AN extraordinary meeting of Coventry City Council has today been called for following a scathing tribunal report into the discredited city centre parking scheme which has cost motorists millions – and cabinet member Jayne Innes is called on to apologise.
Opposition councillors have formally lodged their request for a rare Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the full council to consider the debacle.
“Deluded” Coventry council has “misled” and “confused” fined motorists with its inadequate signage in the city centre parking zone, the damning tribunal verdict ruled last week. Around 60,000 fines had been issued over five years.
In upholding five motorists’ appeals against Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) fines, chief adjudicator Caroline Shephard OBE’s report added: “CCC (Coventry City Council), seemingly with a determination and delusion reminiscent of King Canute himself, has continued to enforce PCNs.”
The ruling potentially opens the way for thousands more motorists to appeal against their fines – although leading council figures insist there will be no refunds .
Five opposition councillors, the required amount to trigger an EGM, signed the letter to the Lord Mayor to formally call for the meeting.
The letter states: “We the undersigned hereby call for an extraordinary meeting of council to discuss the recent Traffic Penalty Tribunal judgement with regard to signage and enforcement. This follows comments about ‘determination and delusion reminiscent of King Canute himself’.
“Furthermore, we urge the Cabinet Member for City Services to accept responsibility for misleading Full Council and call on the Cabinet Member to apologise and outline steps to be taken to address the issue.”
The Conservative councillors who signed the letter are Couns Tim Mayer, Tim Sawdon, Gary Crooke, David Skinner and Ken Taylor.
Coun Innes and highways officer Colin Knight have repeatedly publicly dismissed criticism on both the city centre Restricted Parking Zone – in which parking is banned inside the ring-road except in parking bays – and the city’s bus gates, also repeatedly deemed inadequate and misleading by the tribunal.
They have maintained road signage is ‘compliant’ with the government Department for Transport’s regulations – with Coun Innes adding phrases such as “read my lips” with her dismissals under questioning at full council meetings regarding bus gate signage.
Mr Knight went further last week in saying the council is even instructing a barrister to challenge the tribunal ruling, a decision concering use of taxpayers’ money that opposition councillors said they were not party to.
But Ms Shephard’s report, in concluding five motorists’ fines had been ‘unenforcable’, said the DfT had not approved the full scheme.
Her report states: “The DfT authorisation relates to the format of the signs and cannot be relied upon as an endorsement that the signs effectively inform motorist of waiting restrictions within the zone.”
Road safety campaigner Richard Heneghan and opposition councillors Tim Mayer and Tim Sawdon have been among those persistently arguing drivers were being stung by a lack of signs.
Chief Adjudicator Sheppard’s report adds: “I conclude that such is CCC’s (Coventry City Council’s) enthusiasm for the concept of a city centre zone bounded by Ringway that they are blind to the fact that motorists unfamiliar with Coventry are confused and effectively misled into thinking that the street where they parked is unrestricted.
“..In Coventry, however, the number of PCNs (Penalty Charge Notices) issued since 2012 should be evidence enough that the over-large RPZ (Restricted Parking Zone) is not readily understood by motorists.
“.. The disgruntlement on the part of some of today’s Coventry citizens about the imposition of parking penalties in the city centre echoes that felt by their medieval forbears about the tolls imposed by Earl Leofric, causing his wife, Lady Godiva, to undertake so memorable a protest to draw attention to their plight.”
She also states: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
“If the street layouts successfully created a self-enforcing environment that CCC promised the DfT, then most motorists would realise that parking is restricted despite the absence of yellow lines, and not park there.
“Of course, there will always be a small proportion of deliberate risk-takers so 100 per cent compliance will never be achieved.”
* Looking at the RPZ on a street-by-street basis the gateway signs do not have the practical effect of informing motorists that waiting is restricted in every street within the mile-wide zone.
* Some of the gateways signs are placed so that in the context of the streetscape and speed of approach, the information about parking restrictions are not reasonably conveyed.
* Repeater signs are not placed in suffiicient numbers of places to conform to the TSM guidance
* The DfT authorisation relates to the format of the signs and cannot be relied upon as an endorsement that the signs effectively inform motorist of waiting restrictions within the zone.
We have asked for a response from Coun Innes and council officers.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for Coventry City Council said: “We have received the request and we now have seven days to consider the next steps.”