A Scottish council's parking ticket blunder could open the floodgates for drivers to claim almost £500,000 in refunds.
Angus Council has lost an appeal after it provided phone and online payment methods on the tickets - but no postal address.
A government watchdog ruled (in Oct 2019) that 18,000 tickets issued by Angus Council were not valid.
The town hall appealed against that decision, but has now failed to win a a change of heart from the Parking and Bus Lane Tribunal for Scotland.
The validity of £474,000-worth of such tickets – the 18,000 handed out since 2017 – is now in doubt.
A damning 12-page finding by the tribunal has upheld a previous decision which found a flaw in the wording of the ticket, rendering it invalid.
A hearing triggered by a Forfar resident against a parking ticket led the adjudicator to find in the driver’s favour, arguing the wording did not comply with the law.
Legislation states a parking ticket must contain an address to which payment of the fine can be sent.
While the council’s ticket contains a website address and phone number, the postal address refers only to appeals.
The council quickly demanded a review of the decision, with the director of legal and democratic services for the local authority, Jackie Buchan, arguing “there is no statutory requirement to facilitate payment by cash or by cheque”.
The fact no advance notice was given to the council that the competency of the parking ticket was going to be raised also formed part of their arguments.
However, referring to payments, Parking and Bus Lane Tribunal for Scotland adjudicator Colin Dunipace said it would appear the council has “unilaterally decided that payments by cash or cheque are not valid”.
Mr Dunipace also pointed out although the council was not given prior notice the competency of the ticket was going to be raised at the hearing, the local authority could have requested an adjournment but failed to do so.
The local authority remained tightlipped about what action it will take next or if people in Angus who have previously received a parking ticket can apply for a refund.
It is the latest setback to hit the cash-strapped Angus Council since the introduction of parking charges, which one councillor has described as “frankly catastrophic”.
The fresh twist comes against a backdrop of continued criticism and protest about how the coalition administration has handled the parking charges since they returned.
The adjudicator in the original hearing concluded: “If the Council makes a decision to only provide a web address or telephone number it clearly creates problems for drivers who are unable to operate an online payment or cashless telephone payment.
“The Council may well consider that providing a web address or telephone number is more convenient for many road users and more convenient for them.
“However, it is not what the legislation requires and creates problems for drivers who do not use cashless payments or do not have access to a computer.
“The legislation has not been amended to include a provision for a web address or telephone payment only and still requires a postal address to which payment can be sent.
“On this technical issue I find the PCN is thus not valid.
“I allow the appeal and direct the Council to cancel the Penalty Charge Notice and the Notice to owner.”
Carnoustie and District Independent Councillor Brian Boyd said: “This administration’s handling of any parking-related issue has been frankly catastrophic – they have stumbled from one parking blunder to another and quite frankly, it is our town centres that are paying the price for it.
“If the parking ticket system is flawed, then potentially we are looking at a bill totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds and that doesn’t include the staffing costs of administering refunds.
“This simply could not have come at a worse time.”
A spokesperson for Angus Council said yesterday (11 Nov): “We are aware of the decision and are considering our position and cannot comment further.”