Brent Council rakes in £23k from school fines and bars parents from appealing
PUBLISHED: 15:15 27 October 2016 | UPDATED: 17:05 31 October 2016
Brent Council has raked in at least £23,460 from fines handed out to parents who took their children out of school without permission, figures show.
According to the data released today by law firm Simpson Millar, the town hall handed out 391 penalty notices for unauthorised absence in the last year.
If all the £60 fines were paid within 21 days the council would have collected £23,460 however the penalty notices are doubled if they are paid later.
In a further twist parents are unable to appeal the fines despite lawyers claiming they have a right to challenge them.
Julie Robertson, a solicitor at Simpson Millar, which specialises in helping families challenge unreasonable fines, said: “It is hugely worrying that parents are told by some councils that they have no statutory right of appeal when in fact they have a common law right to do just that.
“It is misleading and very concerning. I would even call it a breach of duty on behalf of certain authorities.”
Under current legislation children are only authorised to miss school if they are ill or if the headteacher has given permission in advance.
The figures which were obtained using the Freedom of Information Act showed some councils were more lenient than others.
In London Redbridge Council in east London appeared to be the harshest with 3,182 fines handed out totalling a minimum of £190,920.
If a parent in Redbridge refuses to pay the council decides wether to refer the case to the courts.
Ms Roberston said: “What one head teacher agrees are special circumstances, another doesn’t. It is a postcode lottery. We need more consistency and, in some areas, more common sense.
“Clearly, some schools are using their discretion appropriately where the parents are sensible in their choices and decisions. Others seem to be rather abundant in slapping parents with a fine regardless of the circumstances.”
A spokeswoman for Brent Council told the Times they were acting within the Department for Education (DfE) guidelines by having no formal right of appeal.
She added: “A penalty notice may be withdrawn by the local authority if it believes that it should not have been issued, ought not to have been issued to the person named, or it contained material errors.
“If a recipient believes that one of these grounds applies, they can make a request in writing to the local authority.”
Are you a parent in Brent who believes you have been wrongly issued with a fine?
Contact the news team on 020 7433 0133 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.