London Indymedia

Highway robbery

Keith Parkins | 05.08.2008 15:11 | Repression | Social Struggles | Technology | London

Across the country local councils are committing highway robbery, robbing people blind with unlawful traffic and parking schemes.

Last month it was highlighted on Indymedia UK that a street parking scheme in North Camp, the original Victorian centre of Farnborough, was unlawful, that to collect monies on an unlawful scheme, the council was committing fraud, a criminal offence.

The parking restrictions in the centre of Aldershot are also probably unlawful.

As a consequence, local traders, local businesses are suffering.

Last weekend, ipm, an interactive news programme on BBC Radio 4, made mention of the same problem, referring to an earlier programme where they had featured an unlawful traffic scheme in Walthamstow, on which Camden Council was still collecting fines even though it had been drawn to the attention of the council that their scheme was unlawful.

It appears from their original feature and the response of listeners, that these unlawful schemes are widespread across the country.

It has been pointed out to the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor that their parking restrictions in North Camp are unlawful but the arrogant response has been to reply that it does not matter how the line markings are painted and to anyone who asks for their fines to be refunded the answer will be no as it gives the wrong message!

The London Borough of Camden collected more than £245,000 from motorists who drove down a pedestrianised street which was found to have been signposted unclearly.

A judicial review forced Camden to quash the parking restrictions in Primrose Hill because the local residents had not been properly consulted and the council has a legal obligation to consult.

Alan Stanton, a Labour councillor in the North London borough of Haringey, has described the council's past activities as 'highway robbery'. He said the borough continued ticketing two yellow box junctions in Tottenham even after they were found to be unlawful.

'We have taken £120,000 from people we had no right to take from. Haringey said that when it discovered the boxes were illegal it stopped enforcing them and gave refunds to motorists who appealed.'

In Sheffield, problems with the incorrectly-marked entrance to a bus and tram lane meant Sheffield City Council was able to pocket £350,000.

Oliver Mishcon, a barrister who specialises in motoring cases, has said local authorities have been acting unlawfully.

'It's a massive problem on a national scale and we're talking about councils making tens of millions of pounds. From a legal point of view, the term is unjust enrichment. And if the council unjustly enriches itself, it's got to pay the money back.'

In Leeds, the council is under police investigation for collecting monies on an unlawful scheme.

The London Borough of Camden collected more than £245,000 from motorists who drove down a pedestrianised street which was found to have been signposted unclearly.

In Lincoln, the City Council is having to refund motorists following a test case. The council had failed to paint the short terminating line at the end of a set of double yellow lines.

Up to seven out of ten fines are thrown out at appeal if motorists bother to contest them. Many though are put off because of the risk of losing their 50% discount for prompt payment.

In the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, a retailer parked in a private parking area, and to his surprise was issued with a parking ticket. He appealed, not only did he win but the chairman of the Tribunal slammed Rushmoor for malpractice. They had no authority to issue tickets on private property.

A local council can only spend money in areas for which it has authority. It clearly has no authority to spend money on unlawful schemes. A matter for investigation by the District Auditor. Councillors who authorised this expenditure can be made to pay back any expenditure over £2,000 and be barred from office.

To collect monies on an unlawful scheme is to commit fraud, a criminal offence.

Councillors who authorise expenditure on unlawful schemes have engaged in misconduct in public office, malfeasance and fraud. A matter for police investigation.

Councillors who authorise expenditure on unlawful scheme have brought their office and their council into disrepute. A matter for investigation by the Standards Board. Any councillor found guilty can be barred from holding public office.

Those who have been effected by unlawful schemes can file a complaint with the Local Authority Ombudsman for maladministration.

Administration of an unlawful scheme could also be grounds to seek a judicial review.

Arrogant and incompetent council officials are not helping to keep our streets and towns and cities car free, they are though costing the local taxpayer for their arrogance and incompetence.

Underlying all of this is a lack of good urban design and planning and affordable, efficient public transport systems.


reference and further reading

Terence Bendixon, Instead of Cars, Peguin Books, 1977

Lester R Brown, Plan B 2.0, Norton, 2006

Pete Castle, Markings make parking restrictions 'incorrect', Farnborough News, 11 July 2008

J H Crawford, Carfree Cities, International Books, July 2000

Richard Gilbert et al, Making Cities Work: The Role of Local Authorities in the Urban Environment, Earthscan, 1996

Peter Guest, Parking in North Camp Area of Farnborough, July 2008

Ray Massey, Councils cost drivers tens of millions in 'unlawful traffic and parking restrictions', Mail on-line, 30 May 2008

Jim Motavalli, 'The High Cost of Free Parking', E: The Environmental Magazine, March–April 2005

Molly O’Meara, Reinventing Cities for People and the Planet, Worldwatch Paper 147, Worldwatch Institute, June 1999

Molly O’Meara Sheehan, City Limits: Putting the Breaks on Sprawl, Worldwatch Paper 156, Worldwatch Institute, June 2001

Molly O’Meara Sheehan, 'Making Better Transportation Choices' [in Lester R Brown et al, State of the World 2001, Norton, 2001]

Keith Parkins, Curitiba – Designing a sustainable city, Indymedia UK, 5 April 2006

Keith Parkins, Curitiba – Designing a sustainable city,, April 2006

Keith Parkins, North Camp traders suffer, Indymedia UK, 21 July 2008

Keith Parkins, North Camp street parking, Indymedia UK, 28 July 2008

Keith Parkins, The duty of local councils to consult, Indymedia UK, 1 August 2008

Primrose Hill Ruling [Regina v Camden London Borough ex parte Mark Dyson Gordan Cran and Others (1995)]

Richard Register, Ecocities: Building Cities in Balance with Nature, Berkeley Hill Books, 2002

Keith Parkins
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  1. urm, get a bike! — get a bike


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