Friday, 20 July 2018

Drivers to be chased for £1,000 in fines

DRIVERS who fail to pay parking fines will be pursued by Henley Town Council.

DRIVERS who fail to pay parking fines will be pursued by Henley Town Council.

The council wants to recoup about £1,000 in unpaid fines from excess charge notices for parking offences at Mill Meadows car park.

Speaking at a meeting of the Mill Meadows and river sub-committee, Mayor Martin Akehurst said: “I would strongly suggest we do pursue these people.

“Once you get a reputation for not following up outstanding car parking charges you’re going to get more of them.

“I think we should pursue it if only as a gesture to the council taxpayers. At the end of the day they pick up the bill for it.”

Deputy Mayor Jeni Wood said: “I don’t think we’re being heavy handed — why should some people pay and some not for goodness’ sake? I propose that we follow this through to the bitter end.”

Councillor David Clenshaw suggested wiping off the debt, saying it was a small amount compared with the effort required to collect it. “I don’t think there’s any point flogging a dead horse going after these debts,” he said.

The meeting heard that the rate of success in securing payments of excess charge notices had declined for the third year in a row. The rate in 2013/14 was 51 per cent, compared with 63 per cent in 2012/13 and 69 per cent in 2011/12.

A report to the committee said the main reason for the most recent dip was that the debt collector used by the council’s contractor, Vinci Park Services UK, had gone out of business and a successor, ZZPS, wasn’t appointed until November. It continued: “ZZPS have been instructed to pursue all cases since their appointment and a refund is to be given by Vinci to Henley Town Council for administration charges on those cases as recognition of the interruption in their service to the council. They have apologised.

“The amount that could be reasonably be expected from Vinci taking further action would be no more than £1,000.

“There could be adverse publicity regarding heavy-handedness and, as time goes on, the likelihood of a successful outcome diminishes due to offenders moving, becoming insolvent etc. Vinci are establishing whether there are persistent offenders in which case a compromise could be to target these debtors as a priority but to leave the others.”

The committee agreed to pursue the unpaid charges dating from January 2013 and to ask Vinci to repay the council’s fee.

The council is also considering allowing drivers to pay by phone as well as using the meters in the car park.

Councillor Elizabeth Hodgkin said this was an excellent idea as she had witnessed people struggling to find the correct change or understand the meter instructions. The council has also been investigating the possibility of using hand-held devices that issue excess charge notices, take photographs of the offending vehicle and send the details immediately via the internet to Vinci.

However, these machines can only issue one value of charge whereas the council has several charge values depending on the severity of the offence and believes a single rate would be inappropriate.

Meanwhile, the council is to continue hiring out deckchairs from the visitor kiosk at the pavilion in Mill Meadows despite making a loss on them in the first year.

It spent £2,000 on the 50 green and white chairs in 2013 and it was hoped to make the money back in the first year by charging a flat rate of £2 and a £10 deposit.

However, the chairs were rented out only a handful of times and made just £50.

A report by the committee said: “Although the deckchairs are popular with the public, there is a reluctance to pay for them, unlike hiring a deckchair on the beach.

“This may be because visitors tend not to stay for long periods of time and feel that a £2 charge is not value for money, whereas on a beach people often stay for a few hours, if not all day.”

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