ISPA to cease operating (press release)

…Or not?

The Independent Scrutiny for Parking Appeals (ISPA) board announced on 15th September that it would cease operating from 23rd September. Mysteriously that notice has now gone, as has chair of the board, Nicola Mullany, who has resigned according to Parking Prankster.

It seems ISPA have had a somewhat frustrating existence, frequently calling the BPA to account as it has struggled to operate its independent appeals service, POPLA. Most famously, IPSA forced the BPA to back down on its plans to shortcut hearings for thousands of POPLA cases, rather than hear them in full. In the end, ISPA successfully argued that this would not be fair on motorists and the BPA were forced to have them heard in full.

Amazingly the BPA managed to double-down on its incompetence by awarding a POPLA contract to Wright Hassall, a parking industry debt collector. Despite there being an obvious case for conflict of interest, the BPA denied this. ISPA publicly showed the frustration by putting out a press release declaring their concern.

The ISPA Board remain concerned about the potential for the public to perceive bias in this process given the work conducted by Wright Hassall Solicitors in their wider business

As a glimmer of hope, ISPA ended that press release by stating they had visited Wright Hassall and planned to maintain oversight of Wright Hassall.

That glimmer, it seems, was short lived. In August, ISPA put out another press release stating that they were unable to look into Wright Hassall’s administration of PoPLA, saying they had no ‘direct arrangement with Wright Hassall’. This line, seemingly at odds with the previous one, indicates that they could not provide the independent oversight they were mandated to perform.

Back in January, ISPA’s meeting minutes highlighted a number of concerns they had with the other POPLA provider, Ombudsman Services. These minutes included a number of gems, including the fact Ombudsman Services underestimated the volume of appeals they would be hearing by a factor of 50 (FIVE-ZERO), that ISPA was “concerned by the quality of decision making” by Ombudsman Services, and that Ombudsman Services thought they were taking on an ombudsman service, rather than an appeals service.

ISPAs frustration appears to have finally bubbled over at an emergency board meeting on 13th September, announcing that the board was giving notice of its resignation. This notice was taken down soon after, but the text is reproduced below in full (download here):

It is with great regret that the ISPA board is announcing that a decision was taken at an emergency meeting of ISPA on 13 September 2016 that the board would cease its work on 23 September 2016.

The board did not take this decision lightly as it feels since it was formed in February 2014 it has done some very good work to help to ensure the independence and effectiveness of the appeal service known as PoPLA. It has done this despite having none of the formal powers oversight bodies would normally expect to have, operating on a limited budget and working in a climate of uncertainty which meant it was never able to be sure how long it would be funded.

In recent months, however, the board has faced a number of challenges arising out of its lack of powers and its uncertain existence. The board took the view that these challenges were so great that it could not continue to operate and should be wound up.

ISPA has continued to lobby government to put in place an adequately funded body with legal powers of oversight. ISPA did not want to do anything that would make such a body’s establishment less likely but, in the end, concluded it would not be fair to motorists, consumers and other stakeholders to continue when it could not carry out some of its core duties.

The board wishes to thank all those stakeholders who have contributed to the positive work it has undertaken in the past and who have supported its achievements.

ISPA Board September 2016

So, in summary, we don’t know what is happening with ISPA. We look forward to seeing what the BPAs press officer announces on Monday…

BPA Spokesman
(Not a) BPA Spokesman

NB. The ISPA hosted version of this press release can be found here (until it is removed).