BOURNEMOUTH parking attendants have issued more than £200,000 worth of illegal parking tickets in the last five years, it has been revealed.

The shocking figure represents 6,703 parking fines that the town hall has now admitted have been issued in error since 2001.

All £200,000 worth were cancelled before motorists paid up and a further £26,000 in fines have since been refunded.

The information emerged after the Daily Echo revealed that some drivers had been receiving tickets even where parking restrictions were not backed up by a proper traffic regulation order (TRO).

The amounts were revealed in a council statement prepared by officers and given to council leader Cllr Richard Smith to read out at Tuesday's full council meeting.

But Cllr Smith omitted to disclose the figures when answering a question posed by opposition Cllr Nick King and the Daily Echo is only today able to reveal them because Cllr Ron Whittaker obtained a written copy of the full statement.

Cllr Smith later told the Echo he omitted this information because it was given to him at late notice and he had no way of checking whether the figures were correct or not.

"I don't know how they calculated that figure. Someone passed me that information at a late point before the meeting," he said.

"It raised more questions that it answered. I felt it was information that didn't actually address the question that was being asked."

But he defended the council's actions and insisted: "If people choose to park on double yellow lines then they take a risk and it's not just a risk of a penalty charge notice. They are also putting other people at risk.

"We are talking about a small percentage of TROs that had a technical detail incorrect."

He said the allegation made at an employment tribunal that wardens were told to issue tickets unlawfully was "unacceptable" and said the identified discrepancies were a result of human error and "nothing more sinister".

But Cllr Stephen MacLoughlin, leader of the opposition Conservatives, slammed Cllr Smith for omitting to disclose the figures.

"It seems another indication that he's more interested in covering it up and minimising a serious issue than actually addressing it," he said.

"He's spinning a story when what he should be doing is taking a serious attitude both in terms of the unlawful notices and also the issues of bullying. On both these things at the moment, I feel he's failing."

And Cllr Nick King, who had asked for an estimate of how many tickets had been incorrectly issued, said he was disappointed with the answer.

"The answer I got was If people see yellow lines on the road, they shouldn't be parking there, regardless of whether the lines are legal or not.' "But that's a different issue. The fact is people were charged parking fines unlawfully."

Horsey Lightly Fynn solicitor Tim Driver, who is experienced in parking legislation, said he was surprised that a council which has been issuing TROs for many years had admitted making so many errors.

"It's quite correct that if a person parks where they shouldn't park they either pay up or they should appeal," he said.

"But the fact that an order wasn't properly made in one way or another, that the ticket shouldn't really have been put there in the first place, seems to be a very different and fundamental point."


Q. When did the council first identify these 6,703 errors and when did it start issuing refunds?
A. We did not suddenly discover a load of discrepancies on a specific date. Our parking attendants report defects they find in the course of their day-to-day work with other defects being identified as a result of investigating parking appeals or other issues relating to specific stretches of carriageway where restrictions apply. We have been cancelling PCNs against these criteria since September 2001.

Q. If the council has been aware for some time that there were discrepancies between signs or lines and the TROs, why have they only now carried out an audit?
A. Discrepancies in TROs and lines and signs are addressed on an on-going basis. The council's traffic group has completed two full consolidations of all 400 TROs in the period 2001 to date. The first review was in 2001 before the commencement of parking enforcement under council control and another in December 2004.

Q. Has the council in any instance cancelled PCNs and not refunded money to motorists?
A. Categorically no.

Q. How many tickets per year have been cancelled because of discrepancies?
A. The following figures show primarily a downward trend. 2001 666 (7.34 per cent of all PCNs issued), 2002 1762 (4.75 per cent), 2003 1727 (4.47 per cent), 2004 1074 (2.77 per cent), 2005 1067 (2.55 per cent) 2006 to date 407 (2.78 per cent)

Q. £200,000 worth of incorrect tickets in five years seems to be more than simple "human error". How does the council explain this high figure?
A. The figures provided above disprove that perception. You may also wish to consider that highway corridors are not a fixed entity. Highway maintenance, repairs, developments, utility companies, vandalism, theft and of course errors in physical descriptions all play their part in compromising TROs.

Q. Have any tickets been issued in Parsonage Road, Francis Road, Stewart Close or Norwich Avenue since these discrepancies were discovered?
A. No.

Q. How is it that 6,703 incorrect tickets could be issued on a handful of roads without the council realising the error?
A. This number is not in relation to a handful of roads, it's borough-wide over the past five years, commencing on September 3, 2001. From a parking enforcement perspective, errors in TROs may only become apparent because of some event that places a focus on that particular section of the highway.

Q. On roads where discrepancies have been identified, will lines be painted out or TROs amended?
A. They will be rectified via amending TROs or adjusting/replacing lines and signs. In concluding we would also wish to add that TROs exist to enable traffic management through minimising congestion, providing kerb space management and contributing to road safety. They are not a measure to penalise or inconvenience anyone.