22 February 2017

Contrasting materials in Camden

Mr Mustard's client, Sara, parked here in Russell Square, one wet Sunday in October, but was further to the right in the picture. Consequently she was on top of the diagonal paving which delineates the area in which parking is allowed. She received a PCN for being on the footpath (not the bit that counts as the carriageway).

Mr Mustard pondered the situation. Unlike Sara he knew that the Secretary of State gives authorities to enforcement authorities to use a change in material to signify a change in designation of an area and this is done for aesthetic reasons. However, that change in material still needs to be adequate (sufficiently obvious) to communicate the change.

Mr Mustard challenged the PCN.

'She had no idea that she was parked on the pavement as the minor distinction in paving material does not make it obvious which is carriageway and which is footway. I expect that you have a Secretary of State authorisation for this (and please send me a copy) but despite that I do not think that the driver has been adequately informed of the restrictions in place and so you should cancel the PCN. In the future should she have to visit Camden by car she will look out this subtle nuance.'

A month later Camden Council responded:

A link was provided from which Mr Mustard downloaded a copy of the Secretary of State's authorisation under S64/S65.

Mr Mustard and Sara conferred and agreed to fight to the end as she regarded the situation thus:

'It's not just unfair, but outrageous that councils use different paving stones to delineate parking bays when the council knows full well that the ordinary motorist does not know this. How are motorists logically or practically expected to? If even at this stage it is impossible to know whether a resolution had been passed -- but can only know this by fighting to the end -- we have now entered into the likes of a Kafka nightmare. My point is how can a secret resolution be deemed public knowledge? Moreover, why create these "aesthetic" parking areas that taper off diagonally unless the intention is to trap people into parking incorrectly? What next: no parking signs anywhere, ever?'

The Notice to Owner duly arrived just before Xmas and on 23 December Mr Mustard made the following on line representation:

'The required contrast in materials between the parking bay and the pavement does not exist' 

as Mr Mustard was not in the mood to waste too many words.

A month later back came Camden Council. They repeated the relevant section of the Secretary of State's authorisation and went on to say:

'Whilst it is indeed regrettable that you were unaware that the rear of the vehicle was parked on the footway, the onus ultimately lies with the driver to ensure that they have reviewed the relevant bay demarcations and signage and park accordingly.'

There was no legal requirement to re-offer the 50% discount at this stage and Camden Council did not do so. It is then an easy decision for Sara to make. Pay £130 without a fight or have a free fight (called an Appeal) at London Tribunals which Camden Council have to pay the £30 fee for and pay nothing if you win and the same £130 if you lose; plus if you attend the hearing you get a chance to buy Mr Mustard a pint at The Inn of Court which he needs as he has done most of the talking.

The Oliver's Island was excellent today, the first pint out of the barrel
So, easy decision made, an on line Appeal was started at the end of January and a hearing date was set for a personal hearing on 1 March.

Today Mr Mustard went looking for the evidence pack as he had not received it from Camden Council. Instead on the appeal website he found that Camden had filed a DNC form. DNC stands for Do Not Contest. So now, having been faced twice with the same simple one line argument, there is no contrast between the materials used, which they had rejected twice, the council all of sudden, when getting close to having the matter decided by an independent legally qualified adjudicator, decide to throw in the towel. The PCN will be formally cancelled overnight by the lead adjudicator.

It is wrong of councils (not just Camden) to twice reject perfectly good arguments (the ones that Mr Mustard usually employs) in order, in Mr Mustard's opinion, to try and nudge (bully / bludgeon / mislead? choose your own description here) motorists into paying up at either 50% or 100% when the motorist was not at all in the wrong.

There is nothing wrong with having different coloured pavoirs to identify a parking area but two shades of grey is not a contrast.

So, just to help you Camden Council

No contrast, all shades of grey, like granite
High contrast, but green coloured paving probably not a good idea.
In future, Camden Council, you need to accept valid challenges at an earlier stage. If Mr Mustard is on the other end of the tug of war, he does not let go of the rope. All you do is waste £30 in fees.

Other motorists in Camden High Street, Russell Square and around central London, best look out for subtle changes in paving, even when it is raining cats and dogs, so that you can avoid the rigmarole of a challenge.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

16 February 2017

Enfield Council in time travel trouble.

Mr Mustard complained about the use of the non-statutory pre-debt reminder to Enfield Council on 26 January. He had previously complained about it in November and was told that all his points were valid and the reminder would be changed. The revised version was so similar that Mr Mustard didn't notice the subtle differences, he having expected radical change & possibly withdrawal of the use of the reminder as Haringey Council decided at about the time that Mr Mustard complained to them.

This is what Mr Mustard wrote on 26 January:

Dear Mr Parking Manager

Nothing has yet changed with the pre-debt reminder?

I don't think the contravention description is substantially complaint (sic) as looking at the meter on google streetmap it looks to have the red dash sticker on it. That means that payment could have been made by phone, which is not part of the alleged contravention. Surely this should have been a code 11, parked without payment of the parking charge and your PCN is unsustainable?

In the circumstances you could please cancel EF00123456.

Many thanks
Mr Mustard

There then followed a game of email ping pong which culminated in Mr Mustard's complaint being sent from parking to the complaints department from where it will end up with the Ombudsman who, his recent report Fairer Fines shows, is currently concerned about the fair treatment of motorists.

As there had been a pre-debt reminder Mr Mustard knew that a charge certificate had been issued. His client had not received the Notice to Owner and was awaiting the Order for Recovery so that the process could be rewound to the Notice to Owner stage.

