A major blunder involving a parking dispensation scheme will leave Devon County Council out of pocket by a whopping £85,000, Devon Live can exclusively reveal.
The authority has been, since September 21 2015, incorrectly charging drivers a further £5 over and above the application fee for daily dispensations permits.
It is an embarrassing and serious gaffe for the county authority, and now they will have to reimburse every driver affected.
Dispensation permits are primarily purchased by tradespeople, as they give drivers permission to park in restricted areas across Devon and reduce the need to book for each site where they are parking.
It was such a controversial order that it took three years to even implement it.
A Devon County Council spokesman said: "After reviewing the charges applied to our dispensation service, we agree this needs to be changed and we have already adjusted charges to customers as an interim measure.
"Refunds will be offered as new measures are put in place for an appropriate and compliant charging mechanism.
A car parking meter
"Existing customers will be notified in due course of changes and offer of a refund, and our web pages will be updated throughout the process."
According to the county council the blunder was not unlawful because 'the charging structure was embodied in a Traffic Regulation that wasn't challenged.'
Cllr Stuart Hughes, Cabinet Member for Highways Management, admitted the authority also forked out more than £2,000 seeking advice from a barrister about their position on the matter, which was received on July 7 2017.
Cllr Percy Prowse said: “This is the fullest and frankest admission of wrongdoing by the council in relation to my favourite topic; parking and parking tickets.
“The dispensation scheme was controversial as far as the nine objecting county councillor in 2011 were concerned, there was absolutely no evidence of abuse.
“You would have thought they would have taken legal advice for what they could not charge. Yes it is valid because no one pointed it out within six weeks, but it is legally flawed."
“Re advertising the order is going to have massive cost, this is for the whole of Devon. That’s the bit that grips me.”
Cllr Prowse believes that, as most of them tradesmen and tradeswomen have paid with credit cards, it should be an automatic refund.
The dispensation scheme does not cover Torbay or Plymouth, as they operate their own schemes.
If you have been affected by the mistake, and are owed money, Devon County Council intend to offer further information as to how you can reclaim your money in due course.
[I recently had reason to visit Devon County Council’s website. While viewing the site I noticed that Devon County Council impose a charge of £5 per day and a £5 administration charge upon those applicants requiring a dispensation notice to park in limited waiting or loading only bays. These charges are unlawful.
On street limited waiting and loading only parking bays are created and regulated
via the powers provided under sections 32 and 35 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act
1984. There is no power under these sections for Devon County Council to charge
as they do. There is also no power under The Local Authorities (Transport Charges)
Regulations 1998 to impose dispensation charges in relation to limited waiting and
loading only parking bays.
I also noticed that Devon County Council impose a daily £5 charge in relation to
parking on yellow lines. Section 4 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 makes it
possible for Devon County Council to issue dispensation notices permitting cars to
park on yellow lines. There is however, no power within the Act to charge for these
dispensation notices. The power to charge comes from The Local Authorities
(Transport Charges) Regulations 1998 and it says the charge is for.]