29 June 2015

Bunn Fight at the car park in Mill Hill

3 hours free parking was recently agreed by councillors for Saturdays (not sure it is permanent but you can look at the sign before you park).

The message didn't properly filter through to the NSL traffic wardens nor to the PayByPhone people who carried on charging £5.10 for 3 hours of free parking and/or dishing out PCN if you didn't pay. The requirement to have a telephone to order 3 hours of something free was unreasonable and Mr Mustard would have beaten the PCN he heard about at PATAS. There is now no need as management have stepped in and out things right. It is doubtless only because of outsourcing parking in the first place that it all went wrong.

Pro-active refunds are to be made.

All PCN should also be cancelled but somehow Mr Mustard thinks that won't happen so make sure you challenge the PCN or wing a copy over to mrmustard@zoho.com and he will get it cancelled for you.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

15 June 2015

Newham Council - a world record PCN demand?

You won't believe your eyes.

If you have a £130 PCN you can end up with the value being increased by 50% and you then receive a Charge Certificate.

Mr Mustard, who rather likes numbers, knows that if you add 50% to £130, the answer, using only his own brain power, is £195. Newham Council have huge computer systems which help them to make a packet out of PCN

which make £130 + 50% come to £8,795 which is a tad more than 50%, 500% or even 5,000% extra. Time to wind the elastic band up a little tighter in the council computer?

Mr Mustard thinks you might like to see the Charge Certificate, but not if you open an envelope over your cornflakes, having innocently forgotten to pay a PCN yourself?

apologies for the poor image quality
Can you imagine how the lady who opened the envelope to be confronted by this Charge Certificate felt? Even Mr Mustard would have been shaken to his very core. (He has virtually held the hand of the affected party and told them not to worry, which is easy for him as his name is not in the frame).

There has obviously been a diabolical error somewhere and the test now for Newham Council is what they do about this gargantuan error. The very least is a fulsome grovelling apology from the Parking Manager, the cancellation of any other PCN that happen to be knocking about for the same vehicle (only one as far as Mr Mustard is aware) a bunch of flowers (no, not for Mr Mustard, silly) and a lifetime's supply of free visitor vouchers.

Are Newham Council big enough or will they blame some faceless unnamed pen-pusher and quietly cancel this PCN and otherwise keep schtum? We are judged less by our mistakes than how we deal with them. Here is an opportunity to show the world what Newham Council are made of; sugar & spice?

Surely the PCN value field could have been set to trigger a warning if it exceeded a set maximum?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update 18 June 15: The Newham payment system is now showing £457 which is a vast improvement on the previous figure but is still wrong. A council can only issue one Charge Certificate and so having issued a defective one they have no action open to them other than hitting the cancel button (unless they want to explain themselves to the Ombudsman in due course).

13 June 2015

An action packed Environment Committee on 11 June 15

Mr Mustard had not been to a meeting for a while so he decided to show his face and speak to the committee for 3 minutes. The running order of the meeting was changed so that the items Mr Mustard was speaking on came earlier although once there Mr Mustard usually stays for the whole meeting.

Cllr Dean Cohen is proposing that single yellow lines are not enforced on Bank Holidays. There seemed to be more debate about what is a bank (or public) holiday than about the idea of enforcement but after some faffing about the proposal that will be worked on by officers is to not enforce on a day on which the public don't expect enforcement as the pay and resident bays are not enforced on those days. Mr Mustard proposed this when policy was reviewed last July. He is pleased that it is at least being considered now. Traffic wardens could, in the meantime, be instructed to concentrate on other areas and all challenges against single yellow line enforcement on bank and public holidays could be accepted whilst the necessary legal steps are taken.

Cllr John Hart, on behalf of all 3 Mill Hill ward councillors, then proposed the contraction of the area and times of the Saracens Event Day zone. He posited that it could be removed but it is part of the planning permission and other councillors would have voted him down so he stuck to reducing the area size and the hours. Officers are against reducing the 6 hours as that is their way of ensuring the restricted time covers possibly differing kick off times so essentially we are in a situation where you can be penalised for parking after a match is over which is a nonsense brought about by administrative convenience. A plan will be worked up and brought back to the committee with a smaller number of restricted roads for councillors to vote upon.

Permits for school staff was next. You might want to read the proposals here. It is unsurprising that staff who work in schools were heavily in favour of being allowed to park in a residents CPZ. Mr Mustard thinks that residents will not be so keen and the residents in affected areas are to be consulted.

This is what Mr Mustard had to say to councillors on the subject:

I am all in favour of maximising the usage of on-street car parking spaces.

However, the idea of letting school staff is one that needs to be treated with caution as even private profit making schools appear to be included. So a school employee could have a permit which would cost, I presume, the same amount as a resident's permit (with £40 being typical) but an employee of, say, a school stationery supplier, which might be in an adjacent building would have to pay £525 (this is the annual cost of a permit for a business)

I feel a judicial review coming on if you treat one group of employees more favourably than another.

HB public law have noted Mr Mustard's concerns.

Then we came to the meaty part of the meeting which will bring shedloads of money into the council's coffers mostly from yellow box junctions, is Mr Mustard's view, although the safety of schoolkids was, of course, put forward as the moral reason for having all these cameras.

Mr Mustard had his say, as follows:

I would like to say a few words on three topics, yellow box junctions, banned turns and permits for school staff.

Firstly, box junctions.

The words "Entering and stopping in a box junction when prohibited" have cost drivers in London millions of pounds.

If you are in moving traffic and see a yellow box junction approaching you are meant to stop before the yellow markings, watch the car in front cross the junction and clear it by 5 metres or so and then set off.

That is not how London traffic actually operates in the real world.

In the real world people keep driving if it looks like the exit will be clear by the time they reach it. If that goes wrong, they risk a £130 penalty.

Other London councils, like Hammersmith & Fulham, have created some fantastic money-spinners including the notorious money box junction where Bagleys Lane meets the New King's Rd, £2.7m in a year.

The yellow box exists to try and prevent junctions from becoming blocked which is an entirely reasonable policy. What is not reasonable is for councils to issue a PCN to someone who clears the junction but still has a metre of their car over-hanging the yellow box and causes no traffic disruption.

What I would like to suggest that Barnet should have as its policy is that PCN will only be issued for yellow box contraventions where the failure to leave the box clear hinders the other traffic flow, usually the road at right angles. Also, that yellow boxes should be designed to the minimum possible sizes and I suggest councillors take a look at the one outside Sainsburys in North Finchley as being an example of one that is oversized.

Secondly, banned turns.

Rather than issuing PCN for people turning right or left when they shouldn't, I think that the council should, as policy, engineer the roads such that banned turns become impossible to perform. After all you are trying to control traffic flow, not raise revenue. (thirdly is above)

Time will tell what happens.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 June 2015

Please donate to the North London Hospice

Here is a lovely email which just dropped into the Mr Mustard inbox.

Ref: 14379
01 June 2015

Dear Mr Mustard

I am writing to let you know that we have received further donations in your honour and in return for help with penalty charges. The overall total, and absolutely incredible amount is £1,876, which is such an amazing amount for the Hospice. I would like to thank you yet again for your continued and much valued support.

The further donations have been made by Keith, Daniel, Barry, Frank, Natalie, Gerald, Leo,
Malcolm, Hilary, Lesley, Mr M, Linda, Barbara, Mr A, Miss K, Jacqueline, Chaim, David, Ilana and Harry.

In 2014 our specialist community team were able to carry out 6,754 home visits. Our vision is that everyone in our diverse community who is affected by a potentially life limiting illness will have equal access to the services and support they need to optimise their quality of life.

It’s through your support and generosity that we are able to achieve this goal.

Thank you once again for your kindness – it is very much appreciated.

Yours sincerely

Fundraising Department
Tel: 020 8343 8841

Mr Mustard supports the hospice because they looked after his late wife so well in 2005.

You don't have to receive a PCN in order to support the Hospice, you can make them a donation just because of the valuable work they do. You can donate here.

If you are cash poor but time rich, you could give your time instead.

Yours gratefully

Mr Mustard

31 May 2015

Resident is Brauned* off about permits

One of the other Barnet bloggers told me that Cllr Braun's surname is pronounced Brown. If it isn't, the title doesn't work. The resident is still entitled to be browned off given that reply came there none. If Braun is pronounced Brawn then it isn't pronounced Brain, or Polite.
Brown not Braun
Taking money for a permit and issuing it should be a walk in the park. Why I keep getting examples of complete ineptitude 2 years after Crapita took the process over is a question you can answer for yourselves.

Dear Ms Braun,

I am a Hendon resident. For the last 4 years I have had a resident’s permit for my car, parking in Sunningfields Road. Prior to that, parking was free in my road. (Due to the giveaway of the Coptall stadium)

Today I came out of my house to discover I had a parking ticket. Apparently my resident parking permit had expired at the end of March.

I had not noticed this as I have always received a reminder notice from Barnet Council, asking for payment for the upcoming year. (Reasonable expectation is an argument that should find favour at PATAS)

This year I received no reminder and so did not notice that the permit had expired.
I phoned Barnet council, only to be put through an extremely long-winded automated system, several times, in my attempts to speak to a human being.

When I finally did speak to a member of Barnet Council staff I was told that they had changed systems, and, as an experiment, they were not sending out reminders in order to ‘see if people remembered to renew’

I cannot express how annoyed/upset I was to receive this response.

They also said that it was not part of the ‘Terms and Conditions’ to send out reminders and that I should have read these terms to see that. I pointed out that in all probability very few residents had read these.

Also, it surely sets a precedent when you send out a reminder for 3 years in a row; obviously people then expect a further reminder.

In fact the Barnet website permit renewal screen actually still requests that you fill in the ‘pin code’ received with your renewal letter, in order to renew it. (Ooh, a forensic resident. Spot on)

As I did not have such a code it took a member of staff about 30 minutes to try and set up an account and get my payment.

Total chaos. (and total ineptitude).

To add insult to injury, once I had paid I received an email confirming payment, as my email address was already in their system. It would have been just as easy to send out a reminder in this form. (Which is exactly how Mr Mustard is reminded by the council)

If I had parked illegally then I would accept it, but I feel Barnet Council are totally unjustified in changing their policy on reminders without actually telling the public. (They do this every time they change a system. It displays an institutionalised disdain for the public).

I was told that this had just come into force, so I am fully expecting hundreds of residents to get similar parking tickets, as I am sure most people will not realise the date of expiry had passed. (There was a surge in these types of parking ticket a few months ago but it had died down)

I would be most grateful if you would take this up with the council, who I believe are acting in an extremely high-handed way, against the interests of the public. (High handed? Barnet Council? indeed)

A Hendon Resident

The next email was to Mr Mustard

Dear Mr Mustard

I recently had a parking ticket from Barnet Council. My residents permit for my car parked outside my home had expired and I had not received a reminder from Barnet Council, so did not notice. See my below correspondence with Councillor Braun, for details.

It was a bit of a strange situation. I could perhaps have thought that I had been unlucky and that the reminder letter had got lost in the post, but when I phoned Barnet Council to query this, they confirmed that they had not sent a reminder ‘as an experiment to see if people paid without being sent a reminder’. However, 2 weeks later, my immediate neighbour did receive a reminder. In fact she received 2 reminders!

As I have paid online on each occasion I do not understand why they could not have sent me an automated email reminder in fact, but that is a separate issue.

I appealed the ticket and the appeal has just been refused. What a surprise. They just said that is was my responsibility to check. I argued that I had always received a reminder in all previous years and so relied on receiving a notice, and therefore Barnet should have warned residents if they intended to stop this practice.

I wrote to Councillor Braun and received an acknowledgement but have heard nothing further.

I will now have to pay the ticket I realise. However, I am writing to you to see if you are aware of this happening to other residents? It seems most strange that the council admitted to me that it had stopped sending out reminders, but then immediately started sending them out again. Was this due to the response from people getting tickets I wonder, or some other factor? One of the several Barnet staff I spoke to admitted (when I asked him directly) that the system had recently been started and that they had received other complaints similar to mine.

Kind Regards

A Hendon resident

Mr Mustard's fingers flew to the keyboard. Firstly, he told the Hendon resident not to pay & not to worry and then he emailed a parking manager to ask for a cancellation as all PCN issued in this circumstance are to be cancelled by order of the leader of the Council as this published answer from the full Council meeting of 23 September 2014


It took a few days but after a gentle reminder (as Mr Mustard's emails to parking management do usually get pretty quick responses as he stops the rot from spreading for them) NSL were instructed to cancel the PCN.

Now the question that comes to Mr Mustard's mind is why NSL don't know what Mr Mustard knows about the policy that the Leader has set? Is it incompetence? (NSL & incompetence in the same sentence, that isn't a first) or is it a deliberate policy to raise revenue? We should be told. (The usual excuse of a one-off error is not available as Mr Mustard knows of several instances).

Mr Mustard's PCN workload is heading towards the 100 PCN mark and he could do without any really difficult ones at the minute but these ones are easy so if you have one the same, do send it to Mr Mustard and he will get it fixed for you, sometimes within 24 hours.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

29 May 2015

The Friday Joke - Capita

Customer - the model of efficiency
The adjudicators at PATAS vary greatly in their approach but one is, despite decades of parking ticket minutiae, always ready for some dry humour, indeed on finding Mr Mustard in the reception area recently he said "Good morning, I see you are here to amuse us again, Mr Mustard*" and now here he is returning the compliment (Mr Mustard is actually deadly serious with his appeals but also tries to keep it light, although there is always that tingle of nervous anticipation as he can't tell which way an adjudicator will think on a particular case, they often come at him from left field, although they nearly always end up in the same goal)

*Mr Mustard's real name was used by the adjudicator. Mr Mustard always calls them Sir or Madam, as the case may be, as those are the rules of the tribunal. Nor does one try to shake hands on meeting.

The Appellant's vehicle was parked in a restricted street displaying a badge that had expired and a fairly detailed note explaining that the badge was in the process of being renewed. Despite that note I would not criticise the CEO for issuing the PCN (as motorists cannot write themselves exemptions from parking restrictions).

However it transpires that the reason there was no valid badge on display is that the Council's agents Capita, had failed to issue him with one at the proper time. Having heard the Appellant in person in detail there is no doubt at all that the sorry history of his attempt to renew the badge in very good time is correct; and that his request to Capita for the required renewal forms was, as he was informed by Capita when chasing the matter, "lost in the system". When the forms were eventually received on a Saturday morning, he completed them and put them in the post that same morning.

It appears that Capita could learn something from the Appellant's efficiency.

The Council states that the Appellant should have applied for a temporary dispensation. He was never informed of this by the Council when he made his initial renewal enquiry or at any subsequent stage by the Council's agents Capita. All he was told to do was to display a note, which he did.

In my judgement in these circumstances the law follows common sense and does not allow a Council to enforce a penalty for a contravention which occurred entirely as a result of its own failings (Capita being the agent of the Council for these purposes). Allowing it to do so would be the equivalent of an abuse of process and in these circumstances no contravention can be said to have occurred (see the dicta in Camden v The Parking Adjudicator and BHS t/a First for Food Service Ltd [2011] EWHC 295 Admin [2011]EWCA Civ 905)
The Appeal is therefore allowed. (i.e. the PCN is cancelled)

The Appellant has shown to me today a charge certificate issued in respect of a very similar case, and where he never received a Notice to Owner. He has of course the right to follow the statutory procedures to set this aside. I am not seized of that matter today. However if it is the case that the situation in that case is indeed identical, the Council might be well advised to cancel that PCN without further ado, since if the matter ever came to appeal it might well find itself at risk of an order for costs on the Appeal being allowed.

The adjudicator is a solicitor or a barrister. They tend to talk in code but make no mistake about that last sentence, the adjudicator is steaming mad and will make the council pay for their stupidity if they continue to exhibit same. The barrier for costs is set very high "shall not normally allow" which speaks volumes in the context of this adjudication finding.

Anyway, the report amused Mr Mustard. If it brought a smile to your lips, then all well and good.

Do have a nice weekend and make sure you attend on time to any PCN paperwork.

Please also park properly as Mr Mustard currently has 75 PCN to handle and if he gets sent many more will have to give up his day job.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard