28 March 2013

Good news story - not in Barnet though


This is the kind of story Mr Mustard would like to read in Barnet.  Lambeth Council evidently listen harder to their traders than Barnet do. Hence that could be why West Norwood, which Mr Mustard knows well, is now doing reasonably well despite it not being a main town centre.

From the Standard
Shopkeepers were celebrating today after Lambeth council eased parking restrictions around their businesses which they claimed hit trade.

West Norwood High Street shoppers can now park free for an hour rather than just 30 minutes. Antonia Beamish, 41, owner of Beamish & McGlue grocery shop and café, said takings fell 30 per cent under the half-hour rule. “When we first opened in 2005, you were free to park all around this area,” she said. (Dean Cohen take note, this is what Barnet's traders have been saying, a 30% to 40% drop in trade due to removal of meters)

“About two years later, the council made the changes and it made a massive difference. We have been suffocated by these measures.” However, Miss Beamish insisted: “For a thriving high street, we need a two-hour free parking minimum and no restrictions on Saturdays.”

The changes came after Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said he wanted to end the “overzealous culture of parking enforcement” because the “rigid state orthodoxy of persecuting motorists” damages small businesses across the UK.

Parking meter charges of up to £3 an hour remain an issue in West Norwood, said Stav Tsoukkas, 32, who owns the Electric Café: “The tariffs are very high and although there are free bays, they get taken up very quickly.”

Imogen Walker, Lambeth council cabinet member for environment, said: “We have extended the time people can stop for free in parking bays along the High Street. Further free parking in side-street bays was extended to 60 minutes in December, which has made it easier for people who want to stop for a meal. (only if they bolt their food)

“We have been putting a stronger focus on making sure our civil enforcement officers are helpful to motorists, for example by advising them on where they can and can’t park.” (Helpful traffic wardens - gosh)

There is still scope for improvement in Lambeth. In Norwood Rd (that is the name of the road on which Beamish & McGlue are situated) from 1 April 12 to 28 February 13 there were 267 parking tickets issued by a traffic warden on foot and 2801 by stealthy cctv. That will be about £200,000 that the council have raked in from penalty charges.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

27 March 2013

Lost cat?

An unusual post from Mr Mustard this morning. Yesterday coming home from the school run, his neighbour, obviously a cat lover, was unable to walk past this cat, which seemed to be lost, shivering cold and hungry. Did she take it home? No, because she has a cat already and so she took it to Mr Mustard (ta very much) who often feeds cats for neighbours who are away and doesn't have one himself.

The cat is in good condition, the coat is shiny, the cat is less hungry than it was now that it has had 3 square meals and water and purrs away happily. So would you if you had spent the night in the warm, safe and dry. 

Mr Mustard is not in the market for a cat so it will have to go to the RSPCA at Southridge tomorrow (they are closed today) if no-one comes forward in response to local enquiries, posters, twitter and this blog.

The cat is likely to live in Salisbury Rd, Carnarvon Rd, Stafford Rd, Alston Rd, Falkland Rd, Puller Rd, Sebright Rd (someone else in that road was recently feeding it according to a lady who saw the poster outside) Calvert Rd or Wentworth Avenue. If you know the owner, who must be worried, please telephone 020 8441 8640.

Yours gratefully

Mr Mustard

Diary Date - 11 April at 7pm

25 March 2013

Parking ticket zealots - duty to be fair.

The following are the notes made by the independent adjudicator at PATAS and they nicely sum up the approach of Barnet Council and their enforcer, NSL Ltd.

The contravention is "parked without payment of the parking charge" and not as stated in the case summary parking "not purchased soon enough...". From the evidence it is clear that the appellant paid for parking and this is not disputed by the Authority.

The nature of this matter causes me to expand more than usual in my findings. It is also pertinent to note that the account provided by the appellant has at all times been consistent, and though there are some issues with the exact timing of the telephone calls the central core of the appellant's account has never been disputed.

