The local government resident-robbing machine is hard at work in the London Borough of Barnet.
The Evening Standard reports that a Judge in the High Court has ruled Barnet council acted unlawfully when it increased the cost of residents’ parking permits and visitor vouchers in controlled parking zones (CPZs) in order to raise revenue.
From the Standard’s piece there is a familiar story here. Residents in part of the borough are frustrated at parking problems in their streets caused by commuters trying to park close to the local London Underground station. So they get the council to agree to create a controlled parking zone in certain roads where residents and their visitors will have permits to park and everyone else gets a ticket or towed away – even though they also pay for a road fund licence and were entitled to park there.
To meet the administration costs, the council imposes an annual charge, which in this case back in 2001 was £20 per year for the first vehicle in each household and 35p for each visitor permit. After several years the council puts up the administration charge, in this case in 2006 to £40 for the first vehicle in each household and £1 for visitor permits. Doubtless Barnet feels the amount of administration of the CPZ scheme warranted such an increase.
But then, in the way councils do because they feel they can do what the hell they like, Barnet sought to turn these residents into official cash cows to subsidise other transport related matters the council wanted to spend money on. So in 2011 Barnet donned its balaclava mask, put on its black and white hooped sweatshirt, and took it upon its collective self to charge residents in the CPZ £100 for the first car in each household and £4 per visitor permit. As one resident, who unhelpfully for Barnet is a solicitor who does know a bit about the law, pointed out:
Simply holding a summer BBQ or a children’s party could cost £40 in parking charges. An elderly person enjoying regular visits from a relative could face an annual cost of £800.
Extrapolate that across the whole CPZ and you can see there is serious money being taken from residents for the council to spend as it sees fit.
However, it would seem Barnet Council’s solicitor is underused (not consulted) or overpaid (incompetent in the law), because the council did not have the power under the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act to charge local residents for parking in order to raise surplus revenue for other transport purposes! And that is what was held by Mrs Justice Lang in a rare example of the judiciary upholding residents’ complaints about the illegal behaviour of councils and their agents.
But, not content with having their kleptomaniac tendencies reined in by the High Court, Barnet is udderly determined to milk its unwitting cash cows and now intends to spend a significant sum of taxpayers’ money to appeal the case – so desperate are they to suck every drop they can from the taxpayers’ teat.
For the moment it seems at least one council that acts as a law unto itself has come unstuck. But this is just one example of what councils up and down the country are doing, blatantly ripping off and pressuring residents to part with ever larger sums in fees and charges to service its own agenda, without any consideration of the legality or the probity of their actions. We will watch with interest how the case pans out.