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Southend-on-Sea City Council (20 012 368)

Category : Transport and highways > Parking and other penalties

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 26 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about a penalty charge notice issued by the Council. This is because it would have been reasonable for Mr X to appeal. The amount of Mr X’s claimed injustice is also not significant enough to warrant investigation.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, Mr X, complains about a penalty charge notice (PCN) issued by the Council. He challenged the PCN with the Council but it declined to cancel it. He therefore paid it at the discounted rate of £35.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

  1. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a tribunal. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
  2. The Traffic Penalty Tribunal considers parking and moving traffic offence appeals for all areas of England outside London.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I reviewed Mr X’s complaint, shared my draft decision with him and invited his comments.

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What I found

  1. There is a set procedure councils must follow when pursuing PCNs for parking contraventions and handling appeals against them. When a council issues a PCN the motorist has 28 days to pay the penalty charge or appeal; appeals at this stage are known as ‘informal challenges’.
  2. If the motorist submits an informal challenge to a PCN and the Council decides not to accept them, it will write to the motorist and explain why. If the motorist accepts the Council’s reasons they may pay the PCN; if not, they may wait for a ‘notice to owner’. This provides a further opportunity for the owner of the vehicle to pay the charge or make ‘formal representations’ against the PCN. If the council rejects the motorist’s formal representations the motorist may appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.
  3. The Council issued Mr X a PCN for parking on a double yellow line in December 2020. Mr X informally challenged the PCN but the Council declined to cancel it. Mr X asked the Council to reconsider but it confirmed its decision to refuse his challenge so he paid the fine at the discounted rate of £35.
  4. Had Mr X disagreed with the Council’s decision to refuse his challenge it would have been reasonable for him to wait for the notice to owner and appeal under the process set out above. We are not an appeal body and the amount of Mr X’s claimed injustice is not significant enough to warrant investigation.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because it would have been reasonable for Mr X to appeal.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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