17 April 2012

CCTV - coming to a PCN near you?

A few weeks ago Mr Mustard read an article in the Guardian about a day in the life of an NSL "traffic warden" (they are called Civil Enforcement Officers nowadays but everyone understands the phrase traffic warden).

One interesting part was they they have a name badge containing a very small video camera and the warden claimed he lifted it up to film periods of statutory observation. Here is a picture of the camera hidden in the name badge. Devilishly devious?

picture credit : http://www.scottishcommunications.com/body-worn-cctv.php
The name badge camera can record continuously for 10 hours which would be more than enough to cope with the entire shift of Barnet's traffic wardens. As we all know Barnet's enforcement is being contracted out to NSL from 1 May 2012.

Now Mr Mustard doesn't like to sit around doing nothing so he wrote to Pam Wharfe, the interim (for now) Director of Environment, Planning and Regeneration. Here is the slightly edited (just to cut out the superfluous bits) correspondence:

19 March 2012

Dear Ms Wharfe

I see from an article called "A working life: The Traffic Warden" in this Saturday's Guardian that NSL CEOs in Enfield wear a tiny camera which is sited within their name badge.

Does the contract that Barnet Council are signing/has signed with NSL

1 specify the use of body worn cctv,
2 forbid the use of body worn cctv or
3 is silent on the question?

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

12 April 2012

Dear Ms Wharfe
Please could I remind you about my below enquiry about CCTV and NSL that I sent to you on 19 March 2012.

13 April 2012

Dear M Mustard

I’ve been passed an enquiry from you about body worn CCTV for Civil Enforcement Officers.
I can confirm that the Barnet Specification neither requires nor precludes these devices.

I apologise for the delay in responding to this simple question.

John McArdle
Interim Parking Manager | Environment, Planning and Regeneration

13 April 2012 

Dear Mr McArdle

Thank you for the straightforward answer.

Now that I think about it I should have asked one further question.

If the contract neither requires not precludes the device what policy does the council have on the matter? ( if the answer is no policy then I think it precludes them ).

Many thanks

Mr Mustard

13 April 2012 

Dear Mr Mustard

The Council doesn’t have a policy, but is open to suggestion from NSL on how the service can best be delivered so not having an existing policy doesn’t preclude their use.

We haven’t discussed this option with NSL at all, but I do know that they use them elsewhere, Enfield being one example.

The use described in the article, which I didn’t see at the time so thank you for it, is unusual in that enforcement photographs are generally taken with a hand-held camera which is either a separate unit or part of the handheld computer. This allows the officer to more easily ‘point’ it at the subject be it a line, sign, or vehicle.

The CCTV unit is more often used to defuse conflict by providing both the officer and the motorist with a detailed record of any exchange, an approach which has been found to make both parties more thoughtful as to their words and actions. In this respect it is more useful in an overt position rather than concealed.

I hope that this further note is helpful to you.

John McArdle
Interim Parking Manager | Environment, Planning and Regeneration

16 April 2012

Dear Mr McArdle

Thank you for the further considered reply.

Being a "traffic warden" is an unpopular job and does lead to confrontation on occasion. Many years ago I stopped alongside a car in the High Street where a lady warden was being subject to a tirade of grossly offensive abuse from a motorist who had been issued with a ticket. Luckily a plains clothes policeman wandered past and took charge and so I did not have to try and intervene in what was an ugly confrontation. For that reason I have no objection to traffic wardens bearing obvious camera & recording equipment for use only when a confrontation is anticipated and I would hope that the vast majority of Barnet residents would agree with me.

However, the cameras which NSL use are, to all intents and purposes, hidden and will only record what they are pointed at so can be mis-used. For that reason, I am against the use of these tiny cameras and think that most residents would be unhappy to be filmed by them.
One can understand that sometimes motorists do get annoyed, particularly if they are issued with a ticket in incorrect circumstances and then might have to deal with a stubborn correspondence clerk. The adage of innocent until proven guilty is reversed in the case of parking tickets.

Even the handheld cameras can be misused. Please see the attached photograph 

which I took in Chipping Close on Friday evening. I have no idea whose car it is; I was just passing. Guess what the piece of white paper is? It is a dispensation that someone has printed out and put in the windscreen of their car. The number appears to be 6***. So now that motorist has to start making representations when they appear to have done nothing wrong. I know that you are having some troubles with Civica at the moment - are the details of motorists with dispensations not reaching the handheld equipment of the wardens? If that is the case, is the council being entirely fair and honest in its dealings by wandering around issuing tickets that they know ought not to be issued. Are you merely passing the problem on to innocent motorists?

I would be interested to know if the photographs taken on this occasion by the traffic warden also show the piece of paper with the dispensation number? Couldn't you allow your wardens to use their judgment in such a case?

If the ticket has been incorrectly issued you could make someones life easier by writing to them straightaway apologising for the error and cancelling the ticket.

I look forward to hearing from you

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

Oh dear, more out of office annoyance followed.

Thank you for your e-mail but I am out of the office until Friday 20 April so will not see it until then. Unless it is some matter that I need to deal with personally it may be better for you to contact instead one of the following:

Jose Garcia
Enforcement Manager
All enforcement matters including NSL mobilisation
Tel: 020 8359 5001 Mob 07787 266422

Mick Dolan
Interim Parking Maintenance Manager
Maintenance, finance and procurement
Tel: 02083595161 Mob: 07903109744

James Norman
Information Team Leader
Penalty Charge Notice processing
Tel: 020 8359 7799

Geraldine Edwards
Acting Operations Manager
Complaints, FOIA requests, and all non PCN correspondence together with NSL mobilisation for Business Process Operations
Tel: 020 8359 7542
Now is the time for you to have your say on body worn CCTV. If you don't think it is suitable for Barnet then send an email. I suggest the following receipients

Mr Mustard knows of 3 tickets issued to residents who hold a dispensation. It is tedious but you will have to appeal. Why not ask for compensation of an amount equal to the value of the defective ticket?

Update email received 07.52 ( Mr Mustard was in the final throes of his slumbers and only just had his first cup of tea and it is now 09:34 ) 

Dear Mr Mustard

I’m out of circulation for a couple of days but have asked a colleague to look into this for me.

We’ll get back to you this week.

John McArdle

Whatever else people might think of Mr McArdle he is at least diligent and able to prioritise so thank you John for getting someone onto this as you can get yourself and the department some brownie points if you fix this dispensation problem fast, sadly they will only cancel out some of the minus points you have had, but it is progress and it would be "putting the community first"

Update Saturday 21 April 2012

Mr McArdle has done his stuff and replied as follows, with Mr Mustard's added emphasis:

Dear MrMustard

I have now had the opportunity to review our records concerning the PCN issued to the vehicle displaying the reference to Dispensation number 6*** in Chipping Close, and can confirm that the Dispensation was valid for that location at that time.

The issuing officer has noted the number, but has wrongly concluded that it was not valid and proceeded on that basis. The enforcement photographs do indeed show the document in your own picture. There was no reported fault with that part of the Civica system at the time and none has been logged since 

In the circumstances the charge will be withdrawn without any further action on the part of the motorist. Hurrah - let's hope they don't just pay it.

I will also ensure that a change to our procedures is implemented to add a further layer of checking where an officer has grounds to believe that a dispensation may be in place.

Thank you for your interest and for bringing this matter to my attention.

John McArdle

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. The council already uses CCTV cameras to monitor parking. If the images from these cameras were cross referenced with the parking payments database, we could see how many times Cllr Hugh Rayner has parked in Barnet since the new system was introduced and how many times he has actually paid. Given that he told the press he had hitherto kept his council permit on his car permanently, it would be interesting to note on how many other occasions he ‘forgot’ to pay the charge.

  2. Some good news: There is a new Barnet web site.

    Some bad news: Don't try and complain:

    This is the mail delivery agent at messagelabs.com.

    I was unable to deliver your message to the following addresses:


    Reason: 550 5.1.1 User unknown

  3. I see the problem Baarnett, the council are not dotty enough.

    The first part of the address should be first dot contact as in first.contact and someone has set the link up incorrectly

    An easy mistake for someone not paying sufficient attention to make

  4. The problem is not the cameras, but the fact that the parking attendants, despite denials from the council, are given targets to meet and are under enormous pressure to find cars which they can ticket, fairly or not. The temptation to issue tickets in such cases must be rather strong. It is all part of the greater problem, created by Coleman et al, whereby parking policy is drive not by the need to facilitate traffic flow and provide residents with a supply of parking space, but simply in order to generate income.


I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.