16 December 2014

No marks for not answering the question on the paper

What is the point of a council meeting? Isn't it to consider important local matters?

What is the point of questions to the Leader of the Council?
To hold him to account for his team's actions and to inform the public by publishing them.

This all seems to have been forgotten in tonight's full Council meeting. Here, read the questions and mostly non-answers for yourselves.

Mr Mustard started reading.

Q1. A sucking up type question by a new councillor. (The park have had to go to charity for funds which it is the duty of the council to provide). No need as the council will shout about this from the rooftops on twitter, in the local papers etc.

Q2. Not an answer. A standard diversionary tactic in the second sentence. What Labour would do we'll only find out should they come to power. Rather petty by Richard, Mr Mustard thought.

Q3. But what will Richard actually do about the Open Space. Nothing informative here.

Q4. The question simply hasn't been answered. Mr Mustard doesn't think there have been any prosecutions for fly-tipping in recent years otherwise the council would have done a press release saying how marvellous they were.

Q5 &Q6. Properly answered.

Q7. What was the point in this question?

Q8. Not answered.

Q9. So if it always dealt with swiftly why do we need to step up efforts? Some figures about the number of incidents by month might have been more informative as well as doing something about catching the perpetrators.

Q10. You might eventually see an answer. It should have been here.

Q11. Pavement parking is already banned across the whole of London. Does Cllr Gordon not know this?

As there are 143 questions (more than usual) let's just consider the poorer ones.

Q13. Cllr Gordon again shows he doesn't know enough about the Council.

Q14. Not answered the size questions as the responses would be too embarrassing. Appropriate is in the eye of the beholder.

Q15. Should a routine council service really be the subject of a question to full council.

Q16. In which case Richard you should have asked Cllr Rawlings to clarify his question so that you could do him the courtesy of a proper answer.

Q17. Ah, a question from the councillor who voted to move a meeting to clash with the Labour Party Conference. This looks like another politically inspired act of no use to residents.

Q19. More petty politics.

Q20. Mr Mustard has his money on the overall take being higher.

Q21. More petty politics. It can't be irresponsible to follow the council constitution unless the constitution itself is irresponsible.

more later but read the rest and see how appalling it is.

Residents have been badly served by these partial answers.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


11 December 2014

Bizarre PCN of the year

Mr Mustard has been consulted about the above PCN issued by Harrow Council.

The PCN is for contravention 26 "parked in a Special Enforcement Area more than 50cm from the edge of the carriageway and not within a designated parking place". Clearly the single yellow line was not operative at 12:58

Things you need to know:

1. The whole of Greater London is a Special Enforcement Area.

2. The contravention was designed to stop double parking.

3. If a bay for parking was painted in the middle of the road and you parked in it you couldn't be guilty of parking a long way from the kerb as you were in a Designated Parking Place.

4. The whole of the car, including the wing mirror, has to be more than 50cm from the kerb. This car clearly isn't. A PCN for parking across a dropped kerb might have been justified but a PCN cannot be issued for that now.

The informal challenge has been rejected.

Mr Mustard has now drafted the formal representations which consist of one line to the effect that the car was not 50cm from the kerb. If it is rejected then it is off to PATAS we go.

If & when this PCN reaches PATAS the Adjudicator should dismiss it in a minute or less and Mr Mustard would suggest that costs would be payable by the council for being "wholly unreasonable".

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Sign School - lesson 1

Here is a sign from Haringey which caught out (by cctv - which won't happen soon) a gentleman who misunderstood and parked at 6.10pm because he only read the bottom panel.

In order to understand this sign (diagram 639.1B with optional panel 638.1), start at the top and work down:

On a Sunday you can park all day, free, as Sunday isn't mentioned at all.

Now let's talk about Monday through Saturday.

The top panel, the yellow one, has the "no parking" roundel so you cannot park in this bay from 8 to 9am or from 6 - 7pm (presumably to keep the road more clear for rush hour transport although Mr Mustard doubts it does any good as there isn't room along the whole road for 2 lanes. So far so simple for the average motorist.

If however, you are a delivery driver you cannot stop here, not even for a minute, to deliver or collect goods i.e. a parcel. The same goes if you are moving into a new flat and want to unload your possessions, you must avoid the two hours showing in the top panel.

The middle panel, the white one stops those short stops to deliver or collect. No exceptions, no differentiation between private or goods vehicles, do not stop for longer than it takes you to read the sign. Blue badge holders cannot park because it is a no loading bay for those two 1 hour slots. You can, however, drop someone off or pick them up (known as boarding and alighting, but don't take longer than it takes to do that safely and don't sit there for 2 minutes whilst the passenger comes out of a shop).

The bottom panel is fairly standard:

You can pay and park for 2 hours between 9am and 6pm.
You cannot return for 2 hours and if you do then you need to pay again.
You can drop off & pick up passengers (usual max is 2 mins but longer for elderly, young & disabled passengers who may need to be accompanied).
You can load and unload (usually up to 20 minutes for goods vehicles).
Blue badge holders can park for free (except in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, the City and the most southerly part of Camden where payment has to be made and an extra hour will be allowed - so if you only need an hour pay for the shortest possible increment of time) from 9am to 6pm.


From 7pm to 8am you can park for free.


Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

10 December 2014

Mad about Parking? Parking Mad is coming to a TV near you

Regular readers will recall Mr Mustard's appearance in the first episode of 4 of the 1 hour Parking Mad series on BBC1.

Another 3 programmes have been commissioned and people with parking stories are needed. It could be you on the silver screen and you'll end up like Mr Mustard (slightly better known than he was a year ago) who takes parcels in for all his neighbours and one of today's delivery drivers said "You're that parking ticket bloke off the telly, aren't you". His employer challenge any PCN he gets but then make him pay if they lose which seems pretty tough on a delivery driver who is doing anything up to 160 drops a day for them and not earning a fortune. The next PCN he gets will be handled by Mr Mustard. Interestingly one problem he has is the shared use "loading" bays which cars can often use in the borough of Barnet from 10 until 4. His van is quite large and he can't then get to park in the High St and it makes his job more difficult. The idea that there weren't deliveries between 10am and 4pm was always a dubious one.

If you have a story to tell, then contact James Lewis of Century Films (the same production company as before) by email on james.lewis@centuryfilmsltd.com or telephone him on 0207 378 6106 and tell him your story.

Don't expect to be on the TV next week, it takes months of preparation and filming to make a TV documentary.

Traffic wardens and parking managers are equally welcome to join in.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

8 December 2014

Mr Mustard gets treated as a second class citizen

No fault by the Royal Mail - they deliver the paid for service
A few months back, Cllr David Longstaff, otherwise christened Goldenarse by Mrs Angry (not because he bears any resemblance to a James Bond character in Goldeneye but because of an acting part in his show reel which showed him with a gold painted posterior, sorry about the imagery) went to Coventry to the Crapita call centre at Coventry. Slightly naughty Mr Mustard tweeted the question as to whether the staff there had ever heard of the councillor (thinking they were sure not to have) and back came the reply that yes they had (well of course Goldenarse is so important they would have) and they had also heard of Mr Mustard which Mr Mustard thought was unlikely. It would have been wise though of the council to have given the call centre a list of VIPs (very irritating persons) which would have included the bloggers and local troublesome cafe and sweetshop owners, the BAPS committee members etc. but no, that would be too sensible.

Anyway, Mr Mustard collected a car (his first ever Mercedes, 4 years old & very nicely made) on 25 November as he is spending a lot of his life on motorways at the moment.

On 25 November he made a permit application and uploaded his insurance etc. documents.

On 26 November Mr Mustard was busy but no-one rang to say his application was accepted and he could pay now.
On 27 November at 18:40 (real work got in the way again) he paid on-line having checked for himself if his application had resulted in an "offer". Mr Mustard looked to see if he could print his permit out at home as he had been able to the previous year. The option had quietly disappeared which is a typical council trick whereas those people who had previously relied on this method should be told in advance. This page on the councils website still says you can

but council management tell Mr Mustard you can't (expect the website will be updated once this blog post is read by the council).

Just going back to 25 November for a moment, Mr Mustard phoned the parking department line, which is answered by Capita in Coventry, and asked if he could pay and for a dispensation. Mr Mustard couldn't pay as the documents weren't yet showing, apparently they take up to 24 hours to become visible on the server when that should really be instant in this day and age. Mr Mustard's ears pricked up (usually they just stick out) when he was told that he couldn't have a dispensation and he politely asked why not. Because now it is only for a change of vehicle or a change of address. Apparently last month too many were given out to residents who were not renewing their permits on time (could this be because the council aren't sending out reminders? cause and effect) and so they were giving out "too many dispensations". Mr Mustard having purchased a second vehicle was not in that category but still couldn't have one and yet since then a friend, a troublesome cafe owner, was late in renewing and was given one (and no, she didn't receive a reminder and yes, you do take your coffee in Cafe Buzz, N12 don't you?). Mr Mustard asked if the parking manager (meaning the Barnet Council one, knew about the new policy) and was then very helpfully given the name of the Capita Parking Services Manager which Mr Mustard has filed away for later use.

