Millions of parking tickets are being issued illegally all over the UK, according to a leading expert.
Chris Leithead, ex-head of the Metropolitan police traffic division and a traffic consultant who advises councils on parking, said local authorities were issuing parking tickets in areas where signs were unlawful.
He said he had witnessed this in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Bath and was "absolutely certain" it was happening in many other areas.
Defective signs he has identified include:
- Signs more than 60 metres apart, or simply missing.
- Road markings, such as parking bays and yellow lines, so worn they can barely be made out.
- Double yellow lines with no T-bar to show the end of the no parking restriction.
- "Swivel" signs that change restrictions without warning.
- Signs that are unclear or ambiguous.
Mr Leithead, who has advised councils all over the UK on the introduction of decriminalised parking enforcement, said: "We are talking about millions of tickets that have been issued unlawfully.
"Councils are taking advantage of the fact that most motorists do not know the signs are unlawful and that, even if they have concerns, they will just pay up to get it out of the way.
"But drivers should not be given those tickets in the first place."
His comments followed The Sunday Telegraph's disclosure last week Ã¢â‚¬â€œ confirmed in leaked emails Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that Exeter city council had told traffic attendants to keep on issuing tickets even after they had pointed out that parking signs and bays were unclear or wrong.
Council parking controls have to be enshrined in bylaws, called Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs). The signs and markings used to impose the restrictions have to be displayed and painted according to Department for Transport instructions before tickets can be issued, with only "minor deviations" allowed.
But Mr Leithead said there nobody checked whether councils were complying with the regulations Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and many were flouting them openly as a way of raising revenue.
"This is not traffic management," he said. "If councils were serious about wanting traffic to flow more freely we would see attendants giving out tickets to cars blocking buses and other vehicles on main roads.
"But too many of them are busy doling out tickets in quiet side streets where cars are not actually causing any problems and where signs are often unclear and unlawful."
A spokesman for the AA said: "When someone with Mr Leithead's inside knowledge and experience speaks out like this we should sit up and take notice.
"This confirms what we have long suspected ... that councils are exploiting motorists to boost their coffers."
Through his local MP, Tony Lloyd, Mr Leithead has lodged a complaint with the parliamentary ombudsman, accusing the Secretary of State for Transport of maladministration for failing to require local authorities to carry out their legal duties.
He decided to complain after working as a consultant for Bath and North East Somerset council in 2008 and discovering many of its TROs and signs were unlawful.
Two TROs, for example, contained contradictory controls for the same road with one decreeing that there should be parking bays and another saying there should be no waiting allowed by any vehicles.
When he told the council that it should not issue parking tickets in these areas until the errors were rectified he says officials ignored his advice and the Department of Transport failed to take any action against them.
In March this year Richard Buckley, head of the Department of Transport's traffic management division, replying to a letter from Mr Leithead, said the department had no "formal role" to manage councils' parking controls performance or to investigate allegations made against them.
If officials received evidence of council failings they would "advise" the authority to stop issuing tickets but the local authority would decide whether to take any action, he said.
It was up to local communities, media and campaign groups to hold local authorities to high standards, using "civil society and local democracy", Mr Buckley added.
Mr Leithead said the department's response was was "totally unacceptable" because "nobody is scrutinising councils' performance". He wants to see a national inspectorate set up to perform that role.
"The threat of the inspectorate would concentrate minds to make sure councils get it right in the first place," he said.
Mr Leithead, 69, a former police superintendent with a total of 45 years experience as an officer and traffic consultant, said that, unlike police-trained wardens, council parking attendants were not trained to recognise incorrect signs.
"Their managers should ensure that enforcement officers receive proper training so they can identify illegal signs and know not to give out tickets," he said.
"But instead they are being ordered to hand out tickets anyway.
"The Sunday Telegraph showed it was happening in Exeter, and I am absolutely certain that the problem is duplicated across other parts of the country. It's cynical, iniquitous and wrong."
Neil Herron, director of the Motorists Legal Challenge Fund, said: "As an influential police figure in the switching of traffic control powers to councils Mr Leithead is in a perfect position to see what is happening on the other side.
"What he is revealing is the deliberate abuse of council powers under the guise of traffic management. Many councils are out of control and beyond censure. A full investigation is needed to expose those councils that are breaking the law to impose a stealth tax."
A spokesman for Bath and North Somerset council said: "We are undertaking a project to make Traffic Regulation Orders more accessible and understandable to the public as part of our commitment to ensuring compliance with relevant legislation.
"If the council did discover any uncertainty over the validity of a Traffic Regulation Order, enforcement would be suspended until the ambiguity is cleared up."
THE WRONG WINDOW
A motorist was issued with a Ã‚Â£40 penalty charge notice because he stuck his pay-and-display ticket in a side window rather than the windscreen.
Peter Kirby, 78, had paid the right amount to park in Croydon, south London. He wrote to Croydon council, which waived the fine.
He said: "I don't believe the fine would have been enforceable in court as the ticket said 'Place on display in the windscreen' whereas the Penalty Charge Notice merely requires the ticket to be 'displayed clearly'."
A spokesman said: "The motorist provided evidence that on this occasion he had bought a valid pay and display ticket."
THE WRONG CAR PARK TICKET
A retired businessman was ordered to pay a Ã‚Â£60 penalty for using a Ã‚Â£6 day ticket, valid for long-stay car parks in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, in a car park which was short-stay-only during the summer.
Clive Dixon, 62, from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, said there were no signs informing motorists that the car park was for short stays only.
He appealed but Scarborough council refused to back down until Mr Dixon threatened legal action and produced photographs from every angle, proving there were no signs.
Eventually officials apologised and said a mistake had been made.
THE PHANTOM TICKET
When Peter Cook popped into his local butchers to buy sausages, he left his car on double yellow lines for a few minutes. He came back to find a parking attendant starting to issue a ticket.
"We had a brief exchange and she was trying to hold me in a conversation. I got in my car and drove off," he said.
Weeks later he received a letter demanding Ã‚Â£60 for the transgression on Chaucer Road, Gillingham.
Mr Cook, 52, a business consultant and author, told Medway council he had never received an initial ticket giving him the chance to pay at the discount rate of Ã‚Â£30.
The council replied with a statement from the parking attendant: "Ticket handed to driver at 10.53am".
The motorist disputed the attendant's account. Eventually the council agreed to waive the fine, saying the attendant may have forgotten what had happened.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-ra...
Those PHers who denigrate anything that appears in the Telegraph should refrain from posting, as it is undoubtedly a bunch of lies. :P