The Authority relying on its Pay By Phone records submit that the appellant's first telephone call to pay by phone was made at 1.53pm and that the PCN was issued one minute earlier at 1.52pm; even if these times are reliable and correct with such a difference of one minute I find it surprising that the Authority would pursue this matter further. The Authority continues by stating that at 1.53pm the call was terminated because the appellant had given incorrect card expiry details, but the Authority accepts that the appellant rang back within two minutes and that ultimately at 1.58pm payment was successful. The Authority state that because the PCN was issued at 1.58pm this was six minutes after the PCN had been issued at 1.52pm and have continued to enforce this matter.

The appellant's account is that she first made the call at 1.50pm and that ultimately payment was made at 1.57pm. What the Authority in its zeal to pursue this case appear to have neglected is a duty to act fairly and proportionately. There has been no attempt by the appellant to evade payment. A motorist who has not used this system before has to register a number of details including debit card information and full description details of the vehicle in question. The service requires waiting for an operator whilst part of the service is also automated. This appellant was making the call from the information board and not from her vehicle. Even if the records relied on by the Authority from Pay By Phone are reliable there is still only a gap of six minutes between the issue of the PCN and the appellant first trying to make contact with Pay By Phone, and if the appellant's records are more reliable the gap is just five minutes.

This matter should be pursued no further. The appellant has acted honestly and genuinely throughout. I cannot perceive how an Authority can claim to act with fairness when it accepts that the motorist has paid for the parking, but submits that a gap of either 5 or 6 minutes due to attempts to engage with Pay By Phone is indicative of the motorist in these particular circumstances not acting quickly enough.

I am not satisfied that the PCN was correctly issued.
If you are in a similar situation you can quote PATAS file number 2130045792 in support of your argument.
Yours frugally
Mr Mustard 

24 March 2013

Pay-by-phone put to proof at PATAS

what we want, meters that take coins & cards

Pay-by-phone parking has been controversial since it became, in effect, the only way to pay (vouchers and paypoint are not fast enough). Before then, when offered as a choice, it was OK. Cash is a universal medium which it should still be possible to use at the point of parking i.e. in a meter.

The following case from PATAS the home of the independent adjudicator shows that it is worthwhile for you to put the council to prove as to how pay-by-phone should have worked and how it was explained to you. You can appeal on the grounds that the instructions were not clear or not available to you at the parking place. Make the council prove their case. This one is reference number 2130000659. Just before the hearing at PATAS, at least 3 working days before your hearing date, the council has to send its evidence to you and to PATAS. If you have put the instructions for payment into question then the council should prove the rules and the signs. If they don't put that into the evidence pack you can send and email to PATAS adding this absence as a further argument to your case. The more arguments you put forward the more likely you are to win.

The appellant attended the hearing before me. He reiterated the statements made in his representations and Notice of Appeal. Basically he claims that payment of the parking charge was made and so he denies the contravention. He admits that he was subsequently made aware that the payment had been made in respect of his wife's vehicle and not his vehicle. He has detailed the steps taken upon parking in order to make the payment.

The Authority has produced a copy of Penalty Charge Notice, as well as the contemporaneous notes recorded by the civil enforcement officer.

The appellant basically claims the information given on the pay by phone system is not clear, he states that his wife was asked by a recorded message whether she wanted to use "the account", he said that she assumed this referred to something akin to a payment account and not to the vehicle registration mark. He said that at no point in the process was his wife informed of the vehicle registration mark against which payment was being taken.

The Authority is under a duty Regulation 18 (1) of the Local Authorities' Traffic Orders (Procedure)(England & Wales) Regulations 1996 to ensure that the motorist is given adequate information as to what is required in order to comply with the restrictions.

The Authority has not produced any evidence as to the instructions given to motorists wishing to use the pay by phone system. The Authority has produced no evidence as to the steps the motorist should have taken in order to pay by phone for this vehicle as opposed to the other vehicle. The Authority has produced no evidence to show whether there are any written instructions on a sign plate informing the motorist of what he is required to do in order to pay by phone. On the evidence I cannot be satisfied that at the time of payment motorists are clearly informed that the payment made is being registered in respect of a particular vehicle registration mark. The burden is on the Authority to show that they have complied with their obligation under Regulation 18.

I allow the appeal.

Dealing with an appeal to PATAS is not hard. Their appeal form is simple and you will have already advanced your arguments to the council. All you need to do is summarise them, Mr Musatrd likes to put in numbered lists if there are several points of appeal, and refer to the documents so as to make it simple for the adjudicator to follow. When you get the evidence pack from the council go through it and see if anything is missing or wrong and bring that to the attention of PATAS straightaway (no need to tell the council). You can email them.

You have nothing to lose by appealing. If you win that is it (the council can ask for a review but that is very rare) and if you lose you can ask for a review if the adjudicator has missed something or you can take it on the chin and you get 28 days to pay the original charge of £60, £110 or £130.

Mr Mustard is writing a guide to appealing and will release it in stages as it progresses.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard 

21 March 2013

Judicial Review - NSCSO

The Royal Courts of Justice

Apologies for the lack of recent blog posts but Mr Mustard has been sat in Court for 2 days and a final day (for now, as we have the Brian Coleman alleged assault hearing to come on 3 May and the Parking Judicial Review on 2 July and then possibly the Susan Sullivan JR) beckons.

You can follow the proceedings on twitter by searching for the hashtag #barnetjr. Kick off is at 10.30 and it will be all over at 16.30 and hopefully earlier.

Judge Underhill is both excellent and difficult to read, he teases his audience with occasional insights into his thinking but of course the view he posits may be changed by robust argument and 2 fine QCs are battling it. Judgment will be reserved i.e. made later, and doubtless this is because it is going to be a long and carefully thought out document (the last judgment read by Mr Mustard, #daftarrest, ran to 87 pages). It is going to contain guidance about what sort of consultations should be done by local authorities in future. Barnet Council did not consult residents about whether they wanted their services to be delivered by an external conglomerate like Capita or BT and that may have been because it was an answer they didn't want to hear.

Anyway Mr Mustard must go now and look in the wardrobe to see what eye catching shirt will cause La Bloggeuse to wear her sunglasses in Court (we won't compare you to Councillor Colonel Gaddafi La B as that would be truly unkind) because of the glare.

A quick by-the-by. If you live in a CPZ zone (apart from zone C, the home of Mr Mustard) and there are any timeplates which say on them "Resident Permit Holders only" or "Permit Holders only" and there are no times displayed please can you email a photograph to mrmustard@zoho.com and tell him the road name. This is only likely to be the case in the zones which have been established for many years. The reason will become clear next week. If you get a parking ticket under such a sign do let Mr Mustard know as he will be able to assist.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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

15 March 2013

2e2 - From bluster to bust

2e2  - When Outsourcing Goes Wrong
Barnet Council have been having trouble with their IT infrastructure for some time. Back in 2011 an internal report identified that the Council was having difficulties with their IT Infrastructure Supplier, 2e2, stating that:
2e2 contract was put in place to transfer the operational management and risk of core infrastructure to a private provider. 2e2 no longer feel responsible for this and have passed all risks back to the council, on the basis that all equipment has reached EOL (End Of Life)”.

The report identified that a key risk was that,  “2e2 will pass all risk back onto the council and not deliver to their contractual arrangements” and that to mitigate that risk the council should, “Improve the relationship with 2e2 and look into terminating the 2e2 contract early and bringing services and staff, under TUPE, in‐house, if necessary”.
Unfortunately, Barnet ignored its own advice and continued to engage 2e2 at a cost of over £1 million a year, including an annual up-front payment of £400,000. In January 2013 2e2 went into administration and withdrew its services. This leaves Barnet £220,000 out of pocket for the unused up-front fees and scrabbling around to find someone else to run the IT infrastructure, without which the council would struggle to function.
To get themselves out of a hole quickly, Barnet Council have appointed Capita, without any form of tender, on the basis that it was an emergency and they had already had discussions with Capita to take over the running of this service. This new contract will cost £72,595 per month.