On 27 January Mr Mustard's client sent him a copy of the Order for Recovery. Mr Mustard duly submitted his client's witness statement to the TEC the very same day.

On 9 February the council, as they were perfectly entitled to do, issued a fresh Notice to Owner.

On 15 February Mr Mustard's client sent him a copy of the fresh Notice to Owner and on the same day Mr Mustard went on-line to the Enfield Council computer and made representations that the PCN had been issued for the wrong contravention code.

Imagine Mr Mustard's surprise when he received a Notice of Rejection on 16 February which had been written on 14 February and which contained the following:

The order set out in the legislation is simple, it goes like this:

1 - Notice to Owner
2 - Representations against the Notice to Owner
3 - Notice of Rejection (or Acceptance) of the Representations
4 - Appeal to the tribunal (done!)

Enfield Council have decided to make Mr Mustard's email of 26 January which pre-dated the Notice to Owner of 9 February into a document which was issued 2 weeks later after the Notice to Owner.

In the four years that Mr Mustard has been fighting PCN he has never seen such a blatant procedural impropriety. They are defined as a failure to follow Parking Regulations but you could simply think of them as a council blunder.

He know has an Appeal pending which technically he shouldn't have but which he has no doubt will be allowed if it reaches a hearing which it probably won't as Mr Mustard will be filing a further complaint with Enfield Council. Mr Mustard will be making a claim for costs, which is very rare for him, as the council have been wholly unreasonable.

Mr Mustard doesn't suppose, or rather hope, that Enfield Council are playing guessing games about the representations that ordinary members of the public intend to make on a future date. If they are though, the public don't know the correct procedure like Mr Mustard does.

What the council's actions do disclose though is an indecent haste to reject Representations not yet made by Mr Mustard.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

15 February 2017

NSL over egg their importance in Lewisham

The distinction between private and public parking enforcement is hard enough for many people to fathom without NSL making out that they are issuing council PCN 

'in Partnership with'

Lewisham, and that assumes that you know that the crown icon with Lewisham underneath means the London Borough of Lewisham which Mr Mustard's client, a man from Edgware, does not know.

Thought you would phone Lewisham about your PCN, don't!

0845 numbers are 11 to 18p a minute. What does the Local Government Ombudsman think about 0845 numbers?

It looks like Mr Mustard will be complaining to the monitoring officer.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

13 February 2017

London Tribunals - new PO Box

Since PATAS became London Tribunals in mid 2015 Appeals have been sent to PO Box 530, SALE, M33 0FP

Mr Mustard recently noticed a new address and the tribunal have confirmed that the address should now be used and the Sale address can be disregarded.

The address to send Notices of Appeal to is now:

London Tribunals
PO Box 10598

even if it says Sale on the form itself.

Doubtless the new address will slowly start to percolate onto forms being issued by enforcement authorities.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

10 February 2017

Give Postman Pat lots of PCNs

Mr Mustard notices things. In late 2016 he noticed that the Royal Mail, whose liveried vehicles he thought had a countrywide exemption (which he can't find) for parking on double yellow lines were being issued with PCN by Barnet Council at a fair old lick. He went to the parking tribunal website and searched 2016 for all Appellant company names which started with 'Royal Mail'. He found 68 entries across London. There are 32 London boroughs along with the City + TfL who dish out PCN so you would only expect 2 or 3 of those 68 to emanate from Barnet Council. How wrong he was. 32 of the PCNs were issued by Barnet Council which shows a clear indication that the council and/or their agents NSL Ltd had decided that the Royal Mail were fair game.

Mr Mustard has copied the Barnet decisions for you.

The first thing you notice is that there were no parking tickets issued from January to June. Did Royal Mail van drivers suddenly individually decide to change their parking habits? No, it is probably that someone instructed traffic wardens to issue PCNs to them. Mr Mustard will ask the parking manager to reverse that instruction.

This idea of targeting the Royal Mail has been a right royal waste of time for the council. Every PCN issued leads to a small fee of just under 47p that they have to pay to London Councils and each Appeal to London Tribunals entails a fee of £33.32 (it will be £29.90 once Barnet Appeals can be started on line rather than by a form sent off in the post).

Let us suppose all the PCNs were at the £110 rate. If Royal Mail rolled over and paid them all Barnet would have gained £55 a time or £1,760

However they didn't as Royal Mail contested them all so Barnet Council had to pay out £33 for each PCN = £1,056 in fees. Out of the 32 Appeals, Barnet Council only managed to win one so they netted £110 for that leaving them nursing a net loss of £946. They have also wasted a lot of driver and management time and NSL's and their own and the tribunal's. Had Royal Mail only provided proof of a parcel being delivered in the case they lost, they would also have won that one.

What deeply concerns Mr Mustard is that on 24 out of 32 Appeals the council offered no evidence (which you find out when you click on the case number on the left on the public tribunal register but Mr Mustard knows that a blank location means the Appeal was a "Do not Contest" case). In every case Barnet Council (and/or NSL) will have rejected representations (possibly twice) made by Royal Mail and then suddenly decided when their bluff is called to cancel the PCNs after all. Mr Mustard does not know how many other PCNs there were which were cancelled at earlier stages.

Mr Mustard thinks it is an abuse of process, and a breach of the council's general duty at law to be procedurally fair, to use the PCN enforcement system in this cynical way.

Your parking reputation is in tatters Barnet Council and is it any wonder?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

9 February 2017

a 2 second penalty

Can you beat this. A PCN only one second into a no parking period?

How did it even get to Court?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard