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Paper wins back £13,000 in parking fines for readers

A press campaign aimed at reimbursing its readers with £13,000 worth of parking fines following a town hall cock-up has won the day.

Brent Council, in North London, posted a message on its website three days before Christmas to say that parking on Boxing Day was free.

Despite this, 18 traffic wardens were out in force on 26 December to hand out 264 penalty charge notices, worth £13,200 from just one day’s activity, while a further six vehicles were impounded.

Enraged readers told the Willesden and Brent Times which went straight into battle on their behalf to attempt to get every single ticket scrapped.

Council officers initially refused to scrap the fees, saying it was drivers’ responsibility to ensure they were parked legally.

But led by senior reporter Alex Wellman, the Archant London weekly continued to apply the pressure.

Brent Council eventually admitted its mistake and has now agreed to issue a refund or cancel those tickets which had not yet been paid.

Alex said: “This is a great result for campaigning journalism. Brent Council tried their best to get out of scrapping the tickets but we kept on at them and would not let the story rest.

“When the council finally admitted they were wrong and agreed to refund all tickets dished out on the day we had a drink to celebrate.

“Readers have been writing and phoning in since we printed the good news to thank us.”

A council spokeswoman told the Times: “Initially, an error was made on the council’s website with regard to Bank Holiday parking restrictions applying on Boxing Day 2009.

“This was subsequently corrected. It is difficult to prove which motorists relied on the earlier information. However, some may have done so.

“In the circumstances, Brent Council has decided to cancel tickets issued on the day, involving parking restrictions that are normally not applicable on a Bank Holiday. They will also refund payments received.”