Government body urged to act over city clamping firm

File image from June, as a shopper returning to her vehicle in the Old Market Road car park in Cosham finds a clamper has imobilised her car.
File image from June, as a shopper returning to her vehicle in the Old Market Road car park in Cosham finds a clamper has imobilised her car.
M27. Picture: Malcolm Wells

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A GOVERNMENT agency will be urged to take action over a wheel clamping firm which is accused of refusing to pay its debts.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt wants the Insolvency Service’s company investigations team to set up a winding-up petition against City Watch Enforcement. Unpaid creditors would need to sign the petition before the courts consider sending City Watch into liquidation.

The clamping firm, which patrols Portsmouth City Council-owned car parks behind High Street, Cosham, owes hundreds of pounds to people who took it to court over their fines and won.

Luke Stopforth, of Farlington, won his legal case against the firm in April after a judge ruled parking signs were unclear when he was clamped last summer.

But the firm, which has pocketed thousands of pounds in parking fines, hasn’t coughed up the £205 clamp fee and £25 court fees it was ordered to pay four months ago. And the firm owes money to others who parked in Enfield, Greater London, where City Watch is based.

Ms Mordaunt’s office had planned to set up the petition – but found that legal costs were too high.

As previously reported, 40 people out of 300 who complained to Ms Mordaunt about being clamped are also looking to lodge legal cases against City Watch.

She said: ‘We have changed our tactic. Because of the financial impact it would have we are looking to get the Insolvency Service’s company investigations team on board.

‘I will be writing to them in due course about the matter. The process of shutting down City Watch will be sped up if we get a government agency to issue the petition. I hope people like Luke Stopforth will sign.’

The city council is due to take over City Watch’s duties in Cosham but there are delays in negotiations. The council is still waiting for the land’s managing agent Lee Baron to agree to its contract offer. Meanwhile, people are still being caught out.

Maggie Firth, 62, of Port Solent, was told to pay £205 after a City Watch clamper spotted she hadn’t bought a ticket when she parked. She said: ‘The machine I tried to pay at was out of order. The cost of the fine is terrible.’

Kathryn Montague, of the Insolvency Service, said: ‘If we receive a complaint from a member of the public and it is in the public interest then we will carry out an investigation. We can’t release the details of what we would do because a company would know what to look out for.

‘Usually it is a creditor who is owed more than £750 who presents a petition to the court to wind up a company. Creditors can join together if individually they are owed less than £750.’

Neither City Watch nor Lee Baron were available for comment.