Parking fines remain unpaid in signs dispute

First published in Banbury by

ELEVEN parking fines, dished out in the months after a council introduced controversial new fees, have still not been paid despite being chased by bailiffs.

Last April Cherwell District Council put up parking fees and fines, introduced new evening fees and started charging blue badge holders to park.

But after a campaign by motorists and businesses, the council was forced into a U-turn and many of the fees were reversed last November.

And in February the Local Government Ombudsman ruled the council had not put up enough signs warning motorists about the changes.

Cherwell then paid back £11,600 of fines issued to people between April 4 and 13 last year.

According to a Freedom Of Information request by the Oxford Mail, 11 people fined between April and November last year have not paid their fine despite their cases being sent to a debt collection firm.

The request also revealed that Cherwell had taken six people to court over 21 separate fines, between April 1, 2011, to March 31, 2012, and sent a total of 446 fines to a debt collection agency.

Of those, 226 were paid, 73 were written off as unrecoverable, 21 dealt with through the courts and 126 are still outstanding, of which 11 were issued between April and November.

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One of those who has so far refused to pay is blue badge holder George Grove, from Warwick, who was fined £80 after he unwittingly failed to pay and display in the Mill car park, in Banbury.

Mr Grove, 68, who had parked in a disabled bay, was fined last August, but maintains an A-frame sign the council says it put up was “impossible to see”.

He said: “It wasn’t signposted, so I parked there as I had the year before and it was all okay then.

“The council had not made adequate changes to the signs.

“The A-frame signs are useless, they are on the opposite side of the car, the letters were small and just above the ground.”

He said of the fine: “Nothing seems to have moved at the moment.”

Labour group deputy leader Les Sibley called on the council to write off the remaining fines.

He said: “They should do the honourable thing and learn from their mistakes. The fact was they introduced this and didn’t advertise it properly.

“This was our point and the Ombudsman agreed with it.”

David Hulse, who led the successful claim to the Ombudsman, said he was still willing to help people fight the council.

He said: “For 11 to still be holding out, it clearly means they are very determined people who may need some support.”

The council’s deputy leader, George Reynolds, said: “We will continue to pursue anyone seeking to avoid payment of an excess charge notice, even through court action should that be necessary.”

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