HERE IS Dorset County Council’s response to questions put by Lester Cowling and Ali Cameron about the saga of Mr Cowling’s parking ticket.
1. If approached by the public is it really council policy for wardens not to warn drivers that they might be committing an offence, as the tribunal was told? Do you consider this rule improves the council’s reputation for fairness?
Our Parking Policy clearly sets out the ‘General Principles of CEOs’ Behaviour’.
Parking Policy Part 1, 2.1:
“CEOs (civil enforcement officers) are expected to carry out their work overtly, with fairness, courtesy and reasonableness and to comply with all relevant laws and codes of conduct. This will include the CEO advising the motorist to move his vehicle as well as how and where to park to avoid a contravention of the parking regulations. To this end, CEOs are expected to be conversant with the on and off street parking arrangements in their enforcement area, permit information, Council policies and any other information necessary to enable them to carry out this function.
“If the vehicle driver is present, the CEO will give every reasonable opportunity to rectify a situation before issuing a PCN (penalty charge notice). Under no circumstances will a CEO resort to any form of entrapment or deliberately avoid assisting a driver.”
As some drivers are exempt from parking restrictions (e.g. Blue Badge holders for three hours on yellow lines and in Pay and Display bays on street), it is not always obvious to a CEO that a driver is about to contravene the regulations. If a driver says “Hello” to the CEO and then walks away without asking about the restrictions or checking the restrictions on the nearest time plate, then the only thing the CEO can do is call out to the driver. The CEO will not run after the driver if the driver doesn’t respond. In all cases, drivers are responsible for checking the restrictions at the time of parking.
2. Three council officials attended this, the fourth scheduled hearing. How much did this cost the council to bring this case and is £25 a fair return for this investment of ratepayers’ money?
Three council officials attended the hearing:
1) the Parking Manager who is responsible for the Statutory Appeals Procedure and officially represents the council;
2) the Engineer who implemented the Pay & Display Scheme and is the expert in compliant signage, and;
3) one other member of staff to observe the proceedings for training purposes.
The Council has a statutory duty to manage the appeals process, which includes responding in writing to challenges and appeals, preparing case papers for the tribunal and participation in telephone and personal hearings.
Personal hearings are few and far between and attendance by council officers is always worthwhile so that we can learn from the discussions and the Adjudicator’s decision. The time-consuming part of the appeals process is the time needed to consider every individual appeal or query and to respond in writing as is required by law.
The Parking Service is not funded by council tax payers. The Traffic Management Act requires parking operations to be self-financing. The Parking Service is funded by the income from Pay & Display, residents permits and PCNs.
3. Does the council take adequate steps to publicise changes in regulations and explain what they mean? Was the new parking announced in the council’s publicity newsletters?
The council publishes notices and press releases to advertise parking changes. On this occasion, we did not publicise the changes in the council’s newspaper, Your Dorset, and we have taken on board the comments and suggestions made. We will endeavour to publicise future parking regulations changes in Your Dorset.
4. Factual errors seem to have made in dealing with this saga. Is there a plan to retrain the staff concerned?
Parking services officers are currently undertaking refresher training. This will be completed by 28 February 2011.