stating lots of reasons why they think they are in the right. Ignore it – it is rubbish. Fill in the PATAS form as follows:

Boxes 1 & 2 : With your personal details.

Box 3 : It’s up to you whether you opt for a postal or personal hearing. A personal hearing shows you are serious.

Box 4 : Tick “The contravention alleged by the Authority on the PCN did not occur”.

Box 5 : Write “See attached documents”

Download one of the following MS Word documents and fill in your details on the first page. Print it off and send it with the appeal form to PATAS.

PATAS appeal for South Road/St Joseph’s Drive

PATAS appeal for South Road and Cambridge Road

PATAS appeal for High Street/Avenue Road

Any queries, please leave a message below.

Update 28th Sept 2008

These junctions are still unlawful. Note that it does not matter whether your vehicle was partly or wholly in the box you can still appeal. These boxes have no legal status. They are simply yellow graffiti on the public highway.


Media Frenzy

May 29, 2008

“To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.” (BBC mission statement originated by John Reith)

Apologies for the lack of posts to this blog over the last couple of months but my attention has been focussed elsewhere. The number of people seeking help rises by the week, and I am sorry if you have left a message and I have not responded. This issue is being addressed.

My colleagues and I have been occupied with making sure the Media are “on message” over the last few months. Their interest was awakened by the changeover in parking legislation from the Road Traffic Act 1991 to the Traffic Management Act 2004.

Back in January we had the BBC documentary “Road Rage” followed by the ITV offering “Parking Wars” in March.

More recently I was contacted by BBC Radio 4′s iPM team who wanted to do a piece on CCTV enforcement. I was able to take one of their reporters along to a meeting of the London Motorists’ Action Group to meet with (among others) Lord Lucas and Neil Herron. This went out on May 17th.

I’m guessing that this must have sown the germ of an idea within the BBC News department, because shortly afterwards I was contacted by a researcher from the ‘Breakfast’ show who said that they wanted to do a piece on unlawful enforcement by Local Councils. I supplied her with lots of material, and I ended up dealing with queries at hourly intervals for most of yesterday.

The result was staggering. The message came across loud and clear in this morning’s programme: If councils want motorists to obey the law, they should themselves abide by the law. The story is summarised in this article Council motoring fines ‘illegal’ here on the BBC News website. As far as I know it was also picked up by Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live. When I switched on the radio in my car this evening it was the topic for the ‘Drivetime with Eddie and Kath’ phone-in programme on BBC Radio London.

That wasn’t the end of the story. Ealing Council (who else) rang up the Beeb to find out where they had got their figures from for the South Road & St Joseph’s Drive box junction. (An FOI request of course.)They also did not seem to know that there had been two rulings against this junction at PATAS (doh!). And how could the BBC possibly know that this junction had not received authorisation from the DfT? (Cos we talk to the DfT about these matters, which is more than Ealing does.)

So I was fielding more phone calls from the researcher.

But the best bit of news was that this item generated a TON of e-mail from viewers. It obviously touched a nerve with motorists and gave councils a real fright.

I leave you with this thought. The chances are that most PCNs are issued unlawfully. Do not assume that the PCN is correct – question it. You have been given a right of appeal – use it.

If everyone appealed, the system would grind to a halt. Wouldn’t that be nice…


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