Facebook campaign brings Havering Council apology over hospital parking fine

Heidi Weir

Heidi Weir - Credit: Archant

A huge internet campaign protesting the “heartless” rejection of a hospital parking fine appeal has led Havering Council to apologise and perform a U-turn.

Heidi Weir, of Chelmsford, created a Facebook group when her dad, Derek, had an £80 bill upheld after receiving it while in an urgent meeting at Queen’s Hospital to discuss the health of his critically ill wife, Natalie, 61.

As she lay fighting for her life with bleeding to her brain, Derek’s meeting overran, making him nine minutes late to his car, where he found a ticket waiting for him.

On the advice of hospital staff, he appealed the fine - but he and Heidi were “disgusted” to have it rejected by the council, which runs the Romford hospital’s car park. The authority said it would need proof of the meeting.

Heidi turned to Facebook to share her thoughts, and her Hospital Parking group has touched the heart of thousands.

One post detailing the situation has received 125,000 “likes” so far, and almost 10,000 people have joined the group.

Heidi, 34, hit out at the “inhumane, insensitive bureaucracy” and received messages from others who’d had similar experiences nationwide.

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She wrote: “I refuse to say to a ward sister, ‘excuse me, can you stop saving that persons life please while you write me a letter to the council to say you called my dad into the meeting?’”

Two days and 100,000 “likes” later, Derek, 61, received an email from Havering Council to arrange a refund, after the display of people power prompted the authority to review the appeal.

A council spokesman said: “We are cancelling the ticket and refunding the money. We’re sorry for any distress and upset caused to the family.

“We had asked for supporting evidence, which is usual practice. But we reviewed the case and concluded, given the circumstances, we could cancel the ticket without the additional evidence.”

But it was too little, too late, for Heidi, who accused the council of “dropping their principles for publicity” - which it denies.

“It makes me even more mad,” she said. “I’d have more respect if they stuck to their guns. I don’t care about our money. I care about all the people that don’t have the energy to make the fuss I have!”

Heidi now believes hospital parking fees should be abolished altogether and “will not rest” until she achieves her goal.

Her mother Natalie is “still fighting”.

Visit the page here. Heidi would like to hear from anyone else with a similar story.

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Woman in fear of losing second of twins given parking fine after rushing to Queen’s Hospital