THE NUMBER of motorists referred to bailiffs by Coventry council over unpaid parking fines has alarmingly doubled in just three years.
In 2018/19, a staggering 18,000 Coventry City Council cases involved bailiffs in relation to unpaid Parking Contravention Notices (PCNs).
The previously undisclosed figures have emerged from Freedom of Information requests.
It comes as the national tribunal service continues to deem Coventry’s road enforcement schemes ‘inadequate’ – in upholding some motorists’ appeals.
Critics say the city centre’s Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) and bus gate schemes have become a cash cow worth millions of pounds to the council in an era of government funding cuts.
The number has doubled to 18,381 since 2015/16 when 9,137 cases were referred to the bailiffs to enforce debt collection.
The council contracts firms Equita Ltd and Newlyn plc for bailiff enforcement for unpaid PCNs.
Road safety campaigners have for years argued the fines issued to residents should be invalid.
They point to the independent Traffic Penalty Tribunal (TPT) lawyers’ repeated damning rulings that the council has failed to adequately inform motorists of the RPZ and bus gates.
Campaign group CovRoadSafetyBlog has slammed the council’s ‘aggressive’ approach to pursuing those issued with PCN fines.
Campaigner Richard Heneghan told us: “While Coventry City Council was repeatedly being told by the TPT that its signage and PCN documentation were non-compliant, council PCN cases referred to bailiffs for enforcement doubled.
“The council should have been refunding tens of thousands of people and sacking the at-fault officers. Instead, it decided to go all-out and enforce PCNs it knew full well should never have been levied.
“The council is on record proudly declaring that it does not incur any costs for bailiff enforcement.
“No it doesn’t…that is because it is the hardworking public who incur the massive fees.”
The campaign group provided a case study to illustrate the human toll of bailiffs being used to chase fines.
Hales Street in the city centre is covered by the bus gates enforcement scheme and the TPT has upheld appeals for fines incurred on the road, due to ‘inadequate signage’.
A city resident – who wanted to remain anonymous – emailed councillors regarding the fine he received in late 2017.
They wrote: “I was fined driving in Hales Street and due to my health and a change of medication I failed to pay the fine on time.
“Bailiffs came to my property and took my car. I had to pay £393 to get my vehicle released.
“I informed the bailiff that I had recently lost my job and that I have two life-term illnesses.
“I had to borrow the money from my 17-year-old daughter as I need my vehicle to get to hospital because of illness.
“I do have hope that the council will refund my money and, in future, be careful of fining people due to its error.”
Last year, we reported around 60,000 motorists had been fined for parking within the RPZ over five years since it was introduced in 2011.
The council has previously said it issues reminder letters for unpaid fines before referring cases to the court and the bailiff companies, who can hike up its ‘administration fees’ on top of fines.
Enforcement action with bailiff visits to people’s homes – where property may be seized – is a last resort, it claims.
Coventry City Council declined to respond.