59,000 parking fines overturned on appeal

ALMOST one in six parking tickets handed out in the Capital has been issued wrongly, it has emerged.

ALMOST one in six parking tickets handed out in the Capital has been issued wrongly, it has emerged.

Since 2010 parking wardens in Edinburgh have issued 388,039 tickets – but new figures have shown that 59,144 of these were later ruled invalid following an appeal by the driver.

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In the last 12 months, half of the people who appealed their ticket saw their fines scrapped, while in 2010-11 45 per cent of all appeals were successful. The news led to suggestions that the high number of appeals could damage confidence in the system – and one leading councillor urged 
people to “check their tickets very carefully” before paying the fine, while another said he would be investigating the matter and possibly calling for a review of the system.

At the standard rate of £30 per ticket, this comes to £1,774,320 saved by motorists across the city thanks to wardens handing out around 80 incorrect tickets every day.

Allan Jackson, a conservative 
councillor who sits on the transport committee, told the Evening News: “This seems to be very high proportion of tickets issued. Certainly I would like to look into this further and discover what appears to be causing the problem. If necessary I will be 
calling for a review.”

However, transport leader Councillor Lesley Hinds said the figures showed that parking attendants were doing a good job, and that the number of appeals showed that the system worked.

Parking wardens, operated by private company NSL, work in the Capital 24 hours a day. Controlled parking zones (CPZs), where only permit holders are allowed to park, have specific hours of operation, beginning at 8.30am and running until 5.30pm or 6.30pm.

According to the latest figures, just under 45 per cent of contested tickets were cancelled following an appeal – around 15 per cent of all tickets issued between 2010 and 2012.

When the figures are broken down by year it shows that although more fines were issued in 2011-12, the number of appeals more than halved compared with the previous year, and the number of successful appeals dropped from one in five of all issued tickets to one in ten.

Jeremy Balfour, the leader of the council’s Conservative group, said: “I think people need to have confidence with the system and there needs to be absolute transparency.

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“If people feel tickets are being issued incorrectly, or illegally, they lose confidence in the system. People should check their tickets very carefully before paying and if they are incorrect they should challenge them in the proper way.”

A spokesman for the RAC said: “The cost of motoring is a big issue for motorists. They are facing spiralling fuel costs and parking can be a real issue. Clearly, there is a need for the enforcement of parking restrictions but it doesn’t give confidence when motorists are faced with arbitrary or unjust fines.”

But Paul Watters of the AA said the figures should not be read into too deeply. “Some of the tickets might be cancelled in mitigation and some are unjust,” he said. “It’s difficult to read much into these statistics.”

The council said there was no clear reason why the number of appeals had dropped so sharply in the last year, though it suggested that better 
awareness of the widespread use of cameras by all parking attendants may have helped to bring the number of contested tickets down.

A council spokeswoman added that a fall in the total number of tickets issued last year may be a result of higher levels of compliance with regulations, fewer cars on the road due to the economic climate plus higher petrol prices, more people using park and ride facilities and the greater use of cashless parking schemes such as RingGo, which allows people to pay for parking using a PC or mobile phone.

Despite the high level of appeals, the figures showed that more than £11 million has been raised by valid parking tickets since 2010 – with estimates on the value of tickets from the last year coming in at just under £6m.

Cllr Hinds told the News: “The drop in the number of parking tickets ruled to be invalid shows that parking attendants are carrying out their duties well.

“That a significant proportion of appeals are still successful also shows that if someone does feel that a ticket has been issued to them unfairly the appeal system will listen to what they have to say, look into their concerns sympathetically and check that the correct 
processes have been carried out.

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“I couldn’t say with certainty why the number of appeals has dropped so dramatically. Perhaps people are more aware now that parking wardens will take pictures of infractions to back up the tickets they have issued. If people know there must be evidence that they were fined correctly then there is less point in appealing. That being said, if someone does feel that they have not been treated fairly or that their individual circumstances were not taken into account I would of course encourage them to appeal against a ticket.”

Drivers issued with a ticket face a £60 fine, or £30 if paid within 14 days.

One reason for the drop in appeals may have been an issue with faulty ticket machines in 2010, which saw two parking meters on George Square display the message “no charge period” for several hours, with many motorists assuming that there was no charge for parking in the area.

Despite the machine error, fines were issued to vehicles who failed to display a ticket, all of which would later have been overturned on appeal.

In June, the Evening News reported that the number of parking fines issued in the Capital’s busiest streets has risen by almost three per cent in the last year.

Figures showed that Edinburgh’s top 20 “most ticketed” streets saw more than 49,000 fines issued last year, with 21,680 issued on George Street alone, bringing in revenue of £650,000 and making it the most ticketed street in the country.

Questions were also asked when it emerged that a short cul-de-sac beside a busy medical centre was the second most ticketed street. Despite being only 160 metres long, Chalmers Street, next to the NHS Lothian Lauriston Building, was the site of 7700 tickets worth £232,000. Patients’ groups sought assurances that parking attendants were not targeting a street where drivers attending appointments may frequently be delayed and landed with fines.

John O’Connell of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “For many councils parking fines have become a lucrative source of income. But while revenues are being made at the cost of the motorist, taxpayers haven’t seen their council tax fall, or their local services improve.

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Motorists feel like they are being treated like cash cows, so it’s crucial that the council ensures appeals processes are easy to do and transparent.”

Reasons to appeal

There are many reasons why a parking ticket may be ruled invalid. These include:

• A parking attendant error, eg wrong car colour, make, location, registration number noted. You can also appeal if any of this information has not been noted.

• If road signs or markings are obstructed, unclear or simply not there. Take a photo of the area as proof. It’s also a good idea to take a picture of where your car was parked and of the parking meter itself.

• If you are ticketed for being over the line you can appeal if you can prove the parking bay was too small. Regulation states it must be at least 1.62m wide.

• If you receive a ticket in the post, but one was never applied to your car, you can appeal. A ticket must be applied to your car for it to be valid. Even if an attendant has already begun writing you a ticket, if they have not actually placed it on your car you are free to simply drive away.

• Mitigating circumstances can also be taken into account, including a breakdown, tending to an emergency, clearing an obstruction from the road, or dropping someone off at hospital. Although it is your responsibility to ensure a ticket or permit is displayed correctly it is worth at least attempting to appeal if it falls off the window or is later obscured in some other way.