23rd Sep, 2018

Coventry council chiefs still refusing to issue fined motorists refunds - despite admitting website errors

Editorial Correspondent 13th Jul, 2018 Updated: 13th Jul, 2018

LEADING Coventry council figures have admitted there were errors on its website which campaigners say meant motorists paid more than they had to in law for parking fines – but they are still refusing to issue refunds.

The errors have now been changed and contain information about how motorists can pay or appeal against Penalty Charge Notices.

Opposition councillor Tim Mayer said the website had failed to properly inform motorists that the 28 days they had in law to appeal against a fine did not include bank holidays and weekends.

He said the website had also wrongly informed people they could not appeal for 28 days after the parking ticket was issued, by which point they would have lost the right to pay the 50 per cent discount for early payment.

He added the problem had existed since 2015 and potentially much longer, and the council had failed to make all necessary changes even when the problems had been previously pointed out.

He raised the issues with deputy council leader Abdul Khan at a full council meeting on Tuesday.

Coun Mayer said: “I asked if people who have been overcharged will get their money back. I was really disappointed to hear the answer was ‘no’.

“We also asked if we could investigate how the issues happened as this was the third or fourth time we’ve had problems in this department. They were not happy to do that either.”

Coun Khan told the meeting there had been “confusion” regarding the website and it and had been rectified, adding there would be no refunds.

Colin Knight, the council’s transport and highways director, was put forward for a BBC Coventry and Warwickshire interview this morning to explain the issues.

He claimed the Penalty Charge Notices – the yellow and black documents stuck on to windscreens by parking wardens – had correctly informed motorists about the appeals process and the website had always notified them about it.

But he said national computer software used had been producing the wrong ‘date of service’ of the parking fine, an ‘algarythm glitch’ which he said had now been rectified.

He admitted the information on the couoncil’s website had been “unclear” and had now been changed.

Asked if the council should apologise to the public, he claimed: “.. If it’s confused people I’m sorry about that.

“This algarythm is in software used nationally. This is not the only local authority – it’s been in use for years.

“.. But this had not meant that people have not had time to pay… Nobody has been disadvantaged.”

He also claimed the council’s system had built in 32 days for motorists to pay.

It is the latest issue in a long running controversy over motorists being fined in bus gates and the city centre’s Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ).

A national tribunal adjudicator ruled in May the RPZ was flawed and had failed to properly notify drivers of the rules, following similar tribunal judgments concerning the bus gates.

Mr Heneghan told us in response to Mr Knight’s BBC interview: “Mr Knight is responsible for overseeing the very departments at fault, so it is concerning at best that he is facilitated by the council in his attempts to be the judge in his own cause.

“In 2013 Coventry City Council were forced to pay costs to a member of the public who had received a PCN with this very issue. The council wrote to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal and fully accepted the ruling and even itself referred to the affected PCN as ‘defective and not in accordance with the statutory regulations’.

“The PCN was cancelled and the member of the public was even awarded £199.10 in costs.

“The council has confirmed it has only just fixed the error.

“Therefore, wouldn’t logic dictate that all subsequent PCNs with the same defect over the past six years should benefit from the same council opinion as this example PCN?”

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