COUNCIL has agreed to write off almost £200,000 in unpaid parking fines as ‘bad debt’ after all efforts to make people pay the money owed were exhausted.
The move was approved at a recent meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Business and Culture Committee, held in Strabane.
It emerged at the meeting that there is currently £176,703 outstanding in unpaid fines from 15 car parks operated by the council throughout Derry and Strabane.
The council took over responsibility for the car parks from the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) as part of the Review of Public Administration (RPA).
Charges for parking offences in these car parks are imposed by traffic wardens working for NSL Services Group (NSL) on behalf of the council, and these charges are then collected by the Department for Infrastructure under an Agency Agreement with council.
A Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) is then issued to the vehicle’s owner, and if that is not paid a number of options are open to recover the debt, such as obtaining registered keeper details from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), or clamping the vehicles until the fine is paid.
However, it emerged at the meeting that there are difficulties in obtaining who the registered owner is when it is a foreign registered vehicle, either the Republic of Ireland or non-UK. That means enforcement correspondence cannot be issued to vehicle owners from across the border who have not paid a parking fine incurred while visiting Derry or Strabane.
Speaking at the meeting, Kevin O’Connor, head of business with the council, said that the only option open to recover the debt is by way of clamping the vehicle when the opportunity arises or referring the debt to the Enforcement of Judgements Office (EJO).
Mr O’Connor told the meeting that this ‘can be quite a lengthy process’ which incurs additional fees. He added that there are also cases where the registered keeper of the vehicle may have gone bankrupt.
The meeting was told that the Department had advised that £176,703 should now be written off as ‘bad debt’ as all possible actions have been taken to recover the outstanding fines.
Mr O’ Connor continued that the debt had been ‘incurred over a number of years’ and the bulk of it had been accrued before council took on responsibility for managing the car parks.
Meanwhile, the UUP’s Derek Hussey said that he would like to have seen a breakdown of how many of the car parking fines had not been paid by people from the Republic of Ireland compared to that of people from the UK.
Cllr Hussey added that he would imagine there would be a ‘higher proportion’ of people from the Republic not paying than people from the likes of ‘Coleraine and Ballymoney’ visiting the local council area.