16 February 2020

Eastleigh B.C. - incompetent or bluffing?

Bluffer's Park in Toronto
For a traffic enforcement authority to get a simple law wrong, or to deliberately mislead a motorist in order to raise revenue, are both things which should not happen. Luckily the motorist, Mr D, had faith in the advice he received from Mr Mustard (whose name did not appear on the file).

The facts: Mr D parked his car on double yellow lines in order to deliver glass to a customer. He got ticketed. This had happened to him previously in Barnet and when it did he produced his delivery documents and the council always cancelled.

Eastleigh saw it differently.

If you are unloading something bulky or heavy you are not in breach of the restriction, you are exempt. Mr D couldn't believe the answer so he wrote again and got the same nonsense back again:
The second answer was worse than the first one as it said you cannot unload, a patent lie. Now Mr D had to wait for the Notice to Owner. Once he had it, he made the same representation of unloading. He got knocked back again and that opened the door to the relevant tribunal, the TPT.
It is impossible to be continuously loading. You go out of sight of a traffic warden when you enter the delivery premises or if they are around the corner. Funny thing is that rule isn't in the Eastleigh traffic order which allows for loading and unloading.
Mr D made his application to the tribunal and all of a sudden the council woke up to reality and threw in the towel, for this nonsense reason:

It is fortunate that Mr D had overturned previous PCNs whilst he had been engaged in unloading as otherwise he might have believed Eastleigh Council and given then £35 or £70 (depending at what stage he gave up). One member of staff, at least, needs some training in the basic rules of parking. Perhaps they could have a read of the Highway Code

It would seem that Mr Mustard's work will never be done.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

31 January 2020

Please help a blind person to see again

Credit or debit card or cheque book (yes, some of us still have one) at the ready please.

Mr Mustard has blogged about the charity Second Sight on a previous occasion.

The plan for the charity in 2020 is to sell 5,000 copies of the above book Outgrowing the Big which will fund 5,000 operations. This is the last year of active fund raising as the hospitals are moving onto self-sufficient and sustainable models.

£20 is the cost of restoring sight to one blind person in Bihar and to help you spatially, as he couldn't have put a pin anywhere near the correct location without a bit of help years ago from a friend who visited the hospital to help out, Mr Mustard has given you a useful map.

Mr Mustard would like you to buy a copy of this book. You will enable a blind person to see again and if you can spare £20 what better way would there be to spend it. This isn't a book to buy and just leave on your coffee table, it is also a good and varied read, here is one page to whet your appetite:

Mr Mustard is lucky enough to have 2432 twitter followers, who will be tweeted a link to this blog. If just 1% of you buy this book on this link then 24 people will be able to see clearly again. If you are cash rich but time poor, you might just want to donate instead, Lucy, the driving force behind Second Sight, will be happy and grateful for either.

Do please buy the book or give something. 100% of your donation goes on saving sight, nothing at all on administrative costs.

With thanks

Mr Mustard


23 January 2020

Barnet Council not good at thinking of risks - Saracens

Here is the risk register that was cobbled together by Barnet Council to offer some crumbs of comfort for the stupid 30 year loan of £22.9m to Saracens.


It seems that no council employee (or 'Officer' as they are so grandly titled) considered the possibility of relegation and the effect on the club's finances or even on crowd size such that the enlarged stand may not be needed. This risk affects the ability to repay.

Mr Mustard isn't being wise after the event. He never thought it was a good idea to lend to Saracens especially when a multi-millionaire was their backer and could easily afford a new stand.

The Council did obtain a report from external accountants about making this loan. The external accountants should have obtained fully detailed Annual Accounts from Saracens and management accounts for recent months and given the rumours about the salary cap breach they should have gone though them with a fine tooth comb. They probably weren't being pushed to be overly diligent, it was just a box ticking exercise, a fop for the public, that, or the breaches were hidden out of sight, which makes Saracens not a fit and proper company to be offered credit.

There must be an awful lot of back covering going on in the Barnet Council offices at Colindale at the moment. There is a meeting on Wednesday of the Financial Performance and Contracts Committee but that isn't going to decide anything, it is merely going to 'note' the report that the Deputy Chief Executive, Cath Shaw (by coincidence she is a bit of a rugby fan) is presenting.

The council are still bending over backwards for Saracens, despite the well publicised failings with the salary cap. The two fines, points deductions and agreed relegation are all very good reasons to cancel the loan and demand repayment of the sums advanced so far. There are no extra assets from which the £3.2m could be recovered and Saracens are several million down in fines, further eroding the available assets.

The council know they can walk away:

The council admit and recognise there are 'significant financial implications' but still want to leave the door open for further lending. A bonkers stupid decision.

There will be a definition in the contract, which Mr Mustard has not yet seen, but which a member of the public has asked for via the What Do They Know website, of the term 'Material Adverse Effect' but one would hope that the council's lawyers have written it to cover such a financial morass as the one which Saracens have got themselves into by their own reckless actions. Councillors on this committee should be given the definition and should really of their own volition ask to see a copy of the contract which they are absolutely entitled to see. Decisions should not be taken on a contract without seeing a copy of the contract so you know what you are deciding on.

If the council don't hold the view that the current state of events is a materially adverse one then that would be wilful blindness.

The sum in question is petty cash to the multi-millionaire behind the club. Just ask him nicely for our money back and let's put it to better use.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

9 January 2020

Puller Road - one unlucky motorist

When Mr Mustard read the above tribunal decision he thought it was odd as he knew that unless cars on both sides put a wheel on the kerb it isn't possible for lorries, ambulances, fire engines etc to get through. 

When the google car went down the road for the first time in 2009 cars were clearly parked partially on the pavement and nothing has changed since.


Mr Mustard also thought that it was a road in which the London wide pavement parking ban is not enforced. He decided therefore to extract from the published PCN database the PCNs which were issued in Puller Road in 2019. Here they are:

The council statement to the tribunal, that footway parking isn't permitted (in that PCNs are issued) which should be the truth, clearly isn't. There really does need to be sort of sanction against local authorities which tell patent lies to the tribunal.

You might also wonder why the traffic warden issued a PCN for parking on the pavement to just one car in the road when he could have issued 50. I think it is because they know if they do that one neighbour will come out, will call another one and before you know it the residents will be up in arms and the traffic warden will receive robust verbal feedback. So what Mr Mustard thinks they do is hit one car and then scarper.

Do make sure that you don't put a wheel on the kerb, anywhere in Greater London, unless a bay is marked out or you are 100% sure it is a road in which the council turns a blind eye.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

17 December 2019

Leaves on the lines

There are a lot of leaves on the ground at the moment, Barnet being so rich in trees, and this can lead to people thinking they have parked where there aren't lines, when there are.

The same goes for snow.

What the public are entitled to is clear information as to where a restriction starts and ends and what it is. This can be conveyed, since 2016, by signs or lines or both (a different road surface can be used to demarcate a restricted area nowadays, with Camden making great use of this near the British Museum).

The above car received a PCN as he found the lines to not be clear enough but as Mr Mustard could clearly see a yellow line both in front and behind the car he suggested not going to the tribunal as he expected the motorist to lose. Adjudicators take different views on this question and it is one within their factual judgment. Here is one such decision which Mr Mustard thinks is a bit harsh, there is nothing in the law that says motorists have to carry a broom with them:

On the other hand, Mr Mustard has a decision in which the Adjudicator said that if the council want to enforce in the snow, they need to clear the roads first. Here it is:

should read 'not visible'

Snow may have melted away between the time when the car was parked and when the traffic warden came along later (although Mr Mustard thinks they should not be sent out in the snow and ice for their own personal safety).

There have been a few frosty mornings. Occasionally Mr Mustard's girlfriend, who lives outside of a cpz, forgets to obtain a visitor parking voucher from him to display in the windscreen and then suddenly remembers at about 9 on a Saturday morning, an hour after the zone has started. So far the luck has been on her side and she has not been ticketed. One morning Mr Mustard looked out of the loft room window at the cars parked in the street and noted that all the windscreens were frosted over. That isn't a problem for residents vouchers as they are now electronic but for cardboard scratch off visitor vouchers and blue badges, they won't be visible after a hard frost and the traffic warden isn't likely to clear your screen for you. Logic, reasonableness and common sense would be that they have to walk on but no, Mr Mustard will bet you a pound to a penny that he will soon be dealing with cars displaying a visitor voucher, that have a frosted windscreen and a PCN tucked under the wiper blade, if it can be prised off the glass.

In fact, here is one of Mr Mustard's successes from 2012

Now Mr Mustard believes in playing with a straight bat and telling the truth but if traffic wardens are to start going about giving out patently unfair tickets when they don't have the grounds to believe a contravention had occurred, as they can't see if there is a voucher on display or not, then he won't be surprised if residents start saying there was a visitor voucher on display when there wasn't, as the council will not be able to disprove that assertion. Sauce for the goose and all that.

