Friday, November 06, 2015

Taxi Drivers Confronted By Bailiffs, As Council Incorrectly Issues 4,679 Bus Lane Fines

Taxi drivers have been confronted by bailiffs after being incorrectly fined for using bus lanes in a major council blunder. 

Shocking new figures show 4,679 bus lane charges were issued to exempt vehicles by Sheffield Council in the last year – many of them to the same drivers

The £60 charges are usually not applied to taxis, cycles, minibuses or emergency services vehicles and the council holds a list of licenced taxis which are exempt. Dad-of-two Aaron Mohammed, of Nether Edge, said he has been issued 30 fines and has paid out around £800 to bailiffs.

He said: “I sent some of the fines back to the council but still I kept getting more.

“Two of them went to enforcement and I ended up paying quite a lot of money to bailiffs who turned up at my house – it was quite scary.

“I have not been offered any refunds or anything

“I think parking services is a department which is there just to print money out of people – it is a cash cow.”

Businessman Chaudry Wajid Ali, who runs Car Care Solutions and has several taxis, said he had received between 150 and 180 fines and had a stack of paperwork. 

The 34-year-old dad, of Nether Edge, said: “It wasn’t just one fine coming through. On a Monday I would get 20 or 30 at a time.

“I have never even been told how I can get refunded – we’d have to pay a solicitor to do that.

“I think it is a money making machine for them because they know the net is going to slip somewhere and people will pay.

“We’ve spent a lot of money sorting all this out.

“I would like something doing because I can’t keep going on like this. We are trying to make something of ourselves and because of council inefficiencies we suffer.”

The problem, blamed on a technical issue at the council, first emerged a year ago and the council said at the time it was ‘working hard’ to resolve it.

But written questions discussed at the council’s full meeting on Wednesday revealed that between November 2014 and October 2015 the number of bus lane fines cancelled because the vehicle was exempt was 4,679. 

An estimate of postal costs incurred was £1,500 but the council said it was not possible to say how many times bailiffs had been used.

Shahid Ali, a community campaigner in Nether Edge and Sharrow, spoke to councillors about the problem. He said he knew of one taxi driver who had received 65 fines and some drivers had also been visited by bailiffs.

“I’m absolutely shocked at how many people have been affected and that’s only in the last year – you don’t know how many were affected before then. 

“Taxi licensing have a list of all the taxi licences in the city. I’m not a big IT man but even I know that a computer system should be able to sort that out.”

The written question was submitted by Dore and Totley councillor Joe Otten.

Cabinet member for transport Coun Terry Fox admitted the situation was ‘shocking’.

A council spokesman apologised and said: “These erroneous bus lane fines were sent out due to a number of separate issues. 

“These included an IT problem with data on exempted vehicles being transferred from one system to another, differences in the way fines generated by automatic and observed cameras are operated, and also human error.

“Further staff training has taken place, additional checks have now been implemented, and we are confident that the computer problems have also been successfully tackled. 

“Now, we are as confident as we can be that the system is working well. We are not aware of any ongoing issues

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