20 September 2018

Unprofessional, immoral, pure revenue raising

This is a car park which Mr Mustard knows well as his office was in Moxon Street, EN5 for two decades. he remembers when this was just a waste ground. Now it is neatly painted out into bays, many too small for an average car but that is a story for another day. This car park is intended to encourage short term shopping by offering one hour of free parking if you press the green button on the meter and obtain a voucher to put in the windscreen.

Old sign - business permit spaces do exist there now - avoid them unless you have such a permit
It is somewhat academic though if you leave by 9am whether or not you place a little piece of paper in your car windscreen as you cannot have been there for more than one chargeable hour as charging commences at 8am. The council wouldn't send traffic wardens to this car park before 9am would they? You bet your bottom dollar they would because it is all about the dollars, or pounds as we have here in the UK. How many times have they done this, issued a PCN before 9am? Only 114 times.

Some people won't have paid the PCN and some will have ended up paying at £60 this being a lower value contravention than being on a double yellow at £110 (take note, a lesser penalty for not paying where you should than being on yellow lines or in residents bays). If we average out the tickets at £30 the council have raked in an unjustified £3,420

They will also have annoyed up to 114 residents (although some folks may have been from out of town) and guaranteed themselves terrible scores in surveys of resident satisfaction.

The parking industry are trying to convince the public of this:

'the aim is to change perceptions, challenge misconceptions about the parking sector and local government’s role and make the parking experience a better one for all concerned'

but it isn't going to work when the public think that councils are spivs, out to rob them, are not fair and traffic wardens act like they have in the Moxon Street car park, giving out what may* be technically correct PCNs, but which are self evidently manifestly unjust tickets. There is no misconception about the lows to which many local authorities will stoop.

The council read Mr Mustard's tweets and hence his blog. Please instruct your traffic wardens not to set foot in the Moxon St car park before 9am. Much obliged, thank you.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

*'May' is used quite specifically. If you get caught in the first hour do consult Mr Mustard by email mrmustard@zoho.com

19 September 2018

One task, three emails.

Mr Mustard is a busy man & sometimes emails arrive into his inbox far faster than he can get them out and his plan to keep unanswered emails below a one page listing goes to pot. If he gets sent three emails when one would do his stress levels rise.

You may have read the earlier blog post about the travails of trying to buy a Suzuki Vitara. One was, in the end, purchased from a helpful main dealer down Fareham way. Driving back up the M3, Mr Mustard stopped in the services, took a photograph of the sales invoice and emailed it to parking permits at Barnet Council, Crapita really. He then phoned up to ask for the permit to be changed over, having traded in his old car, and wanting to park outside when he got home. The sales invoice isn't proof of purchase apparently! that will be a story for another day once the parking manager has reviewed what documents count as proof of ownership, Mr Mustard having pointed out there is no finer proof. After some huffing and puffing a dispensation was granted. A week later Mr Mustard emailed in a copy of the V5 registration document, once he had it. He then received 3 emails in quick succession.

Excuse me, Mr Mustard swaps a permit for a car with a 2 litre diesel engine for one with a 1.4 litre petrol engine, how can it cost more and certainly not that much more? The answer for an in year swap should simply be to swap permits and charge the real full year price at renewal to save on administrative time.

Mr Mustard can't see the point of this second email, received 4 minutes after the first one.

What is there in this third email that couldn't have been in the first one? Mr Mustard has suggested to the parking manager that he reviews Crapita's procedures. Perhaps they charge per email?

Mr Mustard queried the £130 charge, which hadn't been paid by him, and got this reply from a proper council employee, one with some savvy and good manners:

That is a pretty decent explanation and apology which could be improved by using 'the' instead of 'any' as of course there was confusion, mostly in Crapita's systems, and there was inconvenience as credit card accounts had to be checked and an email written. That small caveat apart, it is good to see someone take responsibility for a blunder not of their own making.

It isn't as if Mr Mustard is the only person to buy a brand new car within Barnet (it is only the third time he has purchased a brand new car or van) and so he hopes that because it is him the systems will be looked at to be improved. (Mr Mustard's comments have now been ntoed for future improvements. It will probably be 5 years before the Vitara is changed, let's hope the system has improved by that time).

