Priority Debts

Penalty Charge Notices (PCNS) Or Excess Charge Notices (ECNS) For Parking

What is this?
A Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) is given by a Local Authority for parking illegally on public land, for example on a high street or council car park, breaking some traffic rules and not paying charges on time, for example the congestion charge.

Local authority PCNs are usually a priority debt because the council can ask the Traffic Enforcement Centre for an ‘order for recovery’. This allows the council to use bailiffs to try and take your goods to sell to repay the debt.

This section only covers PCNs for non-criminal parking offences given by, or for, the council. These are not the same as fixed penalties from the police or charges for parking on private land (such as a supermarket car park). Please check the relevant sections for more information on these charges.
What can I do?

If you believe that a mistake was made, you can challenge the PCN. Do not pay the parking ticket if you are appealing, otherwise this is seen as admitting that the ticket was given correctly and you may lose your right to appeal. There are four steps to making an appeal:

  • STEP 1: Informal appeal. You can write to your council and explain why you think the decision is wrong. With a PCN, you will have 14 days to appeal from the day you were given the notice, or 21 days if the notice was sent to you by post. With an ECN, you will have 7 days. Provide evidence of your address, the date the ticket was issued, your vehicle registration number, and the penalty notice number along with your reasons.
  • STEP 2: Formal appeal. You will then be sent a response called a ‘notice to owner’. If you still disagree with the decision, you will have a further 28 days to make a formal appeal. It is free to appeal and the notice will tell you how. You can usually get a 50% discount if you pay soon after your informal appeal is rejected. It may be better to pay at this point if the council have a strong reason for rejecting your appeal. If you do not appeal and you also do not pay within 28 days the penalty will go up by another 50%.
  • STEP 3: If your formal appeal is rejected, you can appeal to an independent tribunal. You will be sent a letter called a ‘notice of rejection’ explaining how you can do this. You can choose to attend the tribunal or give your reasons and evidence in writing. Appeal online to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal if you live outside of London by clicking here (hyperlink here to: Traffic Penalty Tribunal - Traffic Penalty Tribunal) or to London Tribunals if you live in a London Borough by clicking here (hyperlink here to London Tribunals |).
  • STEP 4: You should pay your PCN if the independent tribunal disagrees with your appeal. If you don’t pay within 28 days, the penalty will go up by another 50%. The council can then take you to court. Your credit rating may be affected and you may also have to pay court costs.

If you agree with the notice and you can afford to pay the PCN, do so. If you are struggling to pay, pay what you can. You can do this by working out all of the money you have coming in and the money you have to pay out for essentials. You can use your bank statements and any bills and benefit letters to help you to work out how much you can afford to pay. You can also work out your budget by going to and clicking on "Your budget". When you have filled in your budget, go to the next step. You can then send a copy of your budget and make an affordable offer to the council.

What can the council do if I do not pay?

The council can use enforcement methods such as a bailiff, who would have details of the car you used when the PCN was issued and try to take it.

Although rare, the council can then also use the County Court to try to get you to pay. They may grant them the power to:

  • Tell your employer to take money directly from your wages.
  • Ask the County Court for a charging order to secure the debt against certain kinds of property that belong to you, such as your home or any stocks that you own. This could put your property at risk. A charging order cannot be made against your home if you rent it.
Our Debt information has been developed in partnership with The Money Advice Trust.

If you need further support, contact us at the Adviceline on or book an appointment with one of our Advisers HERE.

Date modified: September 22 2021 | Date created: June 17 2021

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