York Council took £1.85 million in bus lane fines

A Freedom of information response has revealed that the York Council has received £1.85 million in fines income from motorists misusing “bus lanes”.Camera

Most of the income was generated on Lendal Bridge and Coppergate.

The enforcement cameras have since been switched off at both locations and the Council is engaged in the costly exercise of writing, to all who were fined on Lendal Bridge, offering a refund. (A further FOI request for a progress report on the numbers responding is due at the end of the month).

The Council has not yet refunded fines imposed on Coppergate but instead submitted an appeal against a traffic adjudicator’s judgement that the fines were unlawful.

The appeal process has been dragging on for over a year now.

£1.85 million in fines

27,000 letters issued on Lendal Bridge fine repayment. Coppergate ANPR cameras to be switched back on?

Nearly 12 months after the unlawful Lendal Bridge trial closure resulted in over £1 million in fines being levied, motorists will now be told they can have their money back.

Lendal bridge without traffic

Lendal bridge without traffic

Anyone who received a Penalty Charge Notice (PCNs) in relation to Lendal Bridge and has not yet completed the online repayment process is being sent a letter to inform them of the refund.

The decision was forced on the Council when Labour lost their majority in the autumn. The Council is in the process of writing to 27,000 people who have not currently claimed their PCN repayment.

Letters have been sent to their last known address and are expected to be fully distributed in the coming weeks.
They include information on the refund process as well as notifying them that the deadline of the online process for Lendal Bridge repayments has been extended to 31 December 2015.

If the PCN was issued directly to the registered keeper of the vehicle then they will be able to complete the online refund process. If a company or hire company paid the penalty charge and then sought reimbursement from the person, or passed it to them for payment, they will need to speak to their employer or vehicle hire company as they will need to make complete the online refund process.

For more information about Lendal Bridge repayments, including full FAQs and background information visit:www.york.gov.uk/lendalbridge

The council will assist anyone in person in the council’s West Offices or over the phone (01904 551550) to help them through the process if they have no access to the internet.#

Coppergate

Coppergate

Coppergate

A final decision on the legality of the fines levied using cameras on Coppergate is expected within the next few weeks.

The Council has indicated that it intends to switch the ANPR cameras back on if their appeal against the unlawful ruling (which also applied to Coppergate) is upheld.

Labour have budgeted to receive £100,000 from new Coppergate fine income during the forthcoming financial year.

York Council heading for £1.3 million overspend?

A report being considered next week suggests that the York Council could over spend its budget this year by £1.3 million.

Coppergate - York Council failure, to win appeal against unlawful fines issue, could plunge it into a financial crisis

Coppergate – York Council failure, to win appeal against unlawful fines issue, could plunge it into a financial crisis

The – much delayed – half year report does not include any deficit which may arise from outstanding issues on the Coppergate/Lendal bridge fine refund policy.

Other areas of concern identified in the report include

  • Waste There is a forecast overspend of £98k due to lower than budgeted income from commercial waste, £100k shortfall in income from garden waste subscription, £100k due to the forecast shortfall in dividend from Yorwaste and £233k pressure at Household Waste and Recycling Centres primarily due to lower than expected income from charges
  • Car Parking There is a continued shortfall from parking income (£408k) and “ongoing monitoring will be required to assess the impact of the current parking initiatives, including the charges for Minster Badges, the free parking introduced in late June and pay-on-exit at Marygate”.
  • Social Care There is a significant projected overspend of £864k within the Elderly Persons Homes budgets.

A separate report identifies problems with the Councils capital investment programme.

Failure to move ahead with the reuse of the Guildhall means that £350,000 of “critical” repairs will now be needed.

And a major problem is arising with the Councils existing Elderly Persons Homes. These were supposed to have closed by now having been replaced by the new care village at Lowfields. But that project is 3 years behind schedule and the existing buildings will need to be patched up at a cost of £500,000!

 The report ominously warns “existing EPH’s are currently in need of renovation, some aspects of which are threatening their ability to pass Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection”.

True economic impact of Lendal bridge fiasco emerging

City centre  footfall up 60% compared to last August

increase-footfall-retail

The York Council delayed responding to a Freedom of information request until just 5 minutes after a key Lendal Bridge decision was taken yesterday.

After the meeting had concluded it emerged that the effect of the closure on City Centre businesses last year had been more substantial than had previously been revealed.

The Lendal Bridge restrictions were in place from 27th August 2013 to 1st April 2014.

Camera enforcement on Coppergate started on 15th August 2013

During the earlier part of the restriction period footfall – measured by a camera in Parliament Street – showed a significant decline peaking at -12% during September.

The situation improved only during March when a 14% increase was recorded comparing  2014 with 2013.

However, since the camera enforcement was stopped on 1st April 2014, visitor numbers have soared.

    • April 2014 up 29% on previous year
    • May 2014 up 21%
    • June 2014 up 25%
    • July 2015 up 33%
  • Aug (to 25th) up 60%

These figures are far higher than might be accounted for solely by the economic recovery.

Fortunately they do seem to suggest that the City’s reputation has not been permanently damaged.

A failure by the Council to refund all fines which were imposed unlawfully could change that picture.

The failure to provide information in a timely way – and prevent some Councillors from seeing key legal advice on the Lendal Bridge issue – may lead to the York Council Leadership being reported to the Local Government Ombudsman

Lendal Bridge refunds – Council “don’t call us” statement

The Council has issued the following statement.  Refund_Stamp

It is incorrect as the Council hasn’t yet decided to offer refunds on Lendal bridge fines. At this stage it is merely a proposal from Cllr Levene.

No date has been set for the issue to be formally considered by any of the Council’s decision taking bodies.

The Council statement reads,

The Council has decided to refund people who received a fine during the trial traffic regulation of Lendal Bridge, those who appealed to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal will receive payment from the Council and need take no further action. A refund will be made in all other cases provided a request is made through the council application process. This is due to the clear level of public concern during the trial. It is hoped that this can be seen as a statement of goodwill and we are drawing a line under the matter.

In order to protect the Council against the risk from fraudulent claims a simple application process is currently in development and it is anticipated that this will be launched in the near future. An announcement as to the opening of the application process will be made through the Council website and the Council’s normal communication channels.

Whilst we appreciate that those affected by this process will wish to make their application at the earliest possible date, refunds will only be made when requests are made through the official application process and contacting the Council prior to the opening of the process will not be necessary or assist your claim.

 

Coalition government gives York £1 million to improve transport

Lendal Bridge recriminations continue

Lendal bridge without traffic

Lendal bridge without traffic

York been awarded a further £1million by the Department for Transport as a dispute about who paid for the Lendal Bridge trial has surfaced.

Refund decision- who decides and when?

None of the Council’s decision making bodies has considered a proposal to repay Lendal Bridge fines. It is merely a proposal to creep out for a “behind closed doors” meeting of the Labour Group.  It is a key decision but does not appear in the Councils forward plan.  The last time the Council considered the issue Labour Councillors combined to vote down a request for an independent scrutiny review of the failings of, and lessons to be learned from, the Lendal and Coppergate trials.

Now a decision date will have to be set and a report on the methodology – and costs – of setting up a refund system will have to be written and published. The ultimate success of a proposal to repay fines is not in doubt, as both Opposition parties (LibDem and Tory) have previously called for the refunds to be made. There is considerable doubt, though, about when such payments might start and what paperwork vehicle owners may be expected to complete.

How much did it cost and who pays?

The present government allows Local Authorities a large measure of devolution on transport spending priorities and last year the Councils Labour Leadership chose to spend some grant money on access restriction hardware (such as ANPR cameras).

This totalled around £100,000 and is money that has now effectively been lost. The latest grant allocation (see below) was made before the York Council made its announcement about refunding Lendal Bridge fines, so it remains to be seen whether the fiasco will adversely impact on future transport funding allocations for the City.

The vast majority of the costs of the Lendal Bridge and Coppergate schemes were funded by fine income. The detail was reported to the Cabinet earlier in the month Click here for report Para 23 makes it clear that £1.756 million in fine income had been received by the end of March. Administrative costs were £718,000. In the main, those were the costs of enforcement and processing the FPNs. The Council has never revealed how much it was charged by the Peterborough based company that it used to process the  fine notifications.

