26 September 2017

Barnet Council parking are getting better - at apologising

A good apology is a thing of beauty and Barnet are getting better at them but then they do have to send Mr Mustard quite a few.

Mr Mustard checks the on line balance of every PCN he handles every 10 days or so. When he then sees a balance increase by £8 he knows that, in theory, an Order for Recovery has been issued. It turned out that Barnet had been increasing the balance when they asked the Court to approve the debt registration rather than when the Court responded. He is told that this was due to human error but Mr Mustard thinks it was the way the system was set up.

The event which confirmed that the horse was before the cart was when Mr Mustard, having seen a balance increase by £8, submitted a witness statement in order to get a debt registration cancelled and the TEC (the relevant part of the Court) told him that the PCN had not been registered as a debt. That was a procedural impropriety (blunder) on the part of the council.

You can keep an eye on your Barnet PCN balance here

Note that the fault was down to NSL who are meant to be PCN processing experts. Mr Mustard wouldn't want to deal with amateurs if this is what experts are like. Mr Mustard has been described as a professional lay representative which is, of course, an oxymoron. It is harder to get your conbtractors to do the right thing than manage your own staff doing it as they are within your sight. This is one of the prices you pay for outsourcing, loss of control.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

25 September 2017

Lambeth Council - dropped footway = lowered standards

Sometimes the public end up knowing more than the functionaries who are punishing us. That is often now the case for Mr Mustard. He was sent the above PCN and he said straightaway to his client that it would not stand up to scrutiny at the tribunal. The reason being that the correct wording for code 27 is longer, and funnily enough Lambeth almost know that as they have fuller information on their on line system

and here are the officially approved words

Here is what the legislation says

Now Mr Mustard will show you what the kerb looked like where his client's car was parked:

That is not a garage or driveway to facilitate vehicle entry.
There isn't a cycle track there.
Is it for pedestrians to cross the road? Here is the opposite side
No dropped kerb there so no contravention as not especially for pedestrians to cross the road & no dimpled pavements to alert the blind.

On 11 September Mr Mustard told Lambeth that the words on the PCN did not amount to a contravention and that a contravention had not occurred in any event as the black doors look like they lead to an equipment store.

On 21 September they rejected his argument:

The response is wrong because parking against every dropped kerb is not a contravention; parking across your own private drive outside of cpz hours is ok (as long as the drive is not shared). Parking in front of a pram store or equipment room is also not a contravention. In addition the Highway Code does not exactly reflect the law (not Rule 217 either but Rule 240 and/or 243 and then it refers you to the relevant laws in red after the Rule) and not adhering to the Highway Code isn't necessarily a contravention and certainly not in this case.

The council haven't appreciated that Mr Mustard's client did not breach parking regulations so really shouldn't send such sanctimonious responses.

The decisions of the adjudicators are not binding but they are persuasive and here is an extract from a relevant one

We are in a situation in which the motorist will still be worried, despite Mr Mustard's assurances and where we now have to wait for a month and then go through the formal representations and doubtless get rejected again and then make an Appeal to the independent adjudicator at London Councils at which hearing the matter will be wrapped up in a couple of minutes and Lambeth Council will have burnt the £30 hearing fee.

If you have a dropped footway PCN in Lambeth, you now know what to do. Make representations that the PCN does not state a contravention.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

24 September 2017

Welcome to Hounslow Civic Centre - that will be £60 please

The tribunal does throw up some corking decisions sometimes & Mr Mustard only loooked at this one because of the words 'civic centre' which he finds to be a magnetic draw.

Mr Mustard doesn't understand why photographs taken at 10am are dark as for safety the car park should be well lit indoors and/or the council could activate the flash setting on their cameras? One lesson to learn from this decision is the wisdom of keeping all those little vouchers in an envelope behind the sun visor or in the glove box, just in case (especially as somehow the PCN went missing).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

22 September 2017

Pull the wool?

You've got to be good to pull the wool over Mr Mustard's eyes.