It is a routine task after all. If only there was an efficient multi-national billion pound turnover process outsourcing company that is up to the job who Barnet Council could outsource to.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

10 September 2018

People power in N12

When Barnet Council make an experimental traffic order, which can last for up to 18 months, they don't have to consult as an affected party can make representations at any time in the first 6 months.

However, it is a little arrogant, if not slightly stupid, to increase the restricted hours for residents 

from Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm 
to a daily 9am to 9.30pm

when residents in the zone generally have not asked for any change. Mr Mustard thinks that residents of the two roads which envelope Solar House, into which St Barnabas Church has moved, did raise concerns with the council. The first that most residents knew of the plans was a leaflet through their door just before the new arrangements were about to start and the rush also bothered them. The vicar of the church didn't know and was horrified that they could be the indirect cause of bad feeling. The three ward councillors didn't know either which is rank bad manners on the part of council officers (staff) as it is councillors who are first in line to take the flak.

Why was the experimental order necessary? It was assumed that the church would generate lots of unwanted parking in residential roads seven days a week which doesn't seem that likely. What the council should have done was to:

1. survey out of hours and weekend parking occupancy.
2. let the church services commence.
3. re-survey the parking occupancy to see which, if any roads, were affected.
4. consult with affected residents about proposals for new hours and/or days.

As it happens the church seems to be very well run. The vicar asked the congregation what they should do and they do have 57 spaces of their own to start with. The congregation have decided to use the Lodge Lane car park on a Sunday as it is a 4 minute walk and far nearer than the roads in which the ridiculous new hours were introduced and then withdrawn on the their first day, such as Woodhouse Lane, Torrington Park where it abuts Friary Park & half of Sandringham Gardens which runs into Summers Lane and in which no-one would ever have parked for visiting Solar House.

So now we have a council which has introduced an experimental order, put up all new bay signs and then on the very day that the new restrictions came into force used the Chief Executive's powers to suspend the order that only came into that day at 9am. Councils keep complaining that they are short of money and yet they waste tens of thousands by introducing ill thought out and self evidently unwanted changes. Each bay sign costs something in the region of £70 and there will have been hundreds of them because every bay in 19 roads needed the times changed. Luckily it seems the old signs had not yet been consigned to the scrap metal skip and they have now been put back up again.

Mr Mustard was in a meeting with a resident last week and it looks like the council are now going to be faced with a well organised group of residents who are not going to be pushed around. If the church congregation behaves as considerately as they say they will, there isn't going to be a problem which needs further controls in any case.

Any resident of the NF CPZ who gets asked to respond to the annual council satisfaction survey isn't likely to be complimentary.

When will council staff start to understand that they are public servants, not our masters, and the public are not going to put up with every stupid idea they dream up.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard 

23 August 2018

PR Stunt - Professionalism in parking

The industry, for that is what it is, not a service, wants the public to hold them in better regard. 

Together the aim is to change perceptions, challenge misconceptions about the parking sector and local government’s role and make the parking experience a better one for all concerned.

Their PR stunt isn't going to work until such time as they get their house in order.

Just look at this tribunal decision from yesterday, found in Mr Mustard's daily read of all Barnet Council decisions.

Mr Mustard has noticed that Barnet Council are very resistant to claims of cloning and other enforcement authorities are quicker to accept reality.

Clearly, the adjudicator thinks that Barnet Council are unreasonable but uses restrained language to say so.

The council had two chances to stop enforcement. The first one when the motorist wrote in to say the car had been cloned and the second when he lodged the Appeal with the tribunal. Someone then spent a couple of hours putting the evidence pack together. Mr Mustard would love to have a read of the case summary as he likes short works of fiction so if you know Arun Saroye please ask him to email mrmustard@zoho.com

It is of course really aggravating to have their car cloned and even more so when the council's representatives deny the blindingly obvious. 

That is the work of an amateur. If you want to be treated as a professional then you must act like one.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Not finished reading all the cases from yesterday yet but here is a second case of cloning which looks like it was blindingly obvious.

18 August 2018

Gross incompetence

The 18T weight limit sign is clear enough

No enforcement authority sends representatives to the tribunal more often than Southwark. Mr Mustard doesn't fight many Southwark PCNs but expects to see one or two representatives when he does. They are always happy to chat, and good at what they do and Mr Mustard always enjoys it when they turn up & a good clean fight ensues. Honours are pretty even so far.

