COVENTRY Council’s ruling Labour party has rejected calls for the council to ensure every driver wrongly fined for bus gates in the city is reimbursed.
At a full council meeting this afternoon, Conservative councillor Tim Mayer, urged the council to write to each of the 13,000 motorists individually, making them aware of the refund they are due.
But Labour councillors rejected the motion – arguing motorists had already been informed through the local press and social media and that it would cost too much to send letters.
To date, only 400 of the 13,000 motorists – just three per cent – have been refunded the £30 penalty fee (or higher £60 fee if it was not paid within 14 days) after it emerged earlier this year that the bus gates were wrongly sign-posted.
This means the council has coughed up just £11,700 of the £398,460 owed to motorists.
Coun Mayer’s called on the council to follow the example set by York and Bath Councils, which both wrote to thousands of motorists wrongly fined for using bus gate or bus lanes – explaining the situation and advising them of their right to apply for a refund.
Tabling the motion to write to each motorist, Tim Mayer said: “The reality is not everyone fined for driving through the bus gates reads the press or listens to the radio – or they may not even be from Coventry.
“This means we have taken money which we shouldn’t have taken.
“We have said bus gates are not implemented to generate income, then the money we fined these people should be sat there ready to refund them.
“We should be big enough to admit our fault and writing a letter to put money back in our residents hands shouldn’t be an issue.”
Fellow Conservative councillors backed the motion – Coun Crookes arguing the council should be ‘proactive’ in offering refunds, while Coun Sawdon added writing letters was the ‘decent’ thing to do.
But it was voted down by the ruling Labour councillors, who unanimously voted against the proposal.
Cabinet member for city services, Jayne Innes, argued the fines had been issued by Coventry council ‘in good faith’ and that the public had already been informed by ongoing coverage in the local press and radio.
Repeating the council address people could write to and email, Coun Innes said: “There is no requirement for us to write to motorists, and it would cost us many thousands of pounds to write to them – and we have to be careful with every penny.
“There is a strong precedent for us to not write to them.”
The fines arose after drivers were caught driving through bus gates – designated sections of road for buses and taxis only at Park Road, Greyfriars Green and Gosford Street – between between December 10, 2015 and April 21, 2016 and fined nearly £400,000 collectively by Coventry City Council.
Council figures, released earlier this year, revealed 1,780 drivers were caught driving through the Park Road bus gate at the interchange with Quinton Road; 9,099 issued penalty charge notices (PCNs) for driving down Warwick Road near Greyfriars Green; and 2,403 motorists caught at the Gosford Street bus gate.
The bus gate signs were initially installed in August 2014, and were re-authorised by the DfT on December 10 last year.
But the Department of Transport (DfT) made a technical error and wrongly de-authorised the signs – meaning any motorist who had been fined for driving through a bus gate between December 10, 2015 and April 21, 2016 had been wrongly charged and is due a refund.