Wellingborough bus gate 'nightmare' for Kettering pensioner trying to pay ever-increasing fine

A pensioner's £30 fine increased to a £408 bailiff's bill after his attempts to pay failed

By Alison Bagley
Monday, 24th January 2022, 5:33 am

A Kettering pensioner's shopping trip to Wellingborough proved costly after a drive through a bus gate eventually led to a bailiff clamping his car - even though he tried to pay his fine several times.

Lance Rayner's 'nightmare' began on a day trip to Wellingborough on March 30, 2021, when he inadvertently passed through Market Street bus-only lane but the first letter with the penalty notice did not arrive.

North Northamptonshire Council has admitted that there had been a problem at the start of the scheme when delivery of penalty notices were outsourced and not put through the Royal Mail.

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Lance Rayner's car was parked on his drive when a bailiff came to call

Despite numerous phone calls, visits to various offices and attempts to pay to bill, Mr Rayner's original £30 fine ballooned into a £408 release fee after his car was clamped despite his protestations.

The 76-year-old said: "The first I knew about it was when I got a letter saying I hadn't paid the original fine so it had gone up to £60. The thing was I had never had the first letter.

"When I finally got through on the phone the man said 'not another one'. It turns out they has sent letters though an outside contractor and they hadn't been delivered."

Mr Rayner says that he was told the fine would be quashed and he would only have to pay the original £30 penalty notice and he would receive a new notice. A note was put on his account and he sent off a cheque for £30.

Lance Rayner with the Notice of Enforcement

Unfortunately at the same time Mr Rayner, who has been living with prostate cancer for ten years, discovered that the cancer had spread after an emergency admission to Kettering General Hospital.

He said: "I had the £30 sent back - stamped on the back - saying that 'we can't accept this without authorisation of a magistrate'. I went over to Wellingborough Magistrates' Court but the security guard wouldn't let me in. I asked to make an appointment and they said I couldn't. I went to Angel Square in Northampton but there wasn't anyone there.

"In the meantime I got another letter that said the fine had gone up to £90. I phoned again and they found the original note on the computer on my file. They said 'leave it with me'.

"Meanwhile they had sent it to the bailiffs."

Mr Rayner sought advice from the Kettering Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB) but in October an enforcement agent from Marston Holdings arrived at Mr Rayner's Lawson Street home.

He said: "They sent a storm trooper. He came up the driveway and said 'I've come about that parking business'. I told him I had been to see the CAB and he said 'they all say that - are you going to pay me or I'll clamp your car.'

"I told him I was blue badge holder and I needed my car to get to the hospital but he clamped my car. In the end I had to pay up."

Mr Rayner paid £408 to the bailiff.

He said: "How can you pay a bill if you haven't been sent it? I've been trying but it's like hitting a brick wall. They sent a bully boy to find me. They admitted they had trouble with the post. I tried to phone them up.

"I feel persecuted. I feel like a second-class citizen. It would be alright if you could phone them and speak to a real person. It's a nightmare. I've tried to pay."

A spokesman for North Northamptonshire Council said: “The initial letter including the Penalty Charge Notice was posted to Mr Rayner on April 6, 2021.

“We were later made aware of a possible issue with the delivery of some of our letters from this time, so when Mr Rayner made contact with us in May after he received his second letter, we reset the discounted period for payment to a further seven days.

“However, no payment was received.

“With enforcement issues it is essential that the authority is consistent with its approach. As payment was not made, the case then continued to progress and the third statutory notice was sent after having been registered as a debt at the Traffic Enforcement Centre – a centrally co-ordinated national unit.

“At this stage of the process for bus lane infringements the Traffic Enforcement Centre would require the relevant documentation to be witnessed, which appears not to have been the case.

“The case was ultimately passed to the enforcement agents for recovery of the debt on behalf of the authority on September 27, 2021 and was paid in full on October 18, 2021, closing the case.”

A spokesman for Marston Holdings said: “Following a thorough investigation, including a review of the video footage of the entire visit by our enforcement agent, we can confirm that all procedures were followed correctly and that the blue badge was not on display and the car was not registered as disabled when the clamp was applied.

"The footage shows that the interaction between the customer and our enforcement agent appeared amicable and that the clamp was removed after Mr Rayner produced his blue badge.”

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