Councils urged to check their parking policies following Ombudsman investigation

Councils across England are being urged to ensure they are using the correct legislation to issue parking fines at country parks following a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation into Kent County Council.

The investigation was prompted after a motorist complained the council could not help him when he was issued with a penalty charge by a contractor at one of its country parks - Lullingstone Country Park.

The motorist said the contractor told him to pay the charge and then appeal, but he was then told by the contractor he had lost his right to an appeal because he had paid the charge.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found that because the car park was on public land, the council should have used a Traffic Regulation Order, under the Traffic Management Act 2004 to issue the charge. Instead the council wrongly thought it could make the charge under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, designed for private land, because the charge was being enforced by a private contractor.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“While councils have every right to charge people for parking at their country parks, and motorists can expect consequences for not paying, councils must ensure they are issuing any parking penalties under the correct process.

“I am pleased Kent County Council has agreed to the recommendations of my report, and would now urge councils across the country to check their own parking charges to ensure all their parking enforcement is lawful.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to pay the motorist £100 for the time and trouble.

It will also stop issuing parking penalties at Lullingstone Country Park and its other parks that use the same process until it has put appropriate arrangements in place.

Article date: 31 January 2019