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Bristol council refusing to pay back £31million in bogus ULEZ fines


Bristol council bosses are refusing to pay back £31million in bogus fines from the city's ULEZ scheme, known as the Clean Air Zone (CAZ), despite the project's chief admitting that every charge had been worded incorrectly.

Bristol City Council's executive director John Smith told councillors that there was no risk of a successful legal challenge and that legal advice had said that the inaccurate wording, which included naming regulations that didn't exist, 'wouldn’t make a difference to the enforcement'.

This comes after a man made legal challenges against the city's CAZ last year, claiming that there were around ten errors in the fines, including incorrectly telling drivers they could not pay and appeal at the same time.

John Lyon, who submitted the challenges, said that the flurry of mistakes meant that the charges issued by the scheme were invalid.

Mr Smith confessed to the council meeting that 'there was a reference to the wrong piece of legislation in one of the notices', which was corrected in December, and Mr Lyon argues that this should at least result in the waiving of the 160,000 unpaid fines in the system.

Mr Lyon said that every single ticket had been issued unlawfully and the full £31 million in penalty charges should be repaid, Bristol Live reports.

The CAZ was launched in November 2022 by to reduce air pollution - which is now down by 10 per cent across the entire city, the CAZ Cabinet report revealed in January.

In the report's foreword, Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who was made an OBE in the New Year's Honours, said: 'The air that we all breathe is cleaner than it was in November 2022.'

Around 570,000 fines were issued up until November 30, according to the city council's figures.

Of those, 285,645 have already been paid, just under 125,000 had been cancelled or written off, and there are still 160,000 that are ‘open’ and unresolved.

Mr Lyon, who is also making contesting charges on behalf of other motorists, has claimed that CAZ warning signs did not meet the Government's standards for road signs. Bristol City Council dispute this point.

Responding to Conservative councillor Steve Smith's concerns over potential legal issues, the council's executive director said: 'There were some items that we’d spotted that were a challenge, there were some items that that individual spotted which we hadn’t, which were a challenge, which we have now resolved.

'We got legal advice that said it wouldn’t make a difference to the enforcement but, as I said, we have overall taken the approach of trying to be sympathetic and where people are or have had issues or flagged things so we’ve not pursued them.'

Mr Smith told councillors that Mr Lyon had 'given up' in his legal challenge but Mr Lyon said he will continue to battle against unfair CAZ fines.