Council faces huge refund bill for ‘illegal fines’

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A legal ruling could mean millions of pounds worth of council parking fines are refunded to Scarborough’s drivers.

It has been claimed the vast majority of street signs across North Yorkshire are wrong, after a parking ticket appeal was upheld on the grounds the correct signage wasn’t in place.

The adjudication could open the floodgates for anybody issued a parking ticket in the last 12 years to claim a refund from cash-strapped North Yorkshire County Council.

“This really is an early Christmas present for Scarborough’s drivers,” said UKIP county councillor Sam Cross.

The ruling was made in a case brought by Candler Street resident Tim Thorne, who disputed two tickets issued in April for not having a valid disc displayed.

But a traffic penalty tribunal ruled the tickets were “unenforceable” as there isn’t a controlled parking zone sign at the street’s entry point.

Mr Thorne claims the problem of incorrect street signage is widespread – and could cost the county council a fortune.

“All of Scarborough is affected,” said Mr Thorne.

The problem is restricted solely to on-street parking zones, where a parking disc is required.

However, the ruling could also mean all residential permits paid for since the signage came into play in 2003 were needless – and could be refunded.

According to figures obtained through the Freedom of Information act, the bill for permits could easily run into millions itself.

Last year Scarborough Council raked in over £309,000 through on-street permits, a figure which has remained consistent since at least 2010.

The Scarborough News asked for further figures, including how many fines have been issued in the last 12 years, but we have not had a response.

However, an RAC report highlighted this week shows the council amassed over £3.5m in profit through on and off-street fines last year.

The complicated nature of local parking enforcement means that Scarborough Council administers parking in the town on behalf of the county council, which is understood to be the authority that would pick up a potential refund tab.

Yet Mr Thorne said the potentially costly gaffe could have easily been avoided.

“They didn’t consult the right people when they implemented it,” he added.

“Potentially, there was no consultation with residents, so they’d need to consult street by street to do it properly.

“My guess would be that the council will fight this, which makes it even more costly.”

North Yorkshire County Council says it will fight the ruling, stating: “We are currently reviewing the adjudication, so it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage.”

However, as they fight the ruling the signage issues have still not been amended.

Mr Thorne believes this in itself will cost the authority a small fortune, and would be an admission of guilt.

And Cllr Cross added: “When these council officers are paid so much money, they should be getting this right but instead it looks like it could end up costing the taxpayer even more.” See also page 10.