15 July 2018

Worstminster / Bestminster

Mr Mustard decided to start at the end of the story, with the good news, and go backwards. Marston were not greatly at fault in this matter, they were given a warrant which was tainted by incompetence. Mr Mustard does not think that even had they even-handedly considered the DVLA letter that the vehicle had been sold prior to the contravention and referred it to the City of Westminster that there would have been any change of position. Coming back from your holiday in the early hours and then getting clamped at 7am wasn't the best start to the post holiday period. Unfortunately Mr Mustard's advice to garage the car was not heeded.

The bare facts of this matter are that a car was given away and there was a delay in registering the transfer at DVLA. For a few months after his lucky gift the new owner of the car ran amok all over London. Every PCN but one was cancelled for the prior owner. Mr Mustard cobbled the facts together and sent an epistle to the newly appointed Head of Parking at City of Westminster.

So we end up with a lady having her new car clamped because the bailiff had assets under control but the bailiff has ended up with nothing. It would be better if bailiffs, when offered a plausible reason why the warrant might be wrong, would take instructions from their client and put the matter on hold. The problem is that because bailiffs are remunerated solely on success they are likely to ignore the obvious error and extract their pound of flesh. They end up giving it back with interest which is a waste of their time and causes reputational damage.

The City of Westminster though are to be complimented on having seriously considered Mr Mustard's epistle, which was something of a missile, and accepted their failings and made a decent compensation payment. Mr Mustard wishes the new parking manager all the best. Many other managers could learn from her example.

Remember, we all make mistakes, how you deal with them is what really counts.

If you are selling, or disposing of, a vehicle, make sure you register the change of ownership with DVLA as if the new owner doesn't, you may pay the price.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

12 July 2018

School zig zags - don't stop there

East Barnet School
Mr Mustard was consulted by a motorist who had been caught on the school keep clear markings as he stopped on them briefly in order to reverse past them into a parking space, the car in question is the one to the right of the word 'clear'.

In order to move from forward motion to reverse it is necessary to stop for a short while during which time you have to change gear and the laws of physics require that you are stationary for an instant. The computer decided the lack of motion should be considered for a PCN and a human being pressed the button to confirm the computer selection. How much time they spent thinking about this we do not know.

The contravention on school keep clear markings is of 'stopping' and a millisecond may well be long enough to make out a contravention but context is key. In this case Mr Mustard did not think a penalty was deserved and so he wrote to the parking manager:

In this case 'T' stops fleetingly in order to reverse into a space which would otherwise not be accessible. To my mind he doesn't deserve to be sent a PCN because this was a trivial period of stopping for good reason, although presumably a team member thought he did & technically yes he did stop.

I was wondering if you might think the same? If so, please cancel the PCN & save us all from extra paperwork.

It turned out that the manager did agree and the PCN was cancelled accordingly:

This is sensible as there wasn't any intent to do anything dangerous which would endanger the life of a child and none are in the picture that early afternoon.

Notwithstanding that Mr Mustard has put this PCN to bed he suggests you don't park in this way but go up the road past the zig zags, turn around where safe and then return and enter the parking space head on such that you don't have to stop on the entrance markings.

Mr Mustard has seen a PCN lost at the tribunal because the motorist pulled up on the zig zags in order to execute a 3 point turn. Mr Mustard agrees with that decision. Outside a school is not the place to be turning around.

The other problem he sees is when the keep clear zig zag lines are placed outside fire and ambulance stations. Those probably won't have a time plate as they apply 24 hours a day. He saw a PCN lost at Hartley Close around the corner from Mill Hill Fire station for this reason.

One further problem he has seen is when you have to stop on or alongside the keep clear markings because the road is only wide enough to let one car through and you obligingly waited for the other car. If you have your dash cam running that recording will help you overturn a PCN for stopping, as it was to avoid an accident, which amounts to an exemption.

Mr Mustard hopes that his advice keeps you out of trouble.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

8 July 2018

Syrian Kitchen - Saturday 14th July (at Cafe Buzz)

Mr Mustard can't, sadly, make the above event but you could.

Have a good feed & help refugee women at one and the same time.

Here is the link so you can reserve your seats and see photos of the sort of fabulous food you will be served.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

6 July 2018

City of London caught out and agree to pay costs

Mr Mustard read the above before he had seen the Appeal decision. His first thoughts were that it was refreshing to see the City of London accepting it had made mistakes and would improve their service. He was also pleased that they did not fight the costs claim which was in any sense a flea bite to the City.

Then he read the Appeal & he was less happy but hey what a time to be a security guard and have or leave a cctv camera trained on your car.

How unlucky for the City. What poor records they keep. How many people get caught by their late posting of suspension notices? Ironic that the suspension for filming was itself filmed.

Now you can't always have your car parked outside your place of work with a camera trained upon it.

What can you do? Well if you have a satnav with a fitted camera, or a pure crash cam, then you have cctv evidence yourself of the state of the signage upon arrival at your destination.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

p.s. The PCN in this case was for £130 which would take Mr S a few minutes over 13 hours to earn (gross before tax and National Insurance). Penalty charges affect the lower paid members of society quite brutally. They really need to be lower.

5 July 2018

The apology of the year - by Dart Charge

Regular readers, both of you, lol, will remember the story about the bailiff who put his own self interest before justice and Mr Mustard finished the blog post by saying the payment would turn out to be a loan and so it came to pass.

Mr Mustard's alter ego has made a few lash ups in his time and crafts, even though he says so himself, a fine apology. Well Dart Charge have been superb, they have studied Mr Mustard's complaint and taken it to heart, made a handsome apology, resolved to do better in the future and made a generous compensation payment. There is nothing else you could ask for except the impossible of not making the error in the first place. This is why often Mr Mustard goes to the top of an organisation when there are process errors which management need to fix. Are you reading this Westminster Council, as you received a 3 page missive yesterday, did you not, also about your importunate & unfortunate use of a bailiff.

Marvellous, a technical solution which should be foolproof. A recognition that any recent crossing might slip through but will be swiftly dealt with and direct contact details to assist - the inability to talk to people is one of the problems when automated systems go rogue.

Mr Mustard hopes that the disappointment is about the bailiff's actions as once your car has been clamped and you have to drive your kids to school some distance away you really don't have many options except paying up. Hopefully the bailiff will have to pay something towards the problem he created.

Another heartfelt apology here and a generous payment in compensation. The single mum had to go into overdraft to get the clamp removed so will have incurred some bank charges. Mr Mustard happened to open this apology when he was sat in the waiting area at London Tribunals, it warmed the cockles (he had just won 1 lost 2) of his heart as this was the first time in 5 years of asking that an enforcement authority has realised the damage that their blunders do and has realised it is right and proper to make amends by paying more than a token amount of financial compensation. Most authorities think is enough to cancel a PCN, which just isn't enough. The stress of a wrongful situation is enormous.

The lady in question was rather pleased with the outcome
Even though she lives on a very tight budget the lady in question offered Mr Mustard some money. He declined as he works pro bono (for free), and is fortunate to be comfortable, and he derives the most enormous pleasure from sorting out difficult problems. He merely asked that when she was clearing out clothes and toys which her children have grown out of that she donates them to a North London Hospice shop. Enfield or Winchmore Hill can expect a large delivery soon.

Gosh, the third good news story that Mr Mustard has written in the last month. His readers will both disappear if he carries on like that.

Seriously, Mr Mustard thinks that his years of bashing away at wrongdoing are starting to bear some fruit. Some parking managers go to the trouble of replying to him in minutes and out of hours and that is appreciated.

Only a fool ignores Mr Mustard.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

3 July 2018

TfL are a disgrace - in the nature of a guest blog

The facts:

I hope you're well. I'm afraid I have another query for you on behalf of my parents. I will try to keep the facts brief but can provide more detail if needed.

- parents have moved house, new owners called this week to say they have some post for them. Parents collected post to find 2 charge certificates from TfL for non payment of PCNs (congestion charge)
- new owners of house state that no previous correspondence has been received (i.e. The Pcns themselves or any reminders)
- charge certificates state payment required in 14 days (i.e. by 8 august) otherwise they will register it as a debt
- I believe a statutory declaration is required (or two) to say that parents did not receive PCNs?
- reason for not paying congestion charge is that vehicle is registered under blue badge discount for my grandmother however the email sent by TfL to ask whether that should be renewed was sent to my grandfather who sadly passed away last year. Therefore email account not checked and discount expired around march this year.
- parents did have a mail redirect initially but this had stopped by the time PCN issued. However new owners are in touch and would / should have told them if they had post
- my dad (registered keeper) did not update DVLA until recently, however he says (I am asking him to double check this) that when he called them (in July) to update his address they told him they already had new address. Not sure how this is possible but perhaps they obtained it via an alternative source..? 

Any chance of success with this do you think? Presume first would have to attempt statutory declaration then if successful, make representations? Out of interest, when log in to TfL site it still seems to allow us to make reps even though supposedly you cannot do this once charge certificate issued.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give us!

Although Mr Mustard wasn't managing the PCNs he keeps an eye on things. One PCN was settled and the other marched forward through the process to the bailiff. He enquired what had happened.

Thanks for your email. Yes - it was a complete nightmare for my parents as you can imagine. TfL are a disgrace - despite my parents sending in the relevant stat dec signed by a solicitor etc, TfL managed to lose it. My parents then got another statutory declaration signed and witnessed etc and followed up with the TEC who confirmed all received and sent to TfL, and that bailiffs would definitely be put on hold. Next thing they know, very unpleasant bailiff at door a few days later. My parents were already in the middle of a major family crisis so had no option but to pay full amount (it was a weekend and nobody from TfL or TEC available of course).  (2 swearing fees of c. £10 would have had to be paid)

My mum called tfl on the Monday and TfL actually admitted they had failed to correctly notify bailiffs and agreed to cancel ticket. Now my parents are waiting for refund - who knows if it will ever materialise.

Thank you for keeping track of this - I have to say that I despair at organisations like TfL and others whose disorganisation and ruthlessness causes innocent people an extraordinary amount of stress and upset.

Please keep up your good work in helping people to fight back!

The problem is that parking departments automate as much of the process as they can simply because of the volume they deal with. TfL issue around 500,000 PCNs each year. Thus the personal input which would stop most stupid process errors just isn't built into the system and that is wrong.

The parents are out of pocket, they are due an apology for the error in instructing the bailiffs and should be compensated for the worry but that simply doesn't happen.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

29 June 2018

Barnet Council failure leads to costs against them

an awful lot of signs to take in whilst also watching for people crossing the road
This report concerns a motorist who got caught in Sunny Gardens Road on a Saracens Match Day. The decision of the adjudicator from the Appeal follows, the motorist attended and Barnet Council relied on their bundle of evidence.

The issue in the case is whether the signage was adequate.

The EA case is that the Appellant's vehicle had parked in a permit holder's bay, without displaying a permit, and so a PCN was issued to the vehicle.

The EA rely on contemporaneous notes and photographs.

The Appellant's case is that the signage is not adequate. He has specified the route taken to visit his friend, and taken a series of photographs illustrating the various challenges faced in trying to see/read the signage in place.

The EA case is that the road is within a CPZ, which applies during events, and which dates are posted.

Both parties have filed photographs and made written submissions.

I have heard from the Appellant and read the remaining evidence.

It appears from the EA map that the route taken by the Appellant means that he would encounter 4 possible sets of CPZ signs. His case is that the first set are a mile from when he was due to park (and the second set 3/4 of a mile from where he was due to park), and as he was not contemplating then parking could not reasonably be expected to have had to have regard to them. There is some force in that argument, because these are temporary restrictions - so that as well as reading that it was a CPZ, the motorist would have to take in the forthcoming dates. In my view this sets too great a burden on the motorist. In respect of the first sign I also note that the sign would easily be discounted / missed; at that point a vehicle would be turning off the A41, which is a busy and fast moving road.

In respect of the third sign the Appellant has provided evidence that there were two trees prior to the junction, one large, and then one small, so that the motorist's view would be obscured such that he would be non-sighted save at the point of turning left (and fortuitously looking at the sign).

In respect of the fourth sign, this was located very close to the house he was visiting, but again he has provided photographs showing that there were trees planted in front; even if not in leaf, they obscured the smaller plates which show the dates.

In summary, - bearing in mind that the motorist is not just looking for the CPZ sign, but for a smaller sign, with dates on it - I find that the signage for was not adequate on this day in these circumstances to communicate the restriction.

I therefore allow the appeal.

Having won his case the motorist then decided to apply for costs. These are awarded rarely, no more thar a dozen times a year per enforcement authority.  This motorist was logical, organised & determined and made out a good enough argument to convince the adjudicator that Barnet Council had been wholly unreasonable. Here is the decision.

I allowed this appeal on 4th April 2018, following an oral hearing, at which the Appellant attended but the EA did not.

The issue was the adequacy of signage; I found that the signage was not adequate; both parties had filed evidence on the point. I made findings as to inadequacy, as argued by the Appellant, on each of the 4 signs which the EA relied on to show that the motorist had fair warning of the restrictions. The decision was not subject to onward challenge by the EA. The decision does not set a precedent. There may well be decisions of other Adjudicators finding that the signage was adequate - as argued by the EA - but there is no test case on it, and I no specific decision was drawn to my attention and so cannot see what evidence those Adjudicators had access to.

The Appellant now seeks costs, on the basis that the EA were wholly unreasonable and vexatious. He relies on letters dated 5th and 6th April and 25th May. The EA have filed a response on 8th June 2018 disputing the claim.

