26 June 2020

A Luton lay-by lash up

Luton Borough Council are inept. Mr Mustard knows that they are short of money as Luton Airport income subsidises council tax but that is no reason to go around giving out nonsense PCNs at ambiguously signed locations, such as in Old Bedford Road to his friend Mr B.

On 13 June they gave a PCN to Mr B who said, 'I was only there one hour and the sign is good for 4 hours'. Quite correct.

Unfortunately, and as Luton Borough Council have failed to realise, the double yellow lines apply up to the building line and so also apply to the lay-by.

A duplicitous collection of lines and signs such as this one create an ambiguity which will be construed against the council.

The solution is to remove the double yellow adjacent to the lay-by. No-one would park in that traffic lane given the existence of the lay-by.

How do councils keep on getting it so wrong?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

23 June 2020

High Street North - Zone A (East Ham in Newham)

There was discussion about this PCN on twitter at the time I was challenging it. Now we have an outcome. This is the spot, near number 66.

with a close up of the sign for you

The formal representations made by the registered keeper was that a blue badge holder was the passenger. There are disabled parking bays in the pedestrian zone and this is the only way to get to them.

The main part of the Notice of Rejection now follows

At this juncture Mr Mustard was instructed. Mr Mustard normally keeps his powder dry until he has seen all of the evidence but this time he blasted the borough with both barrels. Here are the complete Grounds of Appeal to the tribunal (to which other points arising out of the evidence pack could have been added if Newham Council had foolishly contested the case)

Guess what happened next? You are correct, the council ran for the hills.

A big game of bluff. Instead of being £130 up, Newham Council are £30 down (the tribunal fee).

Should you get a PCN for driving off High Street North into Pilgrims Way, adjacent to Primark in East Ham, you are welcome to use any of the grounds that Mr Mustard has set out above that are applicable to your situation.

Newham Council should stop using cctv to enforce at this location. It is intrinsically unfair.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


I have been in continuous employment since 1975 and a director of a small business since 1997. About 10 years ago there was a major change after both myself and my co-director lost our spouses within 12 months of each other and a few years later, with no great appetite for continuing to expand the business we decided to close the office and specialise in large value debt which the two of us could deal with on our own from a home office or on site. Our last two projects have both involved a collect out of over £10m.

Five years ago, with only a couple of years to go to 60, I was wondering what to do and was sure there was still a new project within me, whether that was a completely new business in a field I didn't know, investing in local people with a good idea but no money so they could start their own small business (even if that was just a small scale thing like someone wanting to start up a window cleaning round who couldn't find the, say, £10k they needed as seed capital, or something more radical in the way of a disruptive business) or motorcycling round every country in the EU or riding Route 66 on a Harley Davidson (not my usual choice of motorbike but the only way to do that journey) or buying a French property and living there half the year by the fortnight. Lots of possibilities in my head but a new work project would arrive and I would go away for 6 months and work like stink and so none of the above got done.

Then along came Covid-19 and we all locked down. I instituted a weekly shop like many of the population did, one visit to those fabulous bakers at Holtwhites Bakery in Enfield (order on line here by 1pm and then collect the next day, the website is a bit clunky but the croissants and the Portuguese custard tarts are both amazing, close your eyes and you are abroad) and I went out for a daily walk. I also took my brand new bike out of the garage where it had been gathering dust for a good couple of years and started a daily cycle ride (it was only ever guidance to take one lot of exercise a day, not the law). The first ride wasn't very long and it hurt. By the end of the first week I was making the ride longer. Slowly I got more adventurous and went further afield and then before you know it I was cycling 74km and treating it like it was nothing even though I knew when I set off that it would be close to 5 hours of pedalling because much of it was on cycle routes and not the road.

Then a month ago the thought came into my head that as I was already cycling 150 miles a week I could do more and so I typed Land's End to John O'Groats into google and found that there was an 'easy' Sustrans route, as per the image above, which would take 28 days to ride. Perfect. Only 1,200 miles! 8 week's mileage in 4 weeks.

The cycling record for 'LEJOG' on a conventional bicycle is ridiculous at 43 hours, 25 minutes and 13 seconds.
In a recumbent it is 41 hours, 4 minutes and 22 seconds.
On a unicycle the record is 6 days, 8 hours and 43 minutes.
A man of 81 cycled it in 14 days. I am a mere 63 and going to take twice as long as him.
I don't think I will worry the record makers. I just want to enjoy the ride.

There is a side effect of me doing this.
I'm not going to have time to fight PCNs.
I became interested in PCNs in November 2009 when I was given an invalid ticket.
Activitity started to increase in 2013 after I watched a tribunal case in person.
In the last 4 years I have fought c.1000 PCNs of which c.840 were cancelled.
This takes painstaking attention to detail and time.
I cannot be doing this whilst pedalling along cycle routes (although I will have a computer with me but that is just more weight to slow me down uphill).
I hope to set off on 4 July once hotels reopen and it is legal again to be away from home overnight. Some friends are house sitting for me and my co-Director will do my work.

I will not therefore accept any new requests for help with PCNs after 30 June.

I will process on time all of the PCNs I am already handling.

I will write a daily blog of my progress which will be provided here.

What challenge do you fancy doing?
There may be no better time than the present to do it.


18 June 2020

Camden Council stopped in their tracks

Here is the story of Mr W.

Mr W's adult son is staying with him for a short while and he buys him a modest 14 year old car to use - the son drives to Haverstock Hill one Saturday evening (1 February) and parks perfectly legally without any restriction until 8am on Monday 3 February. Socialising with friends the son decides he should not drive home so leaves the car where it is.

Early on Monday 3 February father& Son go to collect the car. It is gone. They report the theft to the police and are given a crime number. They give the crime number to the insurers.

5 February the police say they will take no further action.

7 February. The car is issued with a PCN and taken to the Camden Council car pound. It must have been the third PCN as the car was in a bay for which payment was required each and every day.

10 February. The insurers agree a car valuation of £1,100
11 February. The insurers pay out less the excess.

11 March. Notification is received (probably by Notice to Owner) of two PCNs. Representations are made and accepted, the PCNs are cancelled.

12 March. Notification is received (probably by Notice to Owner) of a third PCN. Representations are made and accepted, the PCN is subsequently cancelled.

17 March. Notice is received of the cancellation of a PCN.

25 March. Camden Council write to say the car is in the pound and notification is received by Mr W of the cancellation of two PCNs. The letter mentions that evidence of the police report was provided.

11 April. Camden Council write to demand £2,920 being the £80 PCN + £200 for the tow & 66 days overnight storage at £40 a night. The letter said the vehicle would be destroyed if the charges were not paid. As Mr W no longer owned the car, and was not liable for the actions of the thief, he ignored the letter as he had already provided proof of this. By now the insurer had owned the car for 2 months.

24 May, Camden Council wrote again. Here is the body of the letter.

At this point Mr W became concerned and consulted Mr Mustard. A very short letter was drafted which pointed out the car was stolen and reported to the police, that ownership had been transferred to the insurer as notified to DVLA and that Mr Mustard was now the representative of Mr W.

In less than two weeks Camden Council slammed themselves into reverse and sent the below:

The council had ample opportunity to verify the crime reference previously and had already cancelled three PCNs on the grounds of theft so that was just something to say to try and cover up why the writer's colleagues had been so useless up until then.

Other questions which arise are why the police did not tell Mr W that the vehicle was in the car pound as upon removal a record should have been made in TRACE a London wide record of all towed vehicles to which both the police and councils have access.

Given that £40 a night is being added to the bill councils should be more pro-active on getting cars released from the pound. Often the keeper or driver turns up very quickly as they need the car to get home in. If however, the car is stolen, and the police don't know or tell of the impounding, then a bill of £2,920 has already accumulated (on a vehicle worth £1,100) before anything substantive happens.

This is what the law says about removed cars:

That says, in terms, that as soon as a car is impounded the council should write to the registered keeper. Not doing so for several weeks whilst profiting from high storage charges looks like self enrichment.

As soon as Camden Council knew the car had been stolen they should have asked the obvious question, was an insurance claim made?

How did Camden Council manage to sell for £150 a car which insurers found to be worth £1,100 (an allowance must be made for there not being any keys). Who buys all the unclaimed cars? Is there a cosy arrangement with an employee of the car pound?

Why did it take the input of Mr Mustard to get this fixed? It often does. Parking managers across London know his name and his incredibly detailed knowledge of parking law and if they are wise, they sit up and take notice.

Have Camden Council now wrongly destroyed the property of the insurer? Yes.
Does the insurer know? No, probably not.
Camden Council are liable to the insurer for the amount by which the sale proceeds exceeded the costs due, which is of course zero, but only if they have taken the steps a competent authority would take to identify the true owner, which they haven't so they are probably liable to the insurer for the sum paid out (which Camden Council could reclaim from the operator of the pound).

Camden Council need to improve their procedures, that is for sure.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


are Barnet Council helping soften the financial effects of Covid-19? (Don't be silly!)

Here we go, this is how you soften the financial effects of Covid-19, this offer is in respect of a PCN which Mr Mustard has fought all the way to the tribunal (telephone hearing next week) and although it will cost the council a £30 tribunal fee that they cannot recover, and bundles of time in putting the evidence pack together, they have spontaneously offered to graciously accept 50% even if they win (they get nothing if they lose) thus giving away a potential £65.

Mr Mustard senses your warm feelings about Barnet Council being so understanding despite you knowing their history as ruthless, venal and rapacious (copyright 'Fras' a.k.a. 'Incandescent') and Mr Mustard is sorry (no he's not, you need to understand the enemy) to burst your bubble but the above concession was by Tower Hamlets Council. What Barnet are like follows.

Parking enforcement restarted in residents bays on Monday 8 June.
On Wednesday 10 June a traffic warden had spotted a car without a permit in a residential bay.
They could have issued a zero value warning PCN for £0.00
They issued a code 12 higher rate PCN for not having a permit, for £110
They could have issued a code 19 lower rate PCN for having an expired permit, for £60.
Given the 3 choices they chose the one which would make the most money (except that thanks to Mr Mustard it probably won't, it will cost them £30, the tribunal fee when they lose).

On 10 June the motorist make their informal challenge:

A clearer request for clemency and for Barnet Council to use their discretion it is hard to imagine. Did it move Barnet Council? Did it make them think long and hard? No, of course not, the rejection letter was issued the very next day, using a lot of words when two would have done, the second one being 'off'.

Para 1: 'We have carefully considered' - it doesn't look that way.

Para 2: 'Will be issued' - that is an option but speaks volumes about council attitude.

Para 3: The motorist told the council this, they don't need it repeated back to them. Note that as soon as they were made aware of the oversight the resident corrected the situation. The CPZ is meant to protect residents but one major side effect is that they suffer a penalty for any minor infringement.

Para 4: The motorist would have found it helpful if telephone numbers and web addresses had been provided. You would think the council would have the numbers to hand thanks to their own situation?

Mr Mustard thinks that the cursory rejection is a reflection of the desperate financial straits in which the council has found itself, partly thanks to a historic over-reliance on PCN as a major funding stream. £10,900,000 of the shortfall is parking or PCN related.

In his immediately prior blog published earlier this morning Mr Mustard brought to your attention changes to parking permits to support Covid-19 recovery. That delegated powers report was signed off by the parking manager on 22 May. A fortnight is a long time in politics apparently as its existence has been forgotten. It contained this:

What Mr Mustard doesn't understand is why the rejection letter was even issued, why wasn't it a letter saying the council were sorry to hear of the financial pressures the resident was suffering from and did they qualify under the defined hardship criteria (possibly not but they should have been asked) which shouldn't be interpreted too exactly but flexibly. If a two income household loses 20% of one person's income that could be enough to leave them short overall.

Never forget that it is all about the money. You are not a bad person if you forget to renew your parking permit, you were under acute pressure at the time.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Barnet Council - Covid-19 parking permit changes

15 June 2020

Barnet Council - revenue before safety

Mr Mustard was out on his long cycle ride this morning. He went via a roundabout route to Codicote. Having found the cafe he planned to use doesn't open on a Monday he pedalled hard back to Barnet to do some carbohydrate loading. The cafe he had planned to use had 2 tables on the pavement and plenty of room to still pass safely by and 3 people were using them as he left town at 9.20 
When he came back at 12.45 the tables were back inside because the council street scene inspector (for want of a better name) had been along and said no licence so no tables and chairs and unless you move them a fixed penalty would be issued. Most cafes have been closed for 2+ months and need a bit of latitude from the council in order to restore profitability and so that social distancing can take place.
All Barnet Council seem to think about is money, nor public health and safety. They should be licensing tables and chairs for a nominal £1 p.a. in 2020 and 2021 as an experiment and in order to try and combat covid. 
Mr Mustard's ride took him though Welwyn. Here is the photo he took of their High Street. All the little shops seemed to be open again.
It has been made one way and the pavement has been widened by coning off part of the road to allow space for people to queue and to pass along the street.
That action of erecting barriers and cones has helps the shopkeepers, it helps the public, helps control the virus, saves lives and protects the NHS. Nothing about it does harm to the council.
Barnet Council - not putting the community first.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard