16 March 2013

The value of staff knowledge


If however when you take over a contract you "let go" most of the back office staff of 25 (a handful of staff scrabbled to find a new post within the council) then pretty much all of the communal staff knowledge pool is lost and lots of things have to be learned again. We learn by our mistakes and there have been lots of those in parking.

Here is one from a PATAS report from last week:

The appellant has said that he was unaware that he was acting in an illegal manner by leaving a vehicle with a sign on the dashboard announcing an approximate price for its sale by negotiation.

The officer in this case chose to issue a Code 18 penalty charge notice.

These rarely come before adjudicators and it is the first time that I have I believe encountered the suggestion that this form of penalty charge notice issued is wide enough to cover a notice left to announce the intention of a private sale of the vehicle. I can appreciate that may be special considerations where a motor trader leaves several vehicles in the highway but that is not something which need concern me today.

On the rare occasions when I have adjudicated upon Code 18 penalty charge notices they have I believe simply involved such matters as ice cream vans and traders of similar description rather than private persons seeking to conduct a private sale of a single private car which is I think the case in point here.

The appellant has challenged the Council by disputing the legal basis for the penalty charge.

I find the Council's position very uncertain in relation to this case. Although it has sent me a copy of The Barnet (On Street Parking Places) Minor Order No. 2  2011 it has not highlighted or identified for me any specific article in what is a lengthy document, that might appear to relate to the heart of the contravention alleged.

I would require very specific argument and clear identification of the specific legal provision underlying a Council case before being prepared to rule that a Code 18 penalty charge properly covered what occurred in this case.

The Council has failed to establish to my satisfaction the legal basis for its claim. It has not adequately demonstrated in my judgment what contravention if any occurred.

I have recorded this appeal as allowed.

Now wind back to 18 February 2008 when a PCN was given out for the same "contravention" and read what the independent adjudicator at PATAS had to say on that occasion:

The Appellant was somewhat bewildered to receive this Penalty Charge Notice because she had paid for a valid pay and display ticket which was correctly displayed in the vehicle. She had also removed a 'For Sale' sign from the window while she went shopping.

The Authority relies on the record of the parking attendant. The attendant's notes include the number of the road fund licence indicating that he was close enough to the vehicle to make a thorough inspection. He has recorded 'advertising car for sale' but there are no details of the information contained in the for sale notice. The attendant also took several photographs from which it appears that a sign in the front of the vehicle had been taken down but that there is something in the rear window which may be a sign but cannot be read.

I find the tone and content of the Appellant's representations reasonable and credible. I accept that the Appellant had removed her 'For Sale' sign from the window. It may be that the attendant could read the sign in the vehicle but it was no longer displayed. I am also not satisfied that the contents of the sign in the rear window were such as to bring the vehicle within the contravention.

In those circumstances I am not satisfied that this Penalty Charge Notice was properly issued and this appeal is therefore allowed and any payment made must be refunded.

The Authority has now provided a copy of the Traffic Management Order. I have allowed this appeal for the above reasons but I should add that it would be surprising if someone who parks lawfully with a parking ticket clearly displayed could be penalised in this way.

Article 24 section 1 of Traffic Management Order 1997 no 43 states:-

'During the permitted hours no person shall use any parking place or any vehicle while it is in a parking place in connection with the sale or offering or exposing for sale of any goods to any person in or near the parking place or in connection with the selling of offering for sale of his skill in handicraft or his services in any other capacity.'

The object of the legislation is to prevent street trading from a vehicle. The mischief envisaged includes nuisance to residents and other road users from traders and customers and the avoidance of payment to the local authority for the relevant licence. For a vehicle with a 'For Sale' sign to be included the contravention would, in my view, have to be established in legislation which used the clearest possible language.

I am not satisfied therefore that the facts of this case fall within the ambit of the Traffic Management Order and I allow the appeal for this reason also.

So Mr Mustard would suggest that there are dangers to outsourcing as if you change 90% of the staff there is very little corporate knowledge remaining and thus the same mistakes get repeated.

Enforcement is contracted to NSL Ltd. They are supposedly experts in parking tickets but if that is the case they would surely know the proper circumstances about selling goods or services from vehicles because if a PCN were to be issued to everybody offering services from a vehicle that would be every carpenter, electrician, plumber etc who has a signwritten van who would receive one. You see the obvious flaw now in the council's behaviour; a pity they didn't think the matter through more carefully but that zealous gleam was in the eye of the traffic warden,
yippee I have another victim towards my non-existent quota.

Now we don't want the streets of Barnet to end up like an Egyptian bazaar and so rather than this blunt approach to ticketing (surely it wouldn't be the case that the parking ticket was issued solely to raise revenue?) that if there is a problem of vehicles rowed up for sale in one street, like there used to be near the Barnet Odeon, then what is required is proper by-laws aimed at that specific problem.

When Revenues and Benefits is moved to Blackburn and all of the other services are moved all over the country and across the seas to Ireland, you can kiss goodbye to the staff knowledge along with the staff who don't move which will be the vast majority. This lack of knowledge hasn't been factored into the tenders as far as Mr Mustard is aware and is worth a fortune.

Finally if you want to offer your own personal car for sale outside your home by using a sign or two in the windows then carry on. If you want to run a business selling cars from the highway, then please be a good chap and rent a car lot.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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