You'd expect the victim of a number plate fraud to receive some sympathy from the council's parking services, not be pursued for offences he can prove he didn't commit. But then local authorities' lack of basic common sense is something the building industry has long come to accept, even if it does drive sane men mad
I’m going to change the man at the council’s name to Steve, to save his embarrassment, but my instinct remains to name and shame him. It all began three months ago when a letter from the DVLA first landed on my doormat. At first I thought the authorities had finally caught up with me after years of speeding and jumping red lights. But what was to proceed was far, far worse.
I would have rather had paid three driving penalties or come to think of it just taken the points on my licence. This has been an episode that has made me empathise with the housebuilding sector’s eternal gripes over dealing with the local authority planning departments. An incompetence greater than anything I’ve experienced before in any organisation ever. Now let me explain.
Alright, so maybe I’m overreacting a little bit, but having your car number plate cloned feels like somebody has snuck into your house, stolen your car keys and taken a spin in your car for the weekend. That first letter turned out to be a notice about my congestion charge breach in central London. The fact that I wasn’t even in London at the time with the car (and had documentary proof) seemed to have been lost on the delightful staff at the congestion charge centre. But after several annoying phone calls, a police report and a lot of aspirin, the situation was eventually resolved and the fine was rescinded. And to be honest, I forgot about it. I dismissed it as a one-off annoying inconvenience. But how wrong was I?
The second letter landed last week. This time it was from a local council that will again remain anonymous. (No, not because I care of course, but because there still may be a third, fourth and fifth letter on its way). I had apparently parked illegally and not paid the fine within a specified period and was charged £100. The headache was beginning to resurface.
I called the council several times, tried the police again (who didn’t really want to know) and eventually got put through to Steve, an officer in parking services. Now Steve, despite being a little over familiar in his emails, seemed competent. But, alas no. Even though Steve had a photograph of the car parked illegally, (which clearly was not the same make, model and colour as my car); accompanied by the fact that I had enclosed numerous documents to him proving that my car is not the same make and model, gave him a police report on the recent cloning and a reference number for my car tax disc, Steve still wasn’t convinced.
In fact, even though I reiterated all of this on several emails to Steve, he replied that I was missing the point and that I should maybe "think about paying a fine". I eventually got through to the boss of Steve’s boss. Eventually a man called Alan resolved the situation with that little bit of expert knowledge known to the most of us as common sense. “Mr Broughton,” Alan said. “I’m not an expert in cars but the car in this picture is clearly not your car. I’ll sort this out and write to you.”
Problem solved for the time being, but until the next time, Steve, please, if you’re reading—consider this, should the person who has cloned my number plate ever climb into the car and drunkenly kill an innocent member of the public in a car donning my number plate, should I "think about" serving the prison sentence also?