POLICE are investigating a complaint that Leeds Council issued thousands of technically illegal parking tickets when officials knew they had no authority to do so.
The West Yorkshire force has confirmed it has received a complaint which is now being examined. It was made by Neil Herron, 45, a self-styled motorists' champion who has been investigating Leeds Council's parking enforcement arrangements for 18 months.
He believes road markings and road signs are wrong and claims it would cost the authority up to 2m to correct the situation.
Mr Herron contacted police after unearthing a catalogue of official correspondence on email between the authority and the Government Office for Yorkshire and Humber.
Last night Mr Herron said: "Leeds had misrepresented the position to the Department of Transport, (DoT), in 2004 following the decriminalisation (of illegal parking).
"So they said to the DoT that it would be all right. In areas where signage was deficient there would be no enforcement but there were concerns at the time that the signs had not been updated.
"Anyone in an area which is unlawfully signed should be entitled not only to a refund but also making a claim against the council for obtaining monies for which they had no legal authority to do so and which they had no legal authority to do so and which they were aware that they had no authority to do so."
In an email, unearthed by Mr Heron using the Freedom of Information legislation, dated July 17, 2007, and passed to BBC Look North, Philip Heyes, regional signs officer for the Government Office For Yorkshire and Humber, wrote: "Overall the city centre is still in a pretty poor state, much of which is non-compliant. Some of the yellow disabled bays they corrected have now worn away and are now in an awful state...
"It certainly sounds like Leeds may not be following correct procedure where they are aware they should not be enforcing in the first place."
Richard Bentley, a former North Yorkshire Police officer and expert witness, said: "I think the situation in Leeds is dire and the motoring public is being sold short and I think officers of the authority are working beyond their powers. It's not the motorists who are behaving criminally it's Leeds."
A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: "Leeds council is not trying to enforce parking restrictions in a manner which is in any way improper or illegal.
"Leeds is a big city and we know there are locations where the signs and lines do not exactly conform to the regulations.
"We are working to put this right and have a team of traffic engineers specifically working to address this issue.
"We have to comply to the letter of the law and we never knowingly issue a parking ticket where the lines or signs are incorrect. Parking attendants are specifically trained in this respect.
"Although we are not giving tickets where the lines and signs are incorrect, the intention of these restrictions is clear. Members of the public who intentionally take advantage of the knowledge that the restriction can't be legally enforced are spoiling it for those people that the restriction is intended to benefit."
A spokeswoman for Government Office, Yorkshire and the Humber, said: "The Department for Transport and Government Offices can only advise transport authorities to use the correct signage, but can't require them to do so.
"The recourse for the public is to complain to the Ombudsman about malpractice, or to the police."
A spokeswoman for West Yorkshire Police said: "We have received a complaint and are looking into it."
Extract from An email...
... Overall the City Centre is still in a pretty poor state, much of which is non-compliant.
Some of the yellow disabled bays they corrected have now been worn away and are now in an awful state of being partly white, partly yellow, and the disabled symbol that had been blacked out is now visible again...
...but it certainly sounds like Leeds may not be following correct procedure where they are aware they should not be enforcing in the first place...