Labour have rejected Liberal Democrat calls for all motorists fined for crossing Lendal Bridge to be automatically refunded.
In July, Labour run York Council confirmed that it would drop its appeal against a Government Traffic Adjudicator ruling which said the Lendal Bridge closure was unlawful and would repay the 50,000 plus motorists fined. However, the Labour Cabinet decided that only those who contact the council and apply will get their money back.
Liberal Democrat councillors Keith Aspden, Ian Cuthbertson and Ann Reid called-in the decision for review saying that all motorists who received fines should automatically be contacted and then repaid, using the revenue from the fines currently ring-fenced in council reserves. The Lib Dems believe that the onus should not be on drivers to apply for their refund, especially as the majority of people who were caught out by the ban do not live in York.
However, tonight Labour used their majority on the cross-party Corporate and Scrutiny Management Committee to vote down the Liberal Democrat proposals and back the original decision by 5 votes to 4.
Cllr Burton who led the fight to stop an enquiry into the unlawful fines again toed the party line and voted not to tell motorists about the availability of refunds!
NB Important information that was apparently kept from the committee will be published here tomorrow
Speaking at the meeting Cllr Ann Reid, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Transport, said:
“We believe very strongly that all the fines levied during the botched trail should be repaid without the onus being on the motorist to apply for a refund. The majority of them don’t live in York and, indeed, a significant minority would have been foreign visitors. The council has all the names and addresses of those people who were issued with a fine and therefore should write to all of them.
“Now that the appeal to the Traffic Adjudicator has been dropped it must follow that the Labour Group has accepted his decision. He said that the method of enforcement was illegal and if there is no longer a challenge to this ruling, common sense says that all the fines must be repaid. If his ruling is accepted, however unwillingly, then there can be no justification for keeping any of the PCN fine money. Labour can’t have it both ways. A so-called “goodwill gesture” is not enough.”
Cllr Reid urged the Labour councillors to “reconsider this decision and try and repair some of the damage done to York’s reputation”.
Councillors Aspden, Cuthbertson and Reid called-in the Labour Cabinet’s decision for review by the Corporate and Scrutiny Management Committee (CSMC) for the following reasons:
The report and the recommendations put the onus on the motorist fined to contact the council and ‘appeal’ against their Penalty Charges Notices (PCN’s) in order to claim a refund.
Instead, we believe that the onus should be on the council to contact each motorist who has been fined. Many of them will live outside York (or even the UK) so will not have heard that they are entitled to their money back.
So every one of them should automatically be contacted by the council and refunded in full without question.
The fine income, which has been ring-fenced in reserves, should be used to repay the motorists. The repayment should also come with a formal apology from the council.
If the fines are not repaid automatically, this risks doing further reputational damage to York through an unclear individual repayment process, where some get their money back but others don’t.