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.