12 November 2012

A parking ticket processing Masterclass by NSL


Hey, what's that you cry?

Mr Mustard is advertising a masterclass by NSL in parking ticket processing.

What is going on?

Well the reason is that it is a Masterclass in how to get everything wrong! Mr Mustard is new to parking ticket legislation but he is a fast learner and can read a set of rules as well as the next person - he does wonder if the NPO (Notice Processing Officers) at NSL Ltd have ever read, say, the The Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) Representations and Appeals Regulations 2007 which are a fascinating read. Mr Mustard is a fan of technical detail and NSL / Barnet Council just want your money without you putting up a fight. So naturally the answer is to fight on technical grounds (metaphorically speaking only please, violence does not solve arguments).

Here is the chronology for the parking ticket issued to Miss Friern (not her real name)

Date Item
03 May Issue of Penalty Charge Notice – placed on car
29 May Informal challenge submitted by email to parking@barnet.gov.uk
02 Jul Notice to owner issued
04 Jul Effective service of Notice to Owner
28 Jul Formal representations to NSL at PO Box 4894 Worthing
31 Jul Issue of Charge Certificate
10 Aug Notice of rejection
16 Oct Mr Mustard appointed
01 Nov Mr Mustard writes to Parking Manager citing improprieties
07 Nov PCN cancelled

We will look at each stage in turn.

3 May PCN. This was for parking across a dropped kerb. The kerb was only one stone wide. Here is a picture of the location.

The dropped kerb is up against the tree, it doesn't meet the level of the road so technically isn't even dropped properly and it doesn't line up with the natural route of the cycle lane and cyclists should dismount to cross the pavement. The dropped kerb doesn't line up with the pedestrian part of the walkway either as you can see from the blue sign that they should be to the right. Anyone could be forgiven for missing this slightly dropped kerb stone as there ought to be double yellow lines across it. In the same road about 50 yards away a dropped kerb, which is obvious, is marked with a single white line, which has no legal standing but at least it makes you stop and think.

The parking ticket wasn't really for that offence anyway. It was a politically motivated ticket. Miss Friern's car was quite close to the scout hut which acts as the polling station and was full of Anyone But Coleman posters and that is what caused telephone calls to be made and two traffic wardens to arrive and the PCN for something else was the incorrect product of their visit.

29 May. Miss Friern submitted a 6 page letter by email to parking@barnet.gov.uk setting out the flaws re the position of the crossover to nowhere and the lack of warning lines or signs and this was completely ignored. Mr Mustard read of a case this week at PATAS where the failure to properly attend to correspondence led to the independent Adjudicator cancelling the ticket. This is a procedural impropriety (guidance is that informal appeals should be dealt with in 14 days).

2 July. The Notice to Owner was issued.

This Notice does not comply with Regulation 19 of The Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General regulations 2007 and so that is a procedural impropriety which is sufficient reason to have your parking ticket cancelled.

28 July - Miss Friern sent her formal appeal in response to the Notice to Owner to the PO Box in Worthing where it is scanned and input by RR Donnelley onto the Civica software which Barnet Council own and NSL also use. This time she added a little to her case and sent 7 pages.

31 July - Either the system is not correctly configured to place cases on hold automatically when an appeal arrives or the scanning was in arrears as the formal representations were not taken account of and a Charge Certificate was issued which increased the amount due from £110 to £165. This was a further procedural impropriety. The Notice to Owner is treated as served 2 days after it is issued and a charge certificate cannot be issued for another 28 days after that so this one was issued a day early. The Charge Certificate was not received by Miss Friern which is a good way of getting motorists into hot water and deeper debt. Was it actually posted?

10 August - The formal representations were responded to. 7 pages were dismissed in a sentence which is hardly giving them any great consideration. 

The Rejection was not in accordance with Regulation 6 in that the rejection does not specifically mention the Charge Certificate or the possibility to appeal to an independent Adjudicator, in this case, PATAS who deal with all London based cases. The letter also refers to vehicles leaving and entering by the crossover. Refer to the first photograph above and you can see this is obviously not correct but of course a Croydon person won't know this. So we have at least two more procedural improprieties in the rejection letter.

It is a statutory requirement that formal representations are carried out by a Barnet Council employee. Why does Mr Mustard have his doubts that actually happens?

What wasn't known was whether or not bailiffs had been instructed as they could have been in the remaining time. Mr Mustard got on the case and all credit to the Parking Manager, a temp working for Barnet Council (Mr Mustard has asked when we might be able to have our own proper permanent employee rather than a succession of consultants and/or temps) he knows a blunder (in fact the case is a travesty of good practice) when he sees it and within days he had cancelled the parking ticket.

The question Mr Mustard asks is how many invalid tickets are being wrongly pursued by NSL (Barnet Council really ought to audit their records and cancel defective parking tickets but they won't because they would rather shut their eyes and take the money) because most people haven't got the time or the patience to wade through parking law? He has.

As an example of monitoring of an outsourced contract this parking ticket highlights the problems that the council faces. An in-house operation can be easily visited by management, auditors or councillors. An office block in Croydon is not quite so easy to monitor. NSL are also meant to be experts in this area; parking ticket enforcement. They have recruited staff who only earn about two thirds of what the Barnet ones did. That is how One Barnet savings are made.

Worse service for less money.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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