A COUNCILLOR has apologised after it was revealed officials knew six box junctions were unlawful five months before they were removed.

Councillor Phil Taylor gave the “unreserved apology” after it was revealed a council official was told by email in June by the Department for Transport (DfT) the six box junctions were too big.

However, thousands of tickets were handed to drivers until the DfT spoke to the council again at the beginning of November, and enforcement stopped.

The amount taken in fines on four of the boxes in South Road and High Street, Southall over that time could amount to nearly £1m.

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, the Labour transport spokesman, said: “There is damning evidence to show the council has failed to act after it knew the truth.

“In June they said they did not need permission from the DfT for these junctions, but then went and asked anyway.

“They were trying to deflect blame from themselves and push it onto the DfT. I gave Cllr Taylor the chance in private and in a Full Council meeting to suspend these junctions until the DfT ruling was in, but he declined both times.

“Now it turns out someone at the council knew the entire time. Cllr Taylor has accused me of being inflammatory, but the really inflammatory thing her is people were forced to pay when the council knew they were not legal.”

The row over the junctions blew up after a series of victories for drivers at appeal hearings at the parking adjudicator which started at the end of 2007.

However, at an appeal hearing on October 29, where a bus company was handed £700 in costs, a lawyer from the council was still claiming they had not heard back from the DfT.

Cllr Taylor, who is in charge of parking services, said he had not been shown the June email until today (yesterday).

He said: “We will be refunding everyone ticketed at the affected yellow box junctions since June 20.

“At the beginning of November we immediately suspended the junctions following advice from the Department for Transport.

“I believed that this was the first time the Council had been given this advice or the decision to stop enforcing them would have taken in June.

“I am furious that this email was never brought to my attention and I have ordered an immediate investigation on how this could have happened.”

Parking campaigner Neil Herron called for resignations, and for every penny taken from drivers since the bays started to be enforced to be paid back.

He said: “If this had happened at any private institution heads would roll.

“I think there should be resignations on the table after this.

“The question now should not be who do we repay, but how fast can we repay everyone who has ever been caught on these junctions.

“These people are public servants yet their attitude has been to deny everything and refuse to listen to advice.

“It's not what the public expects.”

Over the last two years more than £3m has been taken from drivers on the six wrongly-marked junctions, with £1.2m being taken since April this year.