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London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (21 011 863)

Category : Transport and highways > Parking and other penalties

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 09 Dec 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s handling of his challenges to a penalty charge notice. This is because the Council’s cancellation of the notice provides a suitable remedy and it is unlikely we would recommend anything more.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, Mr X, complains the Council failed to respond to his challenge to a penalty charge notice (PCN) for a bus lane contravention. He is also unhappy with the Council’s handling of his correspondence and his complaint.

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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 provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we are satisfied with the actions a council has taken or proposes to take. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(7), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Mr X and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. There is a set procedure councils must follow when issuing and pursuing PCNs for bus lane contraventions. When a council identifies a contravention it will issue a PCN to the owner/registered keeper by post. This will detail the amount of the fine and the motorist’s right of appeal, firstly to the council itself and then to a Tribunal. For the first 14 days after the PCN the motorist may pay at a discounted rate of 50% of the full fine. Some councils will allow informal representations at this stage.
  2. If the motorist does not pay the PCN or challenge it, or if their informal challenge is unsuccessful, the council will issue an enforcement notice. This provides the motorist an opportunity to make formal representations to the council against the PCN, or to pay penalty charge in full. If the Council rejects a motorist’s formal representations the motorist may appeal to the Tribunal.
  3. The Tribunal can consider appeals on the grounds the motorist was not the owner of the car at the time, there was no breach of the bus lane order, the driver did not have the owner’s consent to use the car, or the police are taking action. The Tribunal cannot consider appeals where the motorist accepts the contravention but believes the PCN should be quashed due to mitigating circumstances.
  4. Mr X submitted an informal challenge to the PCN explaining that the bus lane contravention was a mistake and would not happen again, but he did not receive a response. The Council says it rejected Mr X’s challenge and has provided a copy of the letter setting out its reasons. However the letter is undated and the Council confirms there is no way to show it with the correct date of issue. It has therefore agreed to cancel the PCN.
  5. The Council’s agreement provides a suitable remedy for the complaint and it is unlikely we would recommend anything more. While Mr X was put a small amount of additional time and trouble to chase the Council’s response this is not significant enough to warrant further investigation or a financial remedy.
  6. Mr X is also unhappy with the way the Council dealt with his complaint. But it is not a good use of public resources to look at the Council’s complaints handling if we are not going to look at the substantive issue complained about. We will not therefore investigate this issue separately.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because the Council has provided a suitable remedy for Mr X.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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