Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Court of Appeal gives green light to legal challenge

The legal action to overturn Barnet's outrageous CPZ charges is back on track after the Court of Appeal overturned a deputy judge's earlier dismissal of the claim.  According to Lord Justice Richards's ruling, the case warrants "fuller consideration of the factual and legal issuesat a trial to take place later in the year. 

The case has, therefore, taken a vital and big step forwards.  Barnet Council now know that their actions will be scrutinised in Court after all.  Are they confident of success?  Well, documents disclosed last year under the Freedom of Information Act suggest that Barnet considered it "likely" that they would lose the case.  Yet they chose to fight it, exposing David Attfield to enormous financial risk were he to lose. 

Followers of this blog will know that the case centres on the lawfulness of a council raising parking charges for a minority of residents with the express intention of subsidising transport services across the borough.  Barnet is unique amongst councils in arguing that this is lawful.  In other cases where parking charges have been looked at (Camden and Westminster), the councils justified their charges by the need to control parking demand.

Barnet do not attempt to argue that demand for parking necessitates higher charges.  According to the former Leader of Barnet Council, “the increased charges are necessary in order to ensure sufficient investment in the council’s road network in the context of the council’s overall financial position”.  
The case has far reaching consequences for all car drivers and residents who live in Controlled Parking Zones.  As Martin Westgate QC (who is representing David Attfield) states, the case “raises a substantial point of public importance…….. If the decision [of Barnet] is right then it gives to local authorities a wide power to raise funds from parking charges in order to fund a variety of traffic management projects.  These may involve major expenditure that ordinarily would be met out of the general fund and so would be funded by council tax among other sources. The......decision empowers the authority to shift these costs onto a small group of residents". 

With costs of the legal challenge escalating, we urge Barnet to let common sense prevail and recognise that the CPZ charges are unfair and damaging to communities.  How can Barnet justify charging £4.17 for a friend to drop by when Haringey charges as little as 30p? 

We never wanted to have to pursue a legal action against our Council.  We just wanted a fair outcome but our concerns were treated with contempt.  Litigation to us is a last resort.   So, once again, we take this opportunity to invite Barnet Council to meet with us.  Let us see if we can put this whole sorry saga behind us.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent news and congratulations to everyone in the Campaign for battling on.
      As a Labour councillor in Haringey I've unsuccessfully made a similar case to my own colleagues over several years.
      Understandably, given the brutal cuts on Haringey, I realise why my Council colleagues prefer to ignore the view that it is unlawful to deliberately set CPZ permit charges at a level which generates substantial surpluses. Nor do I doubt their good faith in believing that it’s justified if these surpluses are spent on transport-related services.
      At minimum this case can bring clarity and perhaps certainly to the existing law.
      In my view, the case has a potential significance beyond the lawfulness of the charges; and the unfairness of imposing a stealth tax on particular groups of residents.
      If people strongly believe their own local council is behaving as if it were 'above' the law, that is corrosive of the trust and confidence in that council, in council staff, and in elected councillors.

    Alan Stanton
    Tottenham Hale ward councillor
    London Borough of Haringey