LTP3 – What did it say?

Some commentators are also claiming the the Local Transport Plan (LTP3), submitted to government in 2010 when the Council was LibDem led, somehow prompted the Lendal Bridge access restriction trial. The plan can still be viewed on the Council’s web site click here

The Plan does suggest a trial which would have given public transport priority on Ouse Bridge (not Lendal Bridge) in the medium term (2019). However that was conditional on other network improvements being completed – notably to to the northern by pass and to Park and Ride facilities –  in the interim. The Labour Leadership must accept full responsibility for trying to bounce an ill considered Lendal Bridge scheme,  onto an unsuspecting public, before even the two new Park and Ride sites had been completed.

£1 million more from Government

We hope that the Council will get back to basics and ensure that there is full public discussion of their plans for the use of this money. They have gone backwards recently with the removal of card payment options at the Maygate car park, travellers can no longer look on the web to see which car parks are full and on street visual display boards are often not working.

Well used sub-urban bus stops still don’t have real time “next bus arriving” screens yet.

All are issues that need addressing before anymore money is squandered on “vanity” projects
(more…)

York Council to repay Lendal Bridge Fines

 

Coppergate fines stand – for now

Lendal bridge notice

In an amazing U turn – before even the results of their appeal against the traffic adjudicator ruling have been revealed – the York Council’s Labour Leadership has announced that they will refund  over £1 million in fines levied against motorists who used Lendal Bridge during the ill fated access restriction trial.

They have yet to submit the proposal to a formal Council decision meeting.

The Council have already spent over £700,000 – of the £1.8 million fine income that it raised from Lendal Bridge and Coppergate – on administering the trial, so taxpayers are in for a hefty hit.

The Council only broke even on its budget during the last financial year because of the ANPR camera bonanza.

The failed experiment ultimately led to the demotion of Labour Councillor Dave Merrett, although he still holds a £20,000 a year Cabinet job.

Residents will now be looking at the future of Council leader James Alexander who bears ultimate responsibility for the financial  and organisational disaster.

The Council have not said how motorists will be able to claim a rebate.

There is a suspicion that visitors – particularly those from overseas – may never hear about the change of heart. They may continue to be out of pocket as a result of the Councils unlawful actions.

Last month Labour Councillor Stephen Burton (Westfield) led an attempt to block plans to have an independent inquiry into the fiasco.

When unveiled a year ago, Liberal Democrats opposed the trial saying that it was badly timed and poorly executed.

In September 2013 (after only a few weeks of the trial) Liberal Democrats called for it to be abandoned against a background of huge enforcement issues.

If the Council had accepted then that they had made a major mistake, taxpayers would not now be facing a £1million bill.

The Council statement comes only 2 days after a Liberal Democrat Councillor tabled the following question for next Thursdays Council meeting.

(xxxiii)             To the Cabinet Member for Transport from CllrAspden: “ Would the Cabinet member confirm the number of Fixed Penalty Notices issued for breaches of the access restrictions on Coppergate since 1st April 2014 and would he confirm that no action is currently being taken to enforce the restrictions?”

The Council was also finally set to discuss a motion submitted 4 months ago by Cllr Ann Reid which read,

To deal with the following Lendal Bridge notice of motion referred back to Council by Cabinet,  from its meeting on 6 May 2014, after consideration of the evaluation of the trial. A copy of the Cabinet report and minute are attached as Annexes 1 and 2 (Annexes A to G of this report are available online only).

(i)        From Cllr Reid

“Council notes the report in The Press on 27th February which revealed important facts about the Lendal Bridge closure.

Council further notes that:

  1. The Labour Cabinet’s six-month trial closure of Lendal Bridge should have finished at the end of February
  2. The closure has brought widespread criticism from local residents, business owners, tourists and tourist groups
  3. Negative media and social media coverage has been generated to the detriment of our city
  4. The closure has failed to significantly improve overall bus journey times
  5. Traffic displaced by the closure has caused increased congestion elsewhere in the city e.g. Foss Islands Road and Water End at Clifton Bridge
  6. Officers have admitted that the trial closure has had little impact on overall air quality
  7. The Labour Cabinet Member responsible has admitted that the signage at the start of the trial was “very confusing”
  8. Around 45,000 motorists have received fines for crossing the bridge.

Council therefore resolves to ask Cabinet to:

  1. immediately end the trial closure of Lendal Bridge
  2. publicly admit that the trial has been botched and to apologise for this
  3. immediately publish the raw data on the trial ahead of their detailed evaluation report
  4. commit to consulting with residents and local businesses before bringing forward any future plans for Lendal Bridge.”

It seems, that with many Labour Councillors now deserting a sinking ship, the Leadership has decided to try to find a lifeboat of its own!

 

 

Lendal Bridge and Coppergate – York Council stopped issuing fine notices at the end of March

Coppergate restrictions still not being enforced

ANPR fine notices issued Click to access

ANPR fine notices issued Click to access

A Freedom of Information response has revealed that the York Council stopped issuing Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) – using its ANPR camera information – on 30th March 2014.

That is a week earlier than they admitted in the media at the time.

The figures cast doubts on the claims being made by Labour Councillors early in April when they said the controversial restrictions were still being enforced.

A few days later, senior Council officials clamed that the number of notices issued had been “scaled back” but declined to say by how much or in what way.

In reality it seems that the camera enforcement was abandoned even before the Lendal Bridge restrictions were formally jettisoned on 12th April.

The situation on Coppergate appears to be different, at least  in so far as the restrictions remain in place.

However no PCNs have been issued on Coppergate for over 6 weeks.

Contrary to claims made in the media (that the number of drivers ignoring the restrictions was reducing), the latest figures reveal that during March around 50 motorists a day were still being fined on Coppergate.

Things were little better on Lendal Bridge where 2135 motorists were caught on camera during March alone.

The Lendal Bridge trial closure had been due to conclude at the end of February and the Labour Council leadership was heavily criticised for not suspending camera enforcement until the results of the trial had been assessed.

In total 74,000 transgressions had been identified by the cameras before they were abandoned at the end of March.

Coppergate

Coppergate

The Council is now awaiting the results of its appeal against the Traffic Adjudicators ruling that both sets of restrictions were unlawful.  If the Council fails to win, then it could face costs of over £1 million with many drivers likely to seek the return of unlawfully imposed fines.

The Appeal could take several more weeks to be concluded.

An Inquiry into the collapse of the whole project is expected to start in the summer using the Council’s “scrutiny” mechanisms.

Although the camera evidence is no longer being used on Coppergate, the restrictions there could – in theory – be enforced by a uniformed police officer.

Lendal Bodge – the unanswered questions

Lendal bridge - always been busy at 5;00pm

Lendal bridge – always been busy at 5;00pm

No matter how much Labour may spin their decision to scrap the access restrictions on Lendal bridge they still have a lot of questions to answer.

Around 80,000 motorists want to know when their unlawfully imposed fines will now be refunded?

Residents will want to know why the ANPR cameras were not turned off at the end of the trial period (28th February) ?

Why has there has been no announcement on the future of the Coppergate restrictions?

Who will take responsibility for the mistakes?

The Lendal Bridge restrictions will be removed this weekend.

Labour Councillors have made the decision tonight based on a report that has so far not been made public.

An all party inquiry into the shambles is promised.

It is also worth remembering the warnings that were given last summer and which Labour chose to ignore.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Keith Aspden commented;

“Labour were left with no choice but to reopen Lendal Bridge after the ruling from the Government Adjudicator last week. Even so this is an embarrassing U-Turn from a Labour Cabinet which has insisted all along that the closure is lawful and the restrictions were working.

 “It was a botched trial from the start which has made congestion worse and damaged local businesses. It is now time for the Cabinet Member and Leader to take responsibility and resign.

 “We also need urgent answers over whether the council will continue to use taxpayers money to fund its legal battle and whether it plans to repay the 53,000 plus motorists who were fined unlawfully.”