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Hackney Council rakes in millions from parking penalties as internal document reveals how officers decide your appeal

PUBLISHED: 12:59 28 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:09 28 November 2019

Thousands of drivers in Hackney appealed against fines last year. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Images

Thousands of drivers in Hackney appealed against fines last year. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Images

PA Archive/PA Images

Penalty charge notices issued by Hackney Council skyrocketed in 2018/19 - but some of those who paid up might have been able to challenge them.

A ban on left turns from Richmond Road from Mare Street came into force last summer. Picture: Polly HancockA ban on left turns from Richmond Road from Mare Street came into force last summer. Picture: Polly Hancock

In the last financial year officers slapped motorists in Hackney with 163,120 PCNs, up 38 per cent from 118,171 the year before.

The council's revenue from these fines, which cost £40 to £130 depending on the offence, leapt from £6.8million to £9.1m.

The Gazette has obtained a policy document that shows for the first time how parking officers decide if an appeal against a PCN is valid.

It details a range of circumstances when a PCN could be contested - not all of which is on the online PCN disputes portal.

Aled Richards, the council's director of public realm, said: "Parking controls are there for a reason: they keep our streets accessible and help promote walking and cycling.

"We treat all motorists fairly, and help drivers wishing to challenge their PCN by explaining the grounds on which they can appeal and the evidence they need to provide.

"We consider any compelling mitigating circumstances on a case-by-case basis."

According to the document, some of the types of drivers that might be exempt and the proof they need to provide include:

More than 65,000 PCNs were issued to drivers of moving vehicles. Picture: Polly HancockMore than 65,000 PCNs were issued to drivers of moving vehicles. Picture: Polly Hancock

- Drivers who stopped for police, or to avoid an accident: a letter from police or emergency services.

- Drivers who were arrested, whose vehicles were then parked illegally by police: proof of arrest such as a warrant or release papers.

- Doctors, midwives and district nurses going to emergencies: a health emergency badge or other official proof to show it was urgent.

- Furniture removal van drivers, drivers loading and unloading goods or delivering parcels: a job sheet or delivery note.

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- Bankrupt drivers or liquidated companies: written proof from the liquidator or insolvency service.

- Drivers with Crohn's Disease or severe irritable bowel syndrome: a letter from GP or hospital that prove these or a similar condition.

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at insurer the RAC, said: "It is right that Hackney has a code of practice on appeals, but we cannot understand why this document, or a shortened version, isn't publicly available.

10,881 people were fined for driving in bus lanes in Hackney. Picture: Anthony Devlin10,881 people were fined for driving in bus lanes in Hackney. Picture: Anthony Devlin

"Clearly, the nature of appeals will differ so a 'one size fits all' approach will produce some very unfair results. A healthy dose of common sense is needed."

One Hackney driver, David Gowers, who has bladder and bowel problems not specifically named in the guidance, said the rules were too inflexible.

His son was slapped with a £130 PCN after turning left from Mare Street into Richmond Road so his father could get to the bathroom in a hurry.

Mr Gowers said: "We told the council why and they said 'Although we sympathise, we don't cancel tickets if someone has stopped to use the toilet.

The signage currently up in Mare Street, which the council says has helped reduce offending. Picture: Hackney CouncilThe signage currently up in Mare Street, which the council says has helped reduce offending. Picture: Hackney Council

"It's not right; I feel discriminated against. We went through the complaints process and it all stayed the same. I felt like they didn't believe a word I said."

The council said this would normally be a mitigating circumstance but "in this case, the driver made a banned turn, a more serious offence as it potentially places pedestrians and cyclists at risk", meaning the PCN was upheld.

The ban on left turns from Mare Street, in force since June 2018, is thought to be partly behind the huge rise in fines in 2018/19.

More than 65,000 PCNs were dished out for "moving traffic" compared to 26,000 in 2017/18, and the largest number were issued in Hackney Central.

In August 2018 the Gazette revealed that in one month alone, 4,589 drivers were hit with 6,596 fines for turning into Richmond Road between 7am and 10am, and 3pm and 7pm.Although the number of PCNs has jumped, the proportion of people who successfully appeal them has stayed the same, at just 7 per cent.

London Fields campaigner Mike Hood said the increase in PCNs being issued was "staggering". He added: "My concern is signage; by the time you see it it's too late. I think it's a poor show by the council and I still maintain it's unnecessary."

In response the council said it had installed timed illuminated signs and the number of drivers who received PCNs there was now 88 per cent lower than it was in June 2018, showing the changes made had worked.

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