Motorists could have been denied right to challenge parking tickets in Cherwell
People parking in car parks run by Cherwell District Council’s contractor may have been denied their rights to challenge tickets through the courts, a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation has found.
The problem was uncovered by the Ombudsman after a woman complained about the way the council’s contractor, APCOA handled her complaint.
The woman had parked in a council car park, which was being run by APCOA. The ticket machine was broken, and the woman tried to pay by phone. Unfortunately, the number she tried would not take calls from withheld numbers so she could not pay.
She received a parking fine, and challenged it, unsuccessfully. She tried to pay £40 online but APCOA collected £80 instead.
When she complained to the council, she was wrongly told the council had no jurisdiction over the car park as it was being managed by APCOA. She then went back to APCOA, but her complaint was instead treated as an appeal and was rejected.
The Ombudsman’s investigation has found APCOA at fault for trying to enforce parking charges without giving customers reasonable means to pay. It also found fault with the way APCOA charged too much for the ticket, and for the way it dealt with her subsequent complaint.
The Ombudsman found APCOA was using the wrong process for enforcing the penalty, which denied motorists the right to challenge them in court. Although the woman was not personally affected by this it potentially affects others using car parks in this area.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman yesterday said:
“Councils can contract out services, but they cannot contract out responsibility for those services. If we find fault with a council’s contractor it is the council’s responsibility to ensure things are put right.
“On balance, it appears APCOA was not complying with the law when it enforced the charge notice. This may have wide-reaching consequences for others using car parks in its area.
“I welcome the steps the council is now taking to improve its services and the way it works with APCOA, to address the issues we’ve raised.”
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the woman and pay her £100 for the avoidable frustration and distress.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will issue guidance to staff dealing with customer enquiries and concerns on how to respond appropriately to questions involving all operators acting on its behalf.
It will also review with APCOA the processes for accepting payment when a ticket machine is not working and review its processes for enforcing Excess Charge Notices to ensure it is using the correct process.
Latest News from
Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill laid in Parliament05/12/2016 12:37:21
A new complaints body will provide the public with greater confidence that their voices have been heard.
Homeless Haringey family left in bed and breakfast accommodation because of council errors09/07/2020 14:15:00
A Haringey mother of six has been living in bed and breakfast accommodation since February 2020 because her local council did not do enough to prevent her from becoming homeless, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
Norfolk council agrees to rigorous scrutiny of services for children with Special Educational Needs03/07/2020 09:15:00
Councillors in Norfolk will be provided with regular detailed analysis of the county council’s special educational needs services following a critical Ombudsman report.
The UK’s national Ombudsman calls on Government to learn from Covid-19 mistakes02/07/2020 14:15:00
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) is calling on the UK Government to give clarity about its plans for a robust and independent lessons-learned exercise into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ombudsman to resume taking new complaints online26/06/2020 16:38:00
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman will be resuming all existing casework and taking on new complaints through its website from next week (29th).
Ombudsman criticises Warwick planners following loss of bat habitat26/06/2020 14:15:00
Warwick District Council is to pay a local wildlife group £1,000 and provide new hibernation boxes for bats after it failed to properly consider the impact a development might have on local wildlife when it approved a planning application, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.
Ombudsman issues guidance to councils and care providers05/05/2020 09:15:00
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman yesterday (Monday) issued guidance to those working for local authorities and care providers about good administrative practice and handling complaints during the Covid-19 crisis.
LGSCO suspends complaints enquiries of councils and care providers27/03/2020 09:15:00
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has suspended all casework activity that demands information from, or action by, local authorities and care providers, in light of the current Coronavirus outbreak.
Trafford Council agrees to review way it monitors missed bin collections following Ombudsman investigation20/03/2020 14:10:00
Trafford Council will now change the way it investigates missed bin collections after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman upheld a number of complaints about the authority.