Now it may be that on the day in question that none of the, at least 4, regular representatives were available but more likely Mr Mustard thinks they realised they were going to lose so didn't waste time attending. Mr Musatrd suddenly thought to check the register. There were two other cases decided on 22 June which were attended between them by 3 different representatives of Southwark Council so staff were available. Bwak Bwak Bwaaak.

Here is the decision which was made on 22 June.
At this scheduled personal hearing the appellant Company were represented by Mr Scott Sharkey but the Enforcement Authority did not attend and were not represented. The Enforcement Authority had previously indicated that they would be attending but have today contacted the Hearing Centre to say that no one will attend.

A contravention can occur if a vehicle is driven so as to fail to comply with a prohibition on certain vehicles.

There appears to be no dispute that the vehicle was in Tower Bridge Road, as shown in the closed circuit television (cctv) images produced by the Enforcement Authority.

The Enforcement Authority state in their case summary “It is not permitted for a vehicle which has a MGW [maximum gross weight] of 18 tonnes to drive through a restriction prohibiting vehicles with a MGW of 18 tonnes, regardless of whether the un-laden weight is lower than the restriction. The line is drawn at the MGW to avoid drivers guessing whether their load at that time is below the restriction and posing what could possibly be a detrimental effect on the road network.”

This is wholly incorrect. The sign at the location shown in the images produced by the Enforcement Authority is a permitted variant of that prescribed by Diagram 622.1A at Item 13 in Part 2 of Schedule 3 to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 for the restriction that goods vehicles exceeding the maximum gross weight indicated are prohibited.

Indeed, this complies with the A100 GLA Road (Weight Restriction) Traffic Order 2003, Article 4 of which provides that except as provided in Article 6, no person shall cause any goods vehicle the maximum gross weight which exceeds 18 tonnes to enter or proceed in the lengths of road listed.

The plating certificate, a copy of which was supplied to the Enforcement Authority by the Appellant Company and the original of which I have been shown today, confirms that the gross weight of this vehicle is 1800 [kilograms] which is 18 tonnes. (18,000 kilos?)

The Enforcement Authority further state in the case summary “The vehicle had a forklift truck on the back on the vehicle which exceeds the weight limit.” Again, this is incorrect. The gross vehicle weight includes all parts of the vehicle and everything carried on or it in. This is what the term ‘gross’ means.

Considering all the evidence before me carefully I find that the Appellant Company have no case to answer and the Enforcement Authority have failed to show that a contravention could have occurred.

This appeal must be allowed.

Unsurprisingly, the Appellant, a truck company, applied for costs.
Regulation 12(1) of the Road Traffic (Parking Adjudicators) (London) Regulations 1993¸ being the relevant provisions in this regard, provides that the adjudicator shall not normally make an order awarding costs and expenses against any party. The Adjudicator can only make such an award if he is of the opinion that that party has acted frivolously or vexatiously or that his conduct in making, pursuing or resisting an appeal was wholly unreasonable; or against the local authority, where it considers that the disputed decision was wholly unreasonable.

I decided this substantive appeal by making findings of fact and applying the law as it stands.

At the original personal hearing the Appellant Company’s representative made a detailed application for costs in the sum of £199, being £142 for the return fare from Swindon of the representative who attended the hearing that day and three hours preparation for the case, being £57 at the rate of £19 per hour allowed to a self-represented litigant under rule 45.39(5)(b) and rule 46.5(4)(b) of the Civil Procedure Rules.

Regulation 12(2) provides that an order shall not be made under paragraph (1) against a party unless that party has been given an opportunity of making representations against the making of the order. Accordingly, on 25 June 2018 the Enforcement Authority were informed of the application in order to make representations. They have failed to make any.

For the reasons fully set out in my original decision I found that the appellant Company had no case to answer and the Enforcement Authority had failed to show that a contravention could have occurred.

Considering everything before me carefully I find that resisting this appeal was wholly unreasonable.

According, I award costs in the sum sought of £199.

That should make Southwark Council more careful in future.
What they had done was to reject a perfectly reasonable challenge.
Then they opposed a perfectly reasonable Appeal to the tribunal.
They ducked out of the hearing.
They caused an employee to lose most of a day's work travelling to and from Swindon.
They didn't oppose the granting of costs but disrespectfully to the tribunal, did not say so.
Southwark Council got what they deserved.

Professionalism in parking? A long way to go.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard