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Local Government Ombudsman decision.....PCN debt at £65..Council reject offer of £5 per month...Bailiffs wants £513

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This very recent Local Government Ombudsman's decision (released 10 days ago) is another one of importance.

 

In this particular case, a motorist had incurred a penalty charge notice from London Borough of Haringey for wrongful parking.

 

As the contravention was for parking as opposed to a CCTV contravention, she received a Penalty Charge Notice on her car advising that the charge was £130 but if she made payment within 14 days, she would be entitled to a 50% discount bringing the penalty down to £65. She told the council that she could not pay and offered to clear the debt over a 15 month period at £5 per month; the Council refused but offered here a further 14 days to pay at the reduced rate.

 

She refused to pay. A warrant of control has been issued and passed to bailiffs to enforce and the debt has risen from £65 to £513 (to include bailiff fees of £310).

 

PS: Please see the next post for a copy of the decision.

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https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/transport-and-highways/parking-and-other-penalties/17-013-451

 

 

London Borough of Haringey (17 013 451)

 

 

The complaint

 

1). The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mrs X, complains the Council refused to agree a payment plan for a penalty charge notice (PCN) at the initial discounted rate.

 

What I found

 

4). There is a set procedure councils must follow when pursuing PCNs and handling appeals against them.

 

5). If a council issues a PCN and the motorist does not pay or (through informal representations) provide grounds to cancel it, the council may send a ‘notice to owner’. Within 28 days the motorist must then either pay the charge or make formal representations against it. The council must respond to any formal representations within 56 days and in the event it rejects them the motorist may appeal to either the Traffic Penalty Tribunal (for PCNs issued outside London) or London Tribunals (for PCNs issued within London).

 

6). If the motorist does not pay or make formal representations the council will issue a charge certificate, increasing the amount payable by 50%. It may then apply to the Traffic Enforcement Centre (TEC) at Northampton County Court to register the debt, before instructing enforcement agents (bailiffs) to recover it.

 

7). In this case the Council issued Mrs X a PCN for a parking contravention in February 2017. The full amount of the penalty charge was £130 but for the first 14 days the Mrs X had the opportunity to pay at a discounted rate of £65. She says she could not afford to pay that amount in one go so asked the Council if it would accept £5 per month; the Council refused but offered Mrs X a further 14 days to pay at the reduced rate. When she did not, the Council progressed the case as set out above. It has now passed the case to its bailiffs to recover payment from Mrs X and the full amount owed is now £513. Mrs X complains about the Council’s refusal to agree a payment plan and about the addition of extra fees which she cannot afford to pay.

 

8). The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint as it is unlikely we would find fault. The Council issued Mrs X a PCN for parking in contravention of the rules and Mrs X has not formally appealed against it; she therefore seems to accept the contravention occurred. It is the responsibility of any motorist to comply with parking restrictions and to ensure that they can afford the cost of PCNs if they do not. Here the Council has followed the statutory process and allowed Mrs X additional time to pay at the initial discounted rate. Mrs X had opportunities to pay the PCN at £65, £130, £195, £203 and £278 before the bailiffs progressed the case to the enforcement stage which increased the amount owed to £513.

 

9). Although Mrs X has not seen the bailiffs instructed to recover her debt, she is aware the amount has increased to £513; it therefore appears the bailiffs may have missed Mrs X and left a letter at her property confirming the additional fee. The Ombudsman will not take this point forward as it is unlikely we could say this visit did not take place.

 

10). The Council is under no obligation to accept a request to pay by instalments in the initial stages and it is only where the Council receives full payment at some point in the process that it must cease further action. Now the debt has been registered and passed to the Council’s bailiffs Mrs X may be able to arrange a payment plan with the bailiffs directly. She may also explain her disabilities and ask that they accept her as a vulnerable debtor; the bailiffs would then have to ensure they take her circumstances into account when deciding how to pursue her for payment.

 

Final decision

 

11). The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint as it is unlikely we would find fault by the Council or that we could attribute the injustice Mrs X claims entirely to its actions.

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