Let's see if Mr Mustard's inbox sees any of this type of unfair PCN landing in it.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

3 December 2019

The Wrong Approach - now righted

A resident emailed Mr Mustard with the above PCN and told him that he wasn't in Approach Road when he parked but in The Approach. A feature of the latest PCN software that Barnet Council use is that they put a pin on a map to show roughly where the PCN was issued, like this:

Clearly the PCN is a nullity for want of an accurate statement of the contravention, the locus being a vital fact. A challenge was sent in saying that the vehicle was not parked (= not waiting) in Approach Road, New Barnet. Here is the relevant part of the response, a rejection of the challenge:

The response is wrong, not just a little wrong, but 100% wrong.

How can a council, or their contractors, NSL, get something so basic as the location so wrong. Approach Road is adjacent to New Barnet railway station.

The two roads are 6 miles apart. It is very hard to muddle them up if the slightest attention is paid.

Now the motorist is asking Mr Mustard if he should pay. Definitely not is the answer as the council have accused him of something which is simply not true. The motorist will now have to wait for the Notice to Owner, and has all of the worry of a PCN hanging over him for all that time, & if the car is leased that will mean an administration fee has to be paid, one that should not be necessary if the council and/or NSL did their job properly. There is no guarantee that the formal representations in response to the Notice to Owner will be considered any more carefully than the informal challenge was, or wasn't, and then an Appeal will be made to the tribunal. It is only at that point that an impartial view will be taken of the facts by a body that doesn't have a financial interest in rejecting perfectly good representations.

Mr Mustard thinks it is time for a change when it comes to how the surplus from road traffic related PCNs should be spent. Let councils cover their costs and all of the surplus after that should go to a central body to spend on something charitable. Councils would rapidly cut their activities back to the minimum and focus solely on the traffic management purposes which should be their primary goal, rather then generating surpluses to reduce their wider budgetary pressures.

We also need an independent oversight body who can investigate why some councils keep making errors in their own favour.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update 3 December 2019

The Notice to Owner was issued on 30 October to the garage whose car it was.

Mr Mustard challenged it on 12 November pointing out the road error, providing maps.

Barnet Council refused for a second time to cancel on 26 November.

On 28 November Mr Mustard started an Appeal to the tribunal.
On 3 December he checked the PCN balance and the PCN has, at long last, been cancelled.

What a waste of time and money.

Barnet Council have had to pay a c.£30 case fee to the tribunal. They were always going to lose the case. Why didn't they cancel earlier? Because many people give up even when they are in the right.

Mr Mustard never gives up.

20 November 2019

Barnet Council - Capita - data harvest reduced

Capita recently demanded that Mr Mustard prove he was still entitled to the single person discount and he had a choice of completing the form they sent him or going on line and completing a form, as above. Mr Mustard started by having a look at the on line form and decided that his telephone number and email address should not be compulsory information.

Mr Mustard complained to Barnet Council and they have half agreed with him.

I can advise that the email address is collected to provide automatic notification to the customer that their review has been submitted successfully. As part of this notification the customer is given a reference number that they can quote if they have any queries about us receiving the online form. We do not send any other response to the review.

I am satisfied that the collection of the email address is not excessive and that the collection of this information is necessary and relevant to the processing of form.

The telephone number is collected in case there is a need to contact the customer about their form, however I agree that this should be optional field as alternative contact details are available. In my view making both the email address and telephone number mandatory could be considered as unnecessary.

With that in mind I can confirm that the form is being redesigned, making the email address mandatory, and the telephone number optional. This will become live in the next three weeks.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Mr Mustard does not agree with the reasoning as they could simply provide a confirmation of receipt reference number on line. If they want to contact you they can write as it is a property that is the subject of the enquiry, it isn't going anywhere, or they can make an email address optional should you want to be contacted that way.

Mr Mustard sent his response in by post and the form does not say you must supply an email address and a telephone number, boxes which Mr Mustard would have put a dash in anyway. Did Capita send an acknowledgement that they had received his completed form, no they didn't so they only want to send one if it doesn't cost them anything.

Did they tell Mr Mustard the outcome of their review?
No, of course they didn't, as they only get paid when someone loses their single person discount, so they want to cut out all possible costs, even at the expense of providing a resident with the reassurance that all is well.

Rather than being left in the dark, Mr Mustard has now written to Capita to ask them to confirm the outcome of the review and to see the data on which they based their decision.

Mr Mustard is also now going to lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner to see if they agree that the collection of an email address on line is not necessary, it should be optional.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard