Westminster Council CCTV parking cameras in £9million blunder

Westminster City Council are facing calls to repay over £9 million taken from motorists caught by the city’s CCTV cameras after campaigners won a landmark appeal case yesterday. (download PATAS appeal decision)

On the 13th October 2011 Mr Andrew Harman an Adjudicator with The Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (PATAS) heard evidence from Mr Nigel Wise a campaigner with the pressure group No To Mob. Westminster Council had issued a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) demanding £130 from an apprentice taxi driver known to most Londoners as a Knowledge Boy.

The Council had secretly videoed the motorist using one of its network of 175 fixed CCTV cameras in Prince Consort Road back in May 2011. Westminster Council posted a PCN to the motorist allegeding he had stopped on white zig-zag lines in May 2011. The motorist allowed members of the No To Mob to submit an appeal to PATAS on his behalf.

The No To Mob outside Westminster City Hall

The No To Mob outside Westminster City Hall

The No To Mob had spent months researching the legality of Local Authority CCTV cameras which are supposed to be certificated by the Department for Transport’s agency known as the VCA based in Bristol. During the course of their investigation the No To Mob had discovered that a significantly large proportion of council CCTV equipment was incorrectly certificated, including Westminster City Council’s network of static parking enforcement cameras.

Westminster Council recently had to admit to Nutsville that its mobile CCTV spy cars had gone without the correct VCA certificates for 20 months. When we pressed the Council further we were told this was a deliberate policy decision and the council were not using the cars to issue PCN’s for parking. Later the Council refunded over 300 PCN’s issued by ‘mistake’ by their CCTV parking enforcement regime.

The recent win by the No To Mob at PATAS is a much larger and more serious case, due to the Councils large scale use of CCTV throughout the borough. It’s estimated that the uncertified CCTV cameras have earnt over £9 million since March 2010.

This is not the first time the Council’s fixed CCTV network had caused them embarrassment, as in March 2009 the Council were forced to switch off their newly installed parking enforcement cameras after it was found they had the wrong type of chip to meet higher resolution standards required in the DfT’s traffic Management Act. Estimates vary as to the exact cost of that bungle, but it’s thought to have cost at least £850,000 to have new higher resolution chips fitted to the cameras at the time.

This time the Council came unstuck at PATAS by not having the correct model of camera to match the certificates they had obtained from the VCA . Unusually in this case the Council had provided in their evidence pack a list of all 175 of their fixed CCTV enforcement cameras. (Download Westminster’s CCTV camera list here)The list revealed that the certification was incorrect for the whole CCTV network of static cameras the Council had been using for parking enforcement.

The No To Mob are demanding that Westminster City Council immediately suspend all of the 175 CCTV cameras used for parking enforcement, and to proactively contact victims who have received unlawful PCN’s, inviting them to apply for a full refund.

Earlier this year the No To Mob drew Westminster Council’s attention to a number of illegally issued tickets at Soho’s Lower James Street junction and following Richmond Council’s lead, Westminster’s parking department relented and pro-actively contacted those motorists who had been wrongly issued PCN’s by the Council’s CCTV mobile spy cars. The Richmond case is particularly significant not only for the large sum of money involved (expected to be over £1million) but just like Westminster Richmond Council had also neglected to ensure their CCTV cars were correctly VCA certified.

Westminster Council do have the option to appeal by seeking a Judicial Review, but experts from the No To Mob have stated this would be wasting more taxpayers money, as they are confident their case is water tight.

Download technical grounds for appeal notes here


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9 Comments

BigArtOctober 13th, 2011 at 7:57 pm

By the time WCC have finished, it would be cheaper to have free parking Borough-wide.

frankie3October 19th, 2011 at 2:54 am

Great work people!

Regards & a big thank you from the United Cabbies Group.

Mark SaundersOctober 26th, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Just a note for posterity, the addition of an “A” to the end of the model number is *not trivial*. The internals of electronic (and photographic devices) often change radically between even minor model re-numberings, usually as the result of fitting cheaper components from a lower bidder – ask anyone who’s tried writing drivers for wireless network cards or dongles. WCC cannot hand wave it away and claim that their cameras are newer or better than the certified ones: they could operate completely differently and quite possibly in an inferior manner.

Solomon AbrahamOctober 28th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I received a PCN a week back from Westminster council for illegal parking in Prince Consort Road. What actually happened was that I dropped off my son in Beit hall, Imperial College on Saturday 1st October at 15:14 and set the sat nav before moving away. The whole incident took exactly 2 minutes and 45 seconds as shown in the CCTV footage . During this time the car had the hazard lights on and I was in the driving seat with the seat belt. I challenged this decision but Westminster council has rejected the appeal saying that I should have used a designated parking place to set my sat nav.
I may have to pay the penalty but wanted to give them some grief before doing so and I have now appealed to the adjudicator stating the above and also adding that it is my understand that the cameras in Prince Consort Road do not match the certificate the Westminster Council had obtained from VCA. Hence this is not a legal device to monitor the parking regulation in the first place.
Learnt my lesson – will not drive into London again!

glennNovember 20th, 2011 at 10:23 pm

they park illegally…then do us for doing the same!!

CCTVDecember 22nd, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Idiots! Makes you want to bang your head on a spiky brick wall.

J SavageMarch 5th, 2012 at 7:40 pm

As a Licensed London Taxi Driver I know the pifalls of picking up,setting down and waiting in Westminster.Can anyone please tell me if there is a PCN Cmerera trained on the Market stretch of Berwick street out of hours ???

fed upAugust 13th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

why is one of your cameras pointed at my house, my privacy is supposed to be my own ,not to be invaded by one of your cameras.

fed upAugust 13th, 2013 at 2:07 pm

location , shirland road with Burlington road, your cameras is not allowed to look into peoples houses.

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