Five Pound Shortfall Led To 400 Pound Debt

School caretaker got into difficulties as parking charge multiplied

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A school caretaker who incurred a parking ticket in Bath Road two years ago faced a charge of over £400 plus the threat of having his car taken because he paid £5 short of the sum demanded by the Council.

Mr. Phillip Romain, who is from Chiswick, but who works at a primary school in Richmond, had bailiffs attend the school where he works and was sent a letter threatening to take away his car. Cllr John Todd said he was "shocked and disappointed" at the treatment of Mr. Romain by LBH.

Hounslow Council said today that the matter has now been resolved.

The saga began when Mr. Romain received a PCN in Bath Road on March 12, 2012, for his Nissan Micra where he overstayed his parking time. He challenged the ticket and a subsequent appearance at PATAS led to a fine being imposed.

However he says that his fine was for £55 which he paid by cash in at the Civic Centre, but the Council say that the fine was for £60 and that he underpaid. Mr. Romain says that he cannot locate the original letter but he is sure that the amount on the letter was £55.

"I put the cash in an envelope and put it into a machine at the Civic Centre and got a receipt. I thought that was the end of it but that's when my problems started- but why would I not pay up the £60 if that was what was due, why would I only pay £55? "

He says that in April he received without explanation a further request for £35 from LBH.

"I was shocked. I phoned the LBH Parking Office and there was nobody to talk to. I left a voicemail with the ticket number and my name and address, I did it three times and nobody got back to me"

He says he tried to get help from local councillors on three occasions, but by November the bill had started to increase.

"I got a letter in January and it the bill was now over £200 and I tried to see if the councillors would help, one of them gave me a number to call but it was not working. Then the head teacher came to my house which is on the school site and said that there was a bailiff at the school. I was very unhappy as this is a personal matter and nothing to do with the school."

His debt with LBH escalated and he received a letter on June 17 saying his vehicle might be seized if he tried to drive it, unless he paid a debt of £ 424 plus costs.

Cllr John Todd had appealed to LBH to "see sense" and to resolve the matter.

The Council investigation showed that the Parking Adjudicators directed Mr Romain to pay £60 by 5 January 2013.

The Council said that on 9 January 2013 a part payment of £55 was received, as this was an insufficient amount the case progressed with a Charge Certificate being issued on 12 April 2013 and an Order for Recovery issued 24 May 2013.

"Mr Romain would have been made aware of the outstanding amount as the documents sent would have shown the debt, what was paid and the balance outstanding".

Mr. Romain wrote to the Council leader Cllr Steve Curran and the head of Parking asking for it to be resolved. He says it was causing him sleepless nights and had increased his blood pressure. He originally came to the UK in the early 1960s from Grenada.

Cllr Todd said he had been "shocked and disappointed to see that an underpayment of £5 to our parking services escalated to £400 plus. Debt collectors charges are excessive and their method of collection may be of concern.

"I have paid the £5 owed plus interest of £1. I hope LBH sees sense and closes this matter.
Mr Romain is a respected hard working school caretaker who faces losing roughly a week's pay.
Cllr Steve Curran, LBH Leader recently announced that 'Chiswick was no longer a cash cow' Mr Romain was certainly a target to milk dry."

The Council spokesman said today: “The appeal to PATAS was unsuccessful, and the appellant was instructed to pay £60 by 5 May 2013.

“Unfortunately, the whole amount was not paid, despite us contacting them twice with no contact back, leading to the amount owed escalating.

“Having now contacted us about the outstanding sum, the case has been settled.”

July 4, 2014