2 December 2013

(Worst) regards

Mr Mustard will spare the blushes of the unsympathetic manager at Barnet Council who wrote the above miserable email in response to a heartfelt plea for the return of her car from a lady who was, at the time, 6 months pregnant and who is now 8 months pregnant and only got her car back last week after 2 months without it. She also has to take her disabled grandmother to weekly medical appointments whilst looking after a little child who is not yet two years old. The manager's name deserves to be in the open but Mr Mustard has agreed not to blog about named junior employees, ones who earn less than £56,000 (not so junior then!).

Mr Mustard will now comment line by line on this email of 7 October.

The three PCNs currently at bailiff status are now the subject of court proceedings, as a result of the action taken by yourself. Yes, the lady knew this as she filed the out of time Witness Statements at Court. They were only out of time as she didn't get any of the correspondence which she had told the council and which they blithely ignored.

You should now wait to receive a decision from the Court in due course. The Traffic Enforcement Centre, is likely to uphold any objection made by the council and the council duly filed dubious Statements of Truth on 24 November. Given the removal of the car it is a pity that the council don't deal with these applications within 24 hours and instead take up pretty much all of the 28 calendar days that are allowed (actually allowed 19 working days). Mr Mustard has seen a handout from the TEC that says the council can accept or reject an out of time application so telling the lady that she had to wait for the Court wasn't providing a full explanation of the process and the council's role in it.

I note your dissatisfaction with our response in this matter. Mr Mustard is also not content. Before he saw the papers they had been seen by at least three council or NSL employees none of whom spotted the handling errors (probably because they didn't look for them) that Mr Mustard picked up in minutes.

In response, I would explain that we are constrained in regards to the concessions that we can make when cases have lawfully progressed onto bailiff status. Sadly the progression had been unlawful. Also, the council are not constrained, they can cancel a PCN at any stage (see paragraph 177 of the London Councils Code of Practice), and the contract with the bailiff will have the right within it to cancel any instruction without cost to the council.

It is worth mentioning that the decision to engage a bailiff company in the PCN recovery process is not one which is taken lightly. Oh yes it is. 16,723 PCN cases were sent to bailiffs in the year 2010-11. It is implausible that each file will be closely scrutinised. Instead, a list is churned out by computer and then split between 2 firm of bailiffs.

We have to be satisfied that the registered keeper was appropriately notified of the contravention and also the potential consequences of non-payment. All this line does it express in vague terms the steps that have to be taken in the processing of a PCN. The council will consider that the posting of a letter is a notification without any thought as to whether it actually reached the registered keeper or not.

In your case, PCNs were placed on the windscreen of the vehicle or handed to the driver, in the first instance. The driver wasn't the registered keeper but her sister who kept quiet and then emigrated.

Three subsequent statutory notices were issued in respect of each PCNs (sic) to the address registered with the DVLA.  Yes, they were issued but one came back which you haven't mentioned and none of the others were actually put through the letterbox of the flat.

Whilst I note your comments pertaining to your housing situation, I regret to inform you that we cannot recall the cases from the bailiff company based upon such statements, given the facts of this case. Which facts is the first question? A week prior the lady had written "I have not received any letters from the Council or the bailiff" seems not to have been a sufficient statement for the council to make further enquiry into.

Furthermore, the bailiff company have incurred certain material costs associated with pursuing the outstanding penalty charge on behalf of the Local Authority. True, a bailiff is paid on a results basis and is not on a heads we win, tails you lose deal. A bailiff makes enough money out of the cases they win to more than cover the 75% that they don't collect on.

Current legislation provides that these costs are to be met by the owner / registered keeper of the vehicle. Mr Mustard concurs.

If the Local Authority were to intervene by recalling the cases at this stage, we would have to be prepared to meet any costs that are due to the bailiff company. Hogwash. There will be nothing in the contract which allows for this. Certainly there is nothing in the contract between Barnet Council and NSL which makes the council liable.

I hope you can appreciate that we would not willingly place ourselves in such a position at this time. The council shouldn't do so, the bailiff simply has to take it on the chin.

I trust that this response has clarified your concerns. The only thing clarified is that the council don't give a fig.

Regards What? "Regards", not "Yours sincerely". Is this any way that a council should write to a motorist whose car has been wrongly, as it happens, taken away by bailiffs, or is Mr Mustard being an old fuddy duddy?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. Ruthless, venal, and rapacious. Have I missed any words out ?

  2. An excellent summary of my 500 words.


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.