His client paid to park in the Golders Green Road, she forgot she was driving her husband's car and so paid for her own one. Needless to say she received a PCN. She challenged the PCN and then the Notice to Owner on the not unreasonable grounds that the council had not lost out. She was rejected twice.

For the tribunal appeal Mr Mustard's help was sought. He filed an Appeal which was partly on the grounds that the bay sign did not tell you that you could use a parking meter, at which it is impossible to pay for the wrong car as a registration number is not required (and you are unlikely to place the machine receipt in the wrong car!).

Here is the relevant section of the council's case summary:

PbP = PayByPhone
and here is the plan they produced of the area showing the parking restriction signs

No parking meters on that plan.

Mr Mustard went to the council's maps and extracted another version just a little further down the road and oh, guess what, there is a parking meter which was just off the page in the council's evidence to the tribunal.
ooh, a parking meter at the other end of the bay.
A coincidence, an outright lie or just an unfortunate oversight? Mr Mustard will be filing a complaint with the council that he has been lied to.

The other interesting fact about this PCN is that the motorist paid £2.10 to park for an hour (including the optional 10p text reminder which Mr Mustard does not opt for as it is poor value being 5% of the parking charge) and then extended for 30 minutes at a cost of £1.10 (a 10% uplift to receive a text!) and the council had not refunded the charges paid to park although that would be the obviously fair thing to do.

This time, once the case hit the tribunal stage and Mr Mustard argued that it was procedurally unfair (a general law requirement for enforcement authorities so to be)  the council refunded £3 (not the 20p you note) in order to see if they could hang on to the £60 PCN. That looks unlikely given that they have either mislead or lied to the tribunal and to the Appellant (the motorist making the Appeal). There are dire warnings on council paperwork that motorists risk fines of £5,000 if they tell porky pies; Barnet Council need to get their own house in order.

If you are in the same boat and going to the tribunal do ask for a refund of the parking fee that you paid.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

21 September 2017

The school zig-zag trap

There is a common belief in Barnet that school zig zags are not enforced during school holidays. Traffic wardens do walk straight past (unless there is also a single yellow which is operative) but the cameras are still on.

Having read the above report Mr Mustard found that the school was closed from 1 to 17 April. He then checked the Barnet Open data moving traffic dashboard for that period and found that cameras had issued 138 PCN of which 7 were at Hale Drive. So you must be careful. Here are the listed camera locations but it is best to look up before you stop on the zig zags

CCTV can easily be moved so don't rely on this list, look up the poles for cameras, possibly like these

If in doubt, stay off the zig-zags.

The PCN which went to the tribunal is a pure a case of revenue raising as you can find but the adjudicator's hands were tied as strictly a contravention had occurred and his job is to apply the law - he evidently wasn't impressed with the council though.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

18 September 2017

No change for the better at Barnet Council

All due credit to the Barnet Times for another good (bad news for the motorist) story about parking tickets.

It took Mr Mustard an hour to find it but he knew he had seen the same problem before and it turned out to be in April 2016. Here is the blog post. In that case, probably due to being the embarrassed & guilty party, the council just quietly cancelled the tickets (PCNs) and didn't write to Mr Mustard to tell him what they had done nor apparently to the motorist but the zero balances on the council computer were enough to satisfy the injured party on that occasion.

Mr Mustard wrote to a parking manager as follows:

As a general rule would it not be sensible for moved cars to be stickered up with the fact that they have been moved by the council and are not to be ticketed?

No reply was received and so nothing, it seems, has changed.

Mr Mustard's advice is still pertinent today. In addition, the fact that the vehicle has been relocated should be notified to TRACE who can also be contacted by telephone on 0845 206 8602 as they are the pan-London contact who keep a track of impounded cars to whom the police will refer calls and are likely to receive calls about relocated cars. Putting notices up on posts near to where the cars were moved from as to where they were moved to could save a lot of stress and wasted time for motorists.

Hopefully Mr Mustard won't need to write yet another blog on this subject in 2018.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard