The dispute between the BPA and London Councils for payment of the POPLA service rumbles on. On Thursday London Councils are holding a session to try and resolve the issues. This will be a closed session with access barred to access to reporters and the public.
The problem arises due to the nature of the contract the BPA signed. They promised to pay all the POPLA costs so that POPLA operated on a cost neutral basis. For two years POPLA duly submitted invoices which the BPA paid, before a big fly suddenly appeared in the ointment. A recent audit discovered a bunch of costs which had not been passed onto the BPA correctly. London Councils position is that these costs should be paid because London taxpayers should not subsidise the BPA. The BPA position is that it is not fair to charge these costs so late in the day. Some BPA members for instance have left for the IPC so there would be big difficulty in recovering these costs by recharging their members for previous years. The BPA also argue the costs are not appropriate.
The costs in dispute are central recharge items. The CEO of London councils, for instance, has POPLA under his wing and therefore although he is not directly involved part of his salary must be attributed to POPLA. Similarly Nick Lester's salary will also be apportioned.
The problem is compounded by the fact London Councils accounts are not finalised. The CEO will possibly get a big fat bonus, part of which must be paid by the BPA. However until the amount is decided the BPA cannot be billed.
Both sides agreed to mediation back in May but this has still not happened leading the London taxpayer with a big hole in their pocket.
The amount in dispute is around £200,000 but may rise when the final amount is known. The BPA have enough reserves to cover this, but only just. If the amount rises significantly they will have difficult problems to solve.
As a possible lifesaver for the BPA, to offset the amount owed, there are about 4,000 POPLA cases which London councils contracted to adjudicate on but did not. This was because the cases arose during POPLA's remit but were stayed until the Beavis result.
London Councils told the BPA that all aspects of these stayed cases had been adjudicated on and that the assessors had found against motorists for all issues apart from issues around GPEOL currently being decided in the Supreme Court in the Beavis case. This turned out to be false and a clumsy attempt by London Councils to pull the wool over the BPA eyes.
As an example there are huge numbers of stayed cases where the operator has not filed an evidence pack. It is therefore impossible for an assessor to have decided issues of signage, NTK compliance and landowner authority - just to pick a few examples. Other cases are trespass cases where GPEOL does not apply. In a recent court case involving ANPR Ltd, for instance, ANPR Ltd were asking for £350 trespass costs and were awarded £7.50.
It also appears that although London Councils say that each case has been partially assessed there are no written records of this and so no evidence this has actually been done.
The BPA will have to tender these cases out to another party to get them assessed. There is a good case that these tender costs and the resultant fees paid to the tender winner could be deductible from the amount owed to London Councils, especially now information has emerged regarding their clumsy attempt to deceive the BPA. regarding the amount of work done on these cases. The Prankster previously estimated the true cost of a POPLA appeal was around £100. 4,000 cases will therefore cost 400,000 to assess from scratch. It may therefore end up that London Councils and the London taxpayer owe the BPA money rather than the other way round.
The BPA has avoided these problems in future by going for a fixed price contract with the current POPLA service. As no results are known yet it is not known whether this has resulted in a compromise in the services competence and efficiency, but it does appear from the final 'old' POPLA report that the assessors will not have legal qualifications.
The Parking Prankster