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.