Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Thursday, 10 December 2009

St Albans parking fine blunder costs 24,000

A Hertfordshire council lost £24,000 in revenue from parking fines because enforcement orders were out of date.

St Albans Council's parking rules said a vehicle driver was liable for parking fines but it should have been the vehicle's keeper.

Colm O'Callaghan, the council's chief finance officer, said the blunder made it "impossible" to enforce the fines.

Terminology in the order had been wrong since 2005, when a new regime for off-street parking was introduced.

In a report to the council about the mistake, Mr O'Callaghan said: "Legal advice was that this did not invalidate the traffic order.

"But it did make it impossible for the council to pursue further enforcement action and brought financial cost."

Workload review

Initially the council had said it thought the cost of the error could be as high as £32,000.

In October a tribunal investigating a claim against a £50 ticket ruled that it was invalid as legal wording had not been updated.

The council has since decided to write off 1,621 penalty charge notices.

The council is now paying the price both financially and in terms of its reputation for being accident prone
Julian Daly, Conservative group, St Albans Council

The tickets were issued at off-street car parks between 31 March 2008 and 5 November 2009.

People who have already paid the fines are considered to have admitted liability, although since the error was revealed some have submitted requests for refunds.

Mr O'Callaghan's report identified a protracted line of responsibility from the parking contract manager to the city and district engineer, who it said had a heavy workload.

In its response to the mistake, the council is to consider the creation of a clear procedure and check-list for work to be signed off and the implementation of a workload review.

Leaders blamed

The management responsible have been invited to put forward a plan to implement these recommendations.

Julian Daly, leader of the Conservative opposition group on the council, said management and the political leadership of the Liberal Democrat ruling party were responsible for the mistake.

He said: "Traffic orders were not subject to review by the council's legal team and there was some absence of prioritisation in the relevant team which contributed to the error."

He backed the call for a workload review but said the relevant portfolio holders should ensure the engineering and technical services section were adequately resourced or that its workload was reduced accordingly.

"The council is now paying the price both financially and in terms of its reputation for being accident prone," Mr Daly said.

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