Labour council urged to refund motorists after ‘unfairly’ fining thousands of drivers £2.6million

16 June 2024, 17:15

Southwark council raised more than £2.6 million by issuing 43,300 fines to motorists
Southwark council raised more than £2.6 million by issuing 43,300 fines to motorists. Picture: Alamy

By Charlie Duffield

A Labour council which "unfairly" fined thousand of motorists millions of pounds is now being urged to refund drivers.

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The move follows a mistake with the phrasing of its penalty charge notices (PCNs) which was discovered by campaigners, meaning the fines were "legally void".

Over a period of five years, Southwark council raised more than £2.6 million by issuing 43,300 fines to motorists who had moved into bus lanes.

But it's now been revealed that the small print on the fines had a "procedural impropriety" regarding how long motorists needed to challenge the PCNs.

Campaigners have conducted multiple test case appeals at London Tribunals, which is where challenges to motoring fines are heard, to understand if the wording needed changing.

Adjudicators understood that bus lane contravention tickets did not use the correct language, as established by the London Local Authorities Act, which gives councils the authority to fine motorists.

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Traffic in South London
Traffic in South London . Picture: Getty

The Act says the 28-day time limit to challenge a PCN should begin from "the date of notice" regarding the fine, according to The Telegraph.

But the council wrongly stated on its tickets that the month-long window for legal challenges began from “the date the penalty charge notice was served”.

In one ruling Richard Thompson, the adjudicator, wrote: “The date of the notice and the date on which the notice is served are invariably different dates.”

Dismissing the £130 fine, he wrote: “The penalty charge notice does not comply with the statutory provisions. This amounts to a procedural impropriety and I therefore allow the appeal.”

Several other appeals based on the same error were not challenged by the council and were also cancelled.

Phillip Morgan uncovered the inaccurate wording and has assisted people challenging the fines.

He said motorists were a "soft target" for councils hoping to raise money.

“I am deeply concerned by the incompetence of staff employed by London council’s parking departments,” he said.

“Their failings range from the inability to copy and paste mandatory information from the laws to the inability to fairly and correctly assess representations and appeals from motorists who, to me, are soft targets used to obtain revenue.”

But the council wrongly stated on its tickets that the month-long window for legal challenges began from “the date the penalty charge notice was served”.
But the council wrongly stated on its tickets that the month-long window for legal challenges began from “the date the penalty charge notice was served”. Picture: Alamy

Southwark council said: “Southwark council issues penalty charge notices for motoring offences in the interests of public safety for all road users.

"They are issued within a legal and statutory framework, which includes the rights of appeal. Income received from penalty charge notice fines goes towards road upgrades and projects to help make streets safer and more accessible.

"In February 2024 we updated the wording of our PCNs to fully comply with the requirements of the London Local Authorities Act 1996, reducing the time drivers have to consider the notice or pay the fine.

"Our original wording stipulated drivers had from the time the notice was received, rather than when it was sent, allowing them more time in the process.

“We have no plans to cancel PCNs that haven’t been successfully appealed within the statutory parking appeals process.”

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