Mr Mustard was parked outside of the zone all this time which means he had a 10 minute walk to his car and back although it did mean that he met three ladies walking their dogs, one of whom was his neighbour and expressed surprise that Mr Mustard of all people wasn't given a permit, and one other lovely lady said "oh, you're that famous man aren't you" well, not in Coventry is all Mr Mustard can say.

Back to the calendar.

On 1 December the printed permit arrived at Mustard Mansions. It came with a letter dated 27 November in an envelope that was post-marked 28 November. It was sent second-class. Mr Mustard has paid £70 and expects first-class service at all times. Things got worse. The permit had an expiry date of 25 November which means that Mr Mustard had been short-changed by £1.15 worth of permit. Multiply that up by 12,000 permits a year and a nice profit is made for the council. Anyone who paid more slowly than Mr Mustard could have been robbed of more days of validity.

On 3 December Mr Mustard received the letter saying his application for a permit had been accepted. It was in a letter dated 27 November and again sent second class in an envelope post marked 1 December. What a palaver.

Needless to say Mr Mustard took his concerns up with the real parking management. They were not happy. They didn't seem to know that changes had been made and they think that permits should be sent out first class, that the permit should expire a year and two days after the posting of the permit, that on line printing should be made available but that would have to wait its turn in software development and other councils would also need to ask for such a function.

This function of permits was clearly out sourced in a half baked manner by the commissioners who possibly didn't know the subtle nuances of parking permit renewals. Parking itself, the thin client side (getting thinner with all the worry caused by having to answer to Mr Mustard?) are now on the case and when they update Mr Mustard with any good news, he will tell you.

Now just before you go why not pop outside and check the expiry date of your permit and then go here to renew if it has expired. You'll need to phone the council to get a PIN as clearly your renewal letter has not reached you.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

6 December 2014

A typical request for Mr Mustard - the question of boarding passengers

Sadly, this is a typical request for Mr Mustard:


I have an elderly neighbour in her 90s. A kind gentleman earlier this afternoon came to take her out. There were no spaces anywhere near her house in Redacted Road, Finchley so he parked on a single yellow line,just at the end of the usual spaces, 2 houses away from hers and went to collect her from her home. She is very frail, and walks with a zimmer. When he came back with the lady, he saw a traffic warden giving him a ticket. He spoke to the warden, but he just walked away. (this is pretty standard and very wrong)

1. Isn’t it free parking in Barnet today?
2. Aren’t they supposed to wait for a while before issuing a ticket? Had he waited a few minutes he would have seen the man helping the lady to walk to the car.
3. What should he do?

and this was Mr Mustard's reply: 

Oh dear. What a nice man and what a rotten borough we live in.

1          Only in pay to park bays. There are probably extra PCN in residents bays to make up for it.

2          You are usually allowed 2 minutes for boarding and alighting and longer for the very young, the disabled and the elderly who should be allowed the reasonable time it takes. The zimmer frame is worth a few minutes.

3          He should fill out the attached form and give me the PCN. A letter from the 90 year old lady would be of help. We might also complain about the traffic warden who should have made a note about the passenger boarding.

Tell him I do this in aid of the North London Hospice but he is obviously charity minded so doesn't need to specifically donate for my help. Just make sure he knows I do this for free.

Best regards

Mr Mustard

D-Day (Disappearing Day) 16 December 2014 at 7pm

This is the day when the supposedly not pre-conceived alternative delivery provision journey starts which, more likely than not, will unaccountably and mysteriously (actually not mysterious as without someone defying the "leader" Richard Cornelius the nodding dogs of his party will all say "aye") end up with yet more services being outsourced to distant lands (Coventry, Southampton, Belfast etc) to companies like Capita who, after 15 years of running a call centre, offer a pathetic service such as not knowing the names of even the most senior staff (they didn't know who the £100k+ a year boss of Barnet Homes was when Labour Cllr Devra Day found out when she was sent to Coventry).

If everything under offer on the table gets outsourced the council will have shrunk in recent years from 3,200 directly appointed and accountable employees to just 332 (more info here). If you think that is not a good idea contact your councillor and tell them so (find them here by postcode) and go to the meeting and see what the councillors that you pay allowances for, get up to. It should be a lively & interesting evening. Do go along.

Mr Mustard's opposition to this outsourcing is that the way the council are currently going about it we get poor service, are locked into 10 year contracts and a year after transfer the staff who have been TUPEd across are at risk of being forced onto adverse contractual terms. If the council want to swing the axe and cut staff numbers and pay rates then they should hold the axe handle themselves and be ready to demonstrate to the public why this was the right course of action.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard