CHRISTMAS may be a time of generosity and good will – but one driver has been left feeling less than amused.

Danny Newland, of Summit Way, Southgate, has spent the past few days locked in a dispute with Barnet Council after he mistakenly paid during the free Christmas parking period.

He says he was completely unaware of the initiative, which took place on the weekends leading up to Christmas in a bid to boost trade.

Despite repeated attempts to get a refund, Mr Newland says he has been unsuccessful.

The free parking period was branded a "total farce" earlier this month, amid claims inadequate notice was given to motorists.

Mr Newland was caught out at a meter in Stanhope Road car park, North Finchley on Saturday, December 12.

After he paid someone pointed to a sign about the free parking – which he says he missed as it was too low, at his knee level.

Mr Newland contacted the council’s parking department, asking for a refund as a gesture of goodwill.

But he says it was only after he enlisted the help of parking guru and blogger Derek Dishman – alias Mr Mustard – and Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers that the council responded.

In a reply to Ms Villiers, the council said the free parking period was “heavily advertised” throughout the borough, with notices on each pay and display machine.

But it added: “However, if a driver has opted not to check the signage displayed or on the pay and display machine and made payment, this was at their choice and refunds are therefore not being made.”

Mr Newland, an advocate at Enfield Carers Centre, said: “I can only speak for my household, but we were not aware of the free parking. And as I paid, people started to line up behind me.

“I am frustrated by the argument that they are saying I chose to ignore their efforts. What they are trying to say is if I chose to pay for something free that’s my own fault. They said they did everything they could, and then I went off and paid.

“It is not about the money, it is more about the fact they are turning round and saying you paid, it is your fault. To me that’s not really acceptable. They are taking the revenue and they are allowing people to pay. This is bad customer service.”

Mr Newland added: “I didn’t want to get in an argument with the council. If the parking department responded to my email and said that the admin costs to refund would make the council lose revenue to pay back I may have not liked it but accepted it. But I have not actually had a single response.

“It really bugs me when people just ignore you. Yet they responded to a blogger and an MP so if you’re important enough they’ll respond. Any person trying to contact them, as far as I know, is being ignored.”

Mr Dishman questioned why the meters had still been allowed to accept payment.

He said: “If you’re offering something for free, if I pay you a pound for it, you should refuse it. It’s just dishonest.”

Councillor Alan Schneiderman, Labour's environment spokesman, said: “It’s just totally incompetent. Everybody who has paid should be refunded straight away. The idea is to get people into our town centres and you’ve got to organise it so people know about it properly.”

The authority also came under fire last year, when a free parking period was put in place over the Christmas period, but pay by phone payments were still accepted on the first weekend.

These were later refunded, and checks were put in place this year to ensure the same problem did not happen again.

A Barnet Council spokesman said: “Thousands of residents and traders enjoyed the benefits of the free festive parking over the last three weekends. Despite the scheme being promoted by a comprehensive marketing  campaign, which included posters in every town centre, notices attached to every pay by phone location and, after the first weekend, posters attached to parking machines, we are aware that some conscientious motorists paid for their parking by purchasing a ticket from our machines.

‘’We are currently looking into the matter of refunds’’