Thursday, 29 May 2008

Whose Money Is It Anyway….?

No clearer display of exactly how local councils view the public (i.e. as walking cash cows, to whom legal rights do not apply) could be given than the petulant attitude taken by spokesman Nick Lester over the issue of refunding illegally-charged parking fines :
Some councils have earned hundreds of thousands of pounds by enforcing unlawful traffic and parking restrictions, the BBC has learned.

Fines are said to have been levied despite incorrect road markings and on parking bays which are too small.

The Department of Transport said it expected councils to "seriously consider" repayment of illegal fines. But a spokesman for London councils questioned whether returning the cash was the best use of public money.

Nick Lester from London Councils, which represents authorities in the capital, argued that handing the cash back was not necessarily in the public interest. He said: "Where there's only a technical error, a small issue, where no-one was genuinely misled, the council can take the view, is it really a good use of public money to repay the penalty? Is that really what they should be doing?"
Well, yes. Yes it is. You see, you had no right to the money! It doesn’t belong to you anymore than the haul from the Brinks Mat job belonged to Michael McAvoy’s gang! How is knowingly enforcing illegal traffic markings anything other than fraud, exactly…?

And yes, Nicky, people were ‘genuinely misled’. They were misled into thinking that the council parking enforcers had the law on their side, yet they patently didn’t.
Caroline Sheppard, Chief Parking Adjudicator for the National Parking Adjudication Service for England and Wales, said motorists should appeal if they believe they have been wrongly fined. But she said that many motorists would not want to take the risk of taking their case to tribunal because it would mean losing their 50% discount - and that the onus was on local authorities to put things right.
And how much have they been getting away with..? In the case of Haringey Council, at least £120,000 from illegal boxes alone. And the entrance to a bus and tram lane which was incorrectly marked has gained Sheffield City Council £350,000. (Notice I, unlike the BBC, don’t use the word ‘earned’ here).

That’s a pretty audacious haul, if repeated across the country. Tell me again why respect for politicians and council officials is at an all time low…?

4 comments:

John M Ward said...

Now you see the position into which local councils have been placed, effectively forcing them into becoming money-grabbing outfits.

This wrong!

They should never have been put in such a position. I know -- until recently I was an elected member of a Council myself. We kept (and still keep) Council Tax very low relative to the rest of our county and indeed the country as a whole, but local government financing nowadays falls far short of wht is needed in order to fulfill all the requirements inflicted upon them by Whitehall.

Thus the local authorities become the bodies in the public eye that are associated with problems and controversial issues, but in most cases (but not all) are just the symptoms of the underlying problem.

Having a go at them dilutes and diffuses effort, as well as diverting it from the true cause of near-enough all of these problems -- the Labour Government.

Although a change of Government will not produce an immediate and complete solution to all of this (it is far too deeply embedded now), at least it changes direction so that solutions can be found in years to come. Without that change of government there can never be an improvement in society. It is as black-and-white as that.

Sorry to have to be so forceful on that, but it is hardly my fault that this country is now in this statre...

JuliaM said...

"...local government financing nowadays falls far short of wht is needed in order to fulfill all the requirements inflicted upon them by Whitehall."

And not just Whiehall.

The bin taxes being proposed across the country stem from EU regulations regarding landfill taxes. This is, funnily enough, rarely mentioned in articles concerning it in the MSM.

"..Thus the local authorities become the bodies in the public eye that are associated with problems and controversial issues.."

I'll agree that in some cases, as above, their hands are played for them.

But there is a certain core of local council officers who are only too glad to take the new powers and duties proposed for them and gleefully indulge their inner dictator. On both sides of the political divide...

"Without that change of government there can never be an improvement in society."

That's certainly true, but I wonder how much of a real change the Conservatives would be with the Boy Dave at the helm..?

Anonymous said...

No John Ward, you are wrong, Councils have been committing serious criminal offences in order that they protect the revenue stream; Fraud, perverting the course of Justice, there is already a Police investigation in Leeds and many many more are likely.

Councillors do not run the show, the unelected civil 'servants' that sit in their ivory towers that rule the roost, many of them are going to find themselves in a cell with bubba, asking where it all went wrong. You people asked and applied for decrim parking, you got it and all the baggage that comes with it.

patently said...

This is sadly symptomatic of the attitude of most councils. In theory, we elect the councillors, and the coucillors run the council in the manner that they agreed with us. We then pay for the whole exercise through our council tax.

In practice, the councillors are sidelined and the civil servants run the council as they wish, i.e. to suit their more immediate paymasters, Whitehall. There is only ever a tangential relationship between what the council actually does and what the local people want.

As a result, the council spends most of its time stopping me doing things I want to do, taking money off me, and making life more difficult for me.

And the most breathtaking rudeness that I have seen in a long time has come from council officers.