York Council loses Coppergate fines appeal

Another £400,000 to be paid out to fined motoristsCamera

The traffic adjudicator has rejected the York Councils appeal over fines issued for breaches of the  Coppergate access restrictions.

It means that drivers who were caught and fined during the trial period (August 2013 – March 2014) on the route will be entitled to have the fines repaid.

It also puts paid to any idea that the Council may have of switching its spy cameras back on.

The Council may have a right of appeal to the High Court over the ruling but it seems unlikely that the new Councillors, who are due to be elected on 7th May, will pursue that costly option.

In total over £2 million was unlawfully taken  by the York Council in fines on Lendal Bridge and Coppergate.

Even when it was clear (after only 6 weeks) that the trial had gone badly wrong and should therefore be suspended, prominent Labour Councillor Dave Merrett refused to suspend the restrictions.

His chances of re-election on 7th May must now be fading along with the hopes of other Labour Cabinet members who also failed to act to end the scandal.

Both major opposition parties have promised a full public inquiry into the circumstances which led the Council to act unlawfully. Labour declined to hold such an inquiry when they were in office, with Green Councillors also voting against a probe for the truth.


Lendal Bridge “automatic” fine refund process revealed

Report published – administration to cost extra £150,000

The Council Cabinet will decide on 20th January how to implement the Councils decision to “automatically” refund those who were fined during the Lendal Bridge trial.

Lendal Man

So far 12,512 refunds have been issued by the Council.

The most likely course of action is that all 35,000 motorists, who have not yet claimed a refund, will be written to and advised of their opportunity to claim.

After that the process will be much the same as the scheme currently in operation.

The cost of sending out and managing the notification process is put at £150,000. The money will come from grant income which otherwise would have been spent on public services in the City.

In total the Council took around £1.8 million in fines from the Lendal bridge and Coppergate schemes. The Council continues to pursue a claim that the Coppergate fines were levied lawfully but their appeal has been outstanding for over 9 months now.

Additionally, over £700,000 was spent on implementing and administering the original schemes.

The Council is shying away from simply putting a cheque in the post to the registered vehicle keeper details that its agents have on file. They fear that many of the payments would not reach the right people (hire cars, parental cars, foreign tourists, deceased etc)  and Legal Counsel have said that such an option could jeopardise the Councils  Coppergate appeal.

All in all it now looks like the Lendal Bridge experiment will cost over £1 million.

That is money which could, and should, have been spent addressing road safety issues across the whole City.

Lendal Bridge meeting next week

The Cabinet member with responsibility for Transport (now Cllr Levene following Dave Merretts sacking last week) will be asked on Monday to sort out the continuing  Lendal Bridge refund crisis.

Although no background report has yet been published, it seems likely that the first step will be to scrap the 31st December deadline for the Council to receive refund requests.

Quite how the Council will “automatically” refund the remaining fines remains to be seen as does the result of the Council’s appeal against similar unlawful charges which were levied in Coppergate.

Lendal Bridge fines to be repaid “automatically”

The York Council has tonight finally agreed with the support of 42 Councillors (with 3 abstentions) to repay the fines that it imposed unlawfully on motorists using Lendal Bridge during the restricted access trial.

The proposal was tabled by Liberal Democrat Leader Keith Aspden

It is of course a decision which should have been taken in September 2013 when it became clear that the trial had failed.Lendal bridge notice

15 months later it will be too late for some.

Those who have in the interim died, those who have moved home, those who have changed bank accounts as well as many who live abroad, may even now not find the fines are as easy to obtain as many would hope.

However it is an end to part of the saga with any inquiry, into the irregularities that took place, likely now to have to wait until after the elections in May.

Attention will now turn to the appeal relating to the imposition of fines for the extended hours restrictions on Coppergate.

If that appeal by the Council, against the traffic adjudicator ruling, fails then the repercussions for taxpayers and/or local service standards could be considerable.

Landal Bridge – fine refund process not working

Only 5500 motorists have so far applied for repayment of the fines – unlawfully imposed by Labour – on drivers using Lendal Bridge during the closure trial which started in August 2013.

Lendal Man

This represents only a little over 10% of the total penalty notices issued.

Labour have set an arbitrary deadline of the end of December 2014 by which applications for refunds must be made.

The responsible Cabinet member claims not to know where the applications originated and the suspicion remains that tourists and other visitors to the City remain largely unaware that the refunds are available.

As we have said before, the reputational damage to York is irreversible but we believe that the new “balanced” Council must take immediate steps, to write to all these who were fined, telling them about the refund process.

It also seems reasonable to remove the deadline for applications.

With Labour having lost their overall Council majority they will no longer be able to block a public Inquiry into the actions that they took during the Lendal Bridge fiasco

Separately the Council has confirmed that its appeal against a parallel ruling on fines imposed on Coppergate, using similar signage and enforcement methods, has still not been heard.

Currently no enforcement action is taking place of the Coppergate access restrictions.

York Council labelled “Rotten Borough” by Private Eye

as “internet only” Lendal Bridge refund process announced

The York Council has said that drivers can apply for a refund of unlawful Lendal Bridge fines from Monday.

Private Eye 5th Sept 2014 click

Private Eye 5th Sept 2014 click

However they will only be able to do so “on line” and a deadline of the 31st December has been set for applications.

The Council has become the subject of national derision following its decision to pay refunds ……….but not to tell driver that they were available.

Even the national satirical magazine Private Eye has labelled the Council as a “Rotten Borough” putting it in the same category as the likes of Rotherham and Doncaster

With Council elections scheduled for next May, it is highly likely that Labour will lose control and either an incoming LibDem or Tory administration will restart the refund process.

But in the meantime it seems that the only option for those not on the internet will be a trip to the local library or West Offices itself.

Clearly the Council are banking on the inconvenience putting many motorists off bothering.

Recently the Council decided by 5 votes to 4 not to tell drivers of their entitlement, so motorists in many in other parts of the country – and abroad – are unlikely to hear of the refund scheme.

The Council, statement reads:

Labour reject calls to refund all Lendal Bridge fines

Labour reject calls to refund all Lendal Bridge finesLendal Bridge closure Nov 2013

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 (Westfield Ward) 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

Labour unite behind Cabinet flops

……as Labour vote down Acomb regeneration proposal

Labour managed to get enough of their members into the Council chamber tonight to avoid the ignominy of having two Council members sacked from their Cabinet positions.

Cllrs Alexander and Merrett had been widely blamed for the failure of the Lendal Bridge trial with the latter having promised to resign if the Councils action had been proven to be unlawful.

Opposition members pointed out that the withdrawal of the Councils appeal against the traffic adjudicators judgement was an admission of guilt.

Labour were however forced to admit that no decision on refunding fines had actually been taken and their spokesman would only say that a meeting to discuss the proposals would take place “shortly”.

Both the responsible Council member (Levene) in a TV interview, and an official Council Press release issued on Tuesday, had claimed that the “Council had decided to refund the Lendal Bridge fines”.

Both those claims have now been proved to be untrue.

Cllr Levene also said that he didn’t know how much it would cost to refund the Lendal Bridge fines.

Labour went on to vote down proposals to introduce an ambitious regeneration programme for the Acomb Front Street area.

Lendal Bridge fines to be refunded


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.

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.



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.