The Appellant says that the following conduct engaged the Regulations: he disclosed his case in representations and adduced evidence, and yet the EA pursued and challenged it; the Council produced highly misleading photographs; there was poor pagination of the bundle which necessitated a personal hearing and additional letters; the Council produced a bundle of over 200 pages, which were not germane to the issue.

The EA say that the Appellant has failed to produce receipts for his expenses, that the decision does not set a precedent and has been found adequate by other Adjudicators, that the Adjudicator had wrongly found that the restrictions were temporary as they were in place since 2013 and the vehicle had been parked 3/4 of the mile from the sign, the Appellant could have had a postal hearing, and so the Appellant need not have opted for an oral hearing.

I start my consideration of the application for costs from the following point of view; I do consider that costs awards should be made sparingly, as parties should be able to come to the Tribunal and have their say, without the fear of costs orders being made, and which may otherwise deter them. It would be quite wrong for motorists who have simply misunderstood rules of signage to be subject to the penalty of costs if they are inevitably going to lose their appeal. The draftsmen clearly intended that costs should be awarded only in limited circumstances from the language of the Regulations.

On this occasion I allow costs for the following reasons.

The Appellant has discharged the burden of showing that the disputed decision was wholly unreasonable (Regulation 13(1)(b)) and that the EA were wholly unreasonable in resisting the appeal.

The Appellant has satisfied me that he made very detailed representations in response to the notice to owner, dated 12th December 2017, which set out his route, a description of the problems with the signage, and photographs in support. The notice of rejection dated 23rd January 2017 simply says that there is signage in place with which the motorist must familiarise himself, but does not address the question of adequacy and the specific points made. There was considerable force in the Appellant's view that his representations had not been properly addressed; inevitably an appeal was filed.

The EA seek in their submissions to rely on past appeals having been refused (and the EA decision upheld), to conclude this signage was adequate in respect of this appeal; however, any outcome will depend on the evidence adduced before the Adjudicator, and so the EA cannot simply resort to this without proper enquiry of the evidence in those other cases.

In this case the appeal was allowed before me on the evidence which was before the EA at the point that representations were made; so the EA should have considered it at that point, and concluded that the signage was not adequate.

The EA seek in the costs representations to say that the decision wrongly refers to "temporary" signs; I agree that this could have been better expressed, as signs which operate on event days only, so will frequently change. The point remains that as the signs with the dates on them are small, require careful reading, and which is more challenging when the vehicle is moving and on major roads, the more clear and obvious the signage.

The Appellant makes other points as to lack of pagination of the bundle and a large bundle of little relevance, but I do not consider these points to amount to evidence of unreasonably conduct.

As to assessment of costs, the Appellant can claim for time spent and costs incurred only from the date of the disputed decision (notice of rejection). Further, as the jurisdiction of the Tribunal is similar to the jurisdiction of the country court, the litigant in person rate of £9.25 is apposite. I allow time and expenses for travel: the Appellant does not have to justify why he wishes to attend an oral hearing; he is entitled to do so, and is indeed helpful where routes/photographs/signage/perspective are relevant to the decision.

I accept, in light of the Appellant's address, that his travel claim in terms of expenses of £55.10 is reasonable and reasonably incurred.

In light of the distance, the length of travel is reasonable, as is the time in the hearing, and preparation time for filing the notice of appeal, entering into correspondence, raising issues, drafting letters, and preparing for the hearing, I allow 9 hours in total at £9.25 per hour (£83.25).

I therefore make a costs award in the Appellant's favour of £138.35.

The litigant in person rate is now £19 per hour so even more could have been awarded.

Interesting points from Mr Musatrd's point of view is that a CPZ is only meant to cover a small number of streets not huge areas which lead to the vital signs being a long way away and this decision helps with the argument that signage is not adequate & often there will only be one sign that was passed about a mile away.

The evidence bundle of 200 pages does outface many motorists who don't then study it carefully. One day Mr Mustard will get around to dissecting and explaining an evidence bundle to you and suggest an order in which to tackle it and what to look for.

In this case the motorist put his cards on the table early and detailed his approach route so the only signs the council needed to produce were the ones between the edge of the zone and his stopping point. It was lazy of the council (or possibly NSL who do most of the back office work) to put every sign for the Saracens zone in the bundle as that was simply padding.

The Statutory Guidance of the Secreatary of State requires that a Notice of Rejection should be as follows

Thus merely saying that the signs are there and not explaining how they were adequate and how they could be seen despite the trees doesn't cut it and their arrogant and unhelpful summary dismissal has cost them dear. Mr Mustard sees numerous similar Notices of Rejection. Barnet Council need to improve their written responses.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard