Professional service, costs,
107. Local authorities should be expected to provide
a professional service to motorists who challenge Penalty Charge
Notices. Responses to representations within a set timeframe should
be standard. Where administrative mistakes occur, for example,
where it is established that a Penalty Charge Notice has been
incorrectly issued, apology should be made without delay.
108. If and when mistakes are made by enforcement
staff, the errors must be corrected swiftly and professionally.
It is most important that councils have good calibre and appropriately
trained staff in the parking departments to deal competently with
representations against Penalty Charge Notices, and to deal efficiently
and effectively with any mistakes that arise. The Department for
Transport should monitor the local authorities' ability to appoint,
train, and retain such essential staff.
109. Parking adjudicators have the power to award
costs against either the council or the appellant where either
party has 'acted frivolously, vexatiously or wholly unreasonably'.
In practice relatively few such awards have been made. The National
Parking Adjudication Service told us that between 25 and 30 orders
of costs were made against local authorities each year.
This is a minute proportion of the overall number of appeals registered,
10,441 in 2004, and suggests that there is scope for the adjudicators
to make more muscular use of this procedure even within the present
rather narrow criteria.
110. We encourage parking adjudicators to be fully
alert to their powers to award costs. Where motorists have been
unduly inconvenienced by poor council performance some financial
award can help to alleviate the sense of injustice. The definition
of 'wholly unreasonably' as a criterion for the award of costs
should be interpreted by adjudicators with this in mind, particularly
in cases where frustration and inconvenience is caused unnecessarily
to innocent parties.
111. Further, the Department for Transport should
give consideration to extending the powers of the adjudicators
to award costs, particularly where the administration of representations
against Penalty Charge Notices has been deficient, and where
Traffic Regulation Orders have not been updated. By doing
so, the reach of the adjudicators will be extended, the accountability
of councils sharpened, and councils also stimulated to raise their
112. The award of compensation by local authorities
to motorists who are found to be victims of incorrect ticketing
was raised by motoring and other groups.
At this stage we consider that it would be much more appropriate
to give consideration to the powers of adjudicators to award costs
and to raising the general standard of service provided by the
local authorities. We do not consider therefore that setting up
a compensation regime to penalise councils for errors in the application
of parking rules would be appropriate at this time. This is not
to say however that it should be dismissed as a future option
if the quality of council parking services fails to improve.