Clean Air Zone Birmingham: extra measures put in place to stop error fines

Birmingham City Council is working with the government to improve the accuracy of the system following a series of incorrect fines being sent out

New checks have been put in place on Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone technology used to send out Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) following a series of incorrect fines.

Council leader Cllr Ian Ward has apologised for the errors and said the council has raised the issue with central government and other partners.

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A series of cases have been reported across the press, including one woman who received 19 fines for not paying - despite living 160 miles away in West Sussex and never having visited Birmingham.

The council were asked if they would turn off the machines while issues were examined. But Cllr Ward said he expected the government would “take a very dim view on that” during a Full Council meeting held last week.

Clean Air Zone Birmingham

Following the meeting the authority has advised that it has taken a series of measures to limit issues around incorrect Clean Air Zone PCNs being issued these are:

  • To date the council has dealt with all the cases where drivers have contacted us claiming to have received a PCN in error
  • We have a clear process in place if drivers feel they need to challenge a Penalty Charge Notice. Drivers may submit a challenge form which will then be processed by our enforcement teams.
  • The technology used to read the cameras is highly reliable, but we have additional checks in place to review images before a PCN is generated. However, a very small number of PCN’s will from time to time be issued to the incorrect registered keeper.
  • We continue to work with all of our suppliers and Government to continue to improve the accuracy of the system
Ruth Costello from West Sussex who received 19 Birmingham Clean Air Zone PCNs despite never having visited Birmingham

How many people have received incorrect Clean Air Zone charges?

Cllr Gareth Moore (Con, Erdington) listed cases of incorrect Birmingham Clean Air Zone charges, including Phillip Morton, 73, who was preparing to watch his grandson appear in a school nativity play 145 miles away at the time he was said to be driving in the CAZ.

Separately, a man from Wolverhampton has received £1,300 in fines for the CAZ despite never having driven in the area.

And Ruth Costello, 57, who lives in West Sussex, has received 19 fines totalling £2,280 despite never having driven in Birmingham.

What did Cllr Ward say in response?

Cllr Ward (Lab, Shard End) said: “I would like to apologise to anyone from anywhere in the country who has been incorrectly charged or fined […].

“So anybody who has received a fixed penalty notice when they have not driven in the zone – I would like to apologise unreservedly to them.

“The problem here is that the way the scheme is administered has been set by the Government.

“We have been writing to the Government, making them aware of these deficiencies in the system and we continue to lobby the Government to learn the lessons from the cases that Cllr Moore has highlighted.”

Cllr Ian Ward. Leader of Birmingham City Council

But when asked whether the cameras should be turned off “until the glitch can be rectified”, Cllr Ward said: “With regards to turning off the cameras, I would suggest Cllr Moore has a word with his own Government.

“Because they would take a very, very dim view of the cameras being switched off.

“I do not accept that the Clean Air Zone is an unfair tax on drivers moving around this city.

“What I would set out to Cllr Moore is that what we are doing in this city is taking measures to reduce air pollution and those measures are a public health crisis in this city and elsewhere around this country.

“So I make no apologies for the introduction of the Clean Air Zone. It’s a public health issue – we are cleaning up the air in this city for the benefit of the people of Birmingham.”

Why is there a Clean Air Zone in Birmingham?

The Clean Air Zone has been introduced to tackle poor air quality in the city responsible for a reported 900 deaths per year.

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