The Council states that they did undertake a risk analysis of 2e2 in January “using Experian reports” and that “the report stated the company was satisfactory”. However a quick check on the internet would have shown that suppliers have not been able to get credit insurance on goods supplied to 2e2 for some time and that 2e2 were handed a number of County Court Judgements in 2012.
If Barnet had simply followed its own risk register advice back in 2011 and brought the service back in house, we would not be in this position. It also shows the massive risk that comes with outsourcing key services and that even large companies can go bust.

Barnet need to stop taking risks with our services and abandon One Barnet now.


Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

"Barnet Council's policies not perfect" - official

Mr Mustard was surprised by the first letter that he read in the Barnet Times this morning extolling the virtues of the One Barnet programme about which 90+% of Barnet's residents are largely unaware and which to Mr Mustard's eye read like prose that a certain Richard Cornelius might have written (or had written for him more likely as Richard is too busy to write himself - you owe Mr Mustard a few replies from 2012 don't you Richard?):

Who is this resident who knows so much thought Mr Mustard and so off to google he went and then the picture became clear. The linked-in profile of the writer contained the following:

so now we know that the letter wasn't from some random well-informed resident but from one of Richard's supporters. What will the reward be for this sucking up?

Then when Mr Mustard read on he became a little confused. The writer is happy to privatise Barnet Council's services but not those of the NHS

Oh dear, all credibility gone out of the window. Rewrite that last paragraph and substitute "Barnet Council" for "NHS" and it is easy to agree with it.

Finally: Mr Mustard's advice. If you don't want to read about yourself on a blog, don't put yourself into the public eye and fail to declare your interest. Had the political membership been mentioned Mr Mustard would not have carried out any research and the name Nneka would not be on his blog today.

Things must be pretty desperate if letters have to be planted in the local paper.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

14 March 2013

Suspended bays - suspend your payment

courtesy of Nutsville - motorcyclists who are not at all nutty
Mr Mustard expects you remember the article in the Evening Standard about councils in London using signs with which to indicate bay suspensions that were not of an approved design. Barnet Council were one of the culprits. Has that stopped them from issuing parking tickets and raking in the lolly? you bet it hasn't.

People who challenge their tickets find that they get a fairer hearing in front of the independent adjudicators at PATAS. Here is what the adjudicator had to say in a case from last month:

The Appellant attended in person. The Authority did not attend nor was it represented.

The bay was suspended outside 75 to 79 Cxxxxxxx Road. The Appellant said that the vehicle was outside no. 81. The Authority's evidence did not rebut this assertion. There was really no excuse as to why a photograph cold not have been taken of the profile of the whole of the vehicle against the frontages of the properties.

The Appellant had also made a challenge to the adequacy of the signage in terms of when it went up. The Authority's assertion that motorists must check every day. Not only is this a little harsh, the PCN was issued at 7:30. If the sign went up the night before after the vehicle was parked, the PCN is unlikely to be upheld.

I am allowing the appeal.

Here is another case from yesterday which led to that parking ticket also being cancelled:

The Appellant argues that the suspension sign is non compliant as it is not a traffic sign as defined in the relevant legislation. This point was considered by this Tribunal in the case of Campbell v Camden case no. 2090523567. The Traffic Management Order in that case is with respect to the power to suspend is in similar terms, in particular with the requirement for there to be a traffic sign. The Enforcement Authority have not said that their suspension sign has special authorisation from the DoT and they do not address the argument as to whether it complies with any of the signs in the Traffic Signs Regulations & General Directions 2002 ( see e.g. fig.s 636 or 640). Having considered the Campbell case and in the absence of any contrary arguments from the Enforcement Authority, I will follow that case.....

In following the Campbell case, I rule that the signage was non compliant as the suspension sign used is not prescribed in the Traffic Signs Regulations & General Directions 2002 and no special authorisation has been obtained. Accordingly, the suspension cannot be enforced.

Given that Barnet Council & NSL should both know the law on traffic signs one wonders why they have been refusing challenges based upon inadequate signage. It can't be that they simply want money from you, could it? Presumably they have now somewhat belatedly applied for a newly designed sign to be approved but if you have a parking ticket that pre-dates mid February you can get it cancelled. Quote the Campbell case above. If you have paid for such a parking ticket since the Campbell case in January 2010 why not write in to Barnet Council, not NSL, and ask for your money back or email here.

When Barnet Council reject any appeal that you have made don't just take their word for it. Barnet Council have a vested interest in rejecting your appeal. Go away and research your circumstances on the internet and send in an informal appeal after you first get the parking ticket, again once you receive the Notice to owner and finally after a Notice of Rejection you can appeal to PATAS where you get an independent consideration of your case.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

13 March 2013

Lodge Lane Car Park


Mr Mustard is assisting a resident who paid for 180 minutes parking using pay-by-phone but got a lesser amount of time and a parking ticket. I see there was also a case which went to the independent adjudicator last week where in the very same car park another person paid for 180 minutes but received only 30.

Mr Mustard wonders if there is a problem at location 7521

Mr Mustard would like to hear from you if you received less time than you believe you ordered or were charged a different price than is shown on the board. Email him at mrmustard@zoho.com

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

12 March 2013

Calling time on the disabled

Are blue badges blue because their use leads to a lot of profanities being issued?

a standard issue time clock
Mr Mustard is appealing a parking ticket for an elderly gentleman who received a parking ticket at 16:25 and here is the time clock he set which is used to demonstrate that you are within your 3 hours on single or double yellow (provided that they are not a place where unloading is not permitted - this is shown by a short yellow line or lines across the kerb stones which are known as kerb flashes).

Now, can you tell Mr Mustard with any accuracy what time the clock was set at. Was it before or after 13:25? It is hard to be certain?

What time should one set the clock for? Mr Mustard didn't think it mattered all that much as surely a disabled person would be allowed a bit of grace, by reason of their reduced ability to walk far or fast or both. The enforcement contract with NSL specifies a grace period of 5 minutes before a parking ticket for having stayed longer than permitted is issued. Under this One Barnet contract the actions of the contractor NSL do not seem to be monitored closely enough.

Mr Mustard wrote to the parking process manager ("PPM") to find out if there were any more precise instructions than in the blue badge guidance from the Department of Transport which says on page 10 "to show your time of arrival" and then on page 15 it says "showing the quarter hour period during which you arrived". The PPM thought that "You should set the clock to the nearest 15 minute period (if you follow the guidelines exactly). If you arrive at 13:22 then the nearest 15 minute period would have been 13:15. You would then calculate your 3 hour exemption from there." Mr Mustard thought the opposite, that the 3 hours should run from the end of the quarter hour in which you parked and then a 5 minute grace period on top. Moving the clock backwards would remove some of the permitted 3 hours from the disabled person.

Mr Mustard doesn't like unresolved questions like this one, he had already looked on the PATAS website and not found the answer but when he googled he did find a case that had come before PATAS in 2009 following an appeal against a Redbridge parking ticket. The comments by the independent adjudicator included these:

It may be that the Department (of Transport) should reconsider the drafting of these instructions to make the actual requirements of the Exemption Regulations clear. In light of apparent lack of clear instructions to badge holders it is perhaps not surprising that Mrs B developed her own approach to where to set the pointer on the clock.

In future she should simply place it between the quarter hour markings. She can then calculate her 3 hour period of exempt waiting from the end of that quarter hour period. The Enforcement Authority should instruct their CEOs and staff who consider representations to adopt the same approach.

I find that the PCN was issued during the period when Mrs B was entitled to leave her car on the yellow line with the benefit of the Blue Badge and disc, and so I allow this appeal. 

So there we have an answer that we can rely on as it is in the key cases section of the PATAS website and so likely to be followed by the other independent adjudicators.

Set your time clock to the middle of the quarter hour in which you arrive and allow yourself the 3 hours and the odd few minutes of parking. Much safer though to avoid having to endure a tedious argument about a parking ticket you shouldn't have been given is to park if you can in a resident's permit parking bay or a pay-by-phone bay for as long as you like and that neatly sidesteps the time clock problem. For car parks it is best to check the sign board for the rules.

Isn't parking tedious in Barnet?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

11 March 2013

The impossible Visitor Voucher Quiz

personal identifier has been redacted
So here we have, in reverse date order, three visitor vouchers which cost £4 each. On 8 March the builder put another voucher out which he dealt with in the same way as these and scratched out Mar, Fri & 8. He got a parking ticket on the 8th but not on the 3 previous days. Why?

Now you are scratching your heads. You are looking and going "what have I missed?"

the problem is not any of the following:

wrong year
wrong zone
mis-matched month, day & date
wrong car registration (not needed on these vouchers)
scratched off too many details
scratched off too few details
mutilated voucher
expired voucher (they don't expire)
not displayed correctly
wrong way up or round.

do you give in? You do? OK, the problem was:

the wrong traffic warden

Traffic warden 374 gave out a parking ticket because, wait for it, the motorist scratched out the details with a biro and not with a coin as he explained when challenged (the traffic warden is indeed lucky that the residents are decent folk - others would have been very forceful in their opinion which would have been delivered with force). The fact is that the voucher has been permanently changed and cannot be used again.

Nowhere in the instructions does it say you have to use a coin and nowadays, ironically, coins are generally of no use in Barnet for parking because you have to use a mobile phone which isn't itself of much use as a scratching implement.

How desperate are traffic wardens to dish out parking tickets? how much pressure are they being put under to issue so many per shift? (if any traffic warden has lost their job recently and wants to come and chat to Mr Mustard in private then they should send an email to him at mrmustard@zoho.com and/or ask for an address to which to send interesting paperwork).

Mr Mustard writes to the parking process manager ("PPM") when he thinks something is completely out of order. This is. The Oxford dictionary on the subject of scratch can be found here, and it is clear from the definition that scratching can take many forms including using a pencil, a nail, your fingernail as well as a coin. For once the PPM failed Mr Mustard and he isn't prepared to step in and squash this stupid ticket without further ado (he must be missing his budgeted parking ticket income) and so now the informal challenge will have to await the usual rejection from NSL and then the formal appeal will go in after the Notice to Owner has been issued and if that is rejected the case will go off to PATAS the home of the independent adjudicator where Mr Mustard is confident of success and Barnet Council will have wasted £40 if they let it go that far.

Does anyone (who isn't a traffic warden or a parking officer) think that this parking ticket isn't just ridiculously pedantic and avaricious?

There is a theory that traffic wardens exist to help regulate the flow of traffic and to ration space. That is poppycock when it comes to residential roads; traffic wardens exist to make money, pure and simple.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

9 March 2013

FOI, Social & PCN club - 11 March 7pm

Mr Mustard likes beer,
he likes the Antic Bohemia
he likes eccentric socialists (in fact any sort of eccentric)
he likes Barnet's soi-disant exiled Americans (were they thrown out he wonders?)
he likes a cafe owner
he likes FOI
he likes fighting parking tickets
he likes to be sociable

and so he will sit down in the Antic Bohemia on Monday 11 March at 7pm instead of listening to Hugh Rayner charge through the Business & Management Overview & Scrutiny business with more of a concern about keeping to his own timetable than making sure that enough time is devoted to the business to perform effective scrutiny.

Mr Mustard would be delighted if you would join him.

It is quite informal. Mr Mustard has quite a bit of news about FOI for those that want to discuss that and another group may want to discuss the merits of the wine list which is well worth sampling or any of the wide range of beers on offer. (Mr Mustard will get the bus or tube home).

If you have a parking ticket problem, bring your paperwork along to be scrutinised in fine detail. If that is done the parking ticket probably won't be up to the challenge.

If you just want to soak up the atmosphere of being with eccentric individuals and discuss the rights and wrongs of the world, explain the off-side rule to Mrs Angry or talk about books, theatre or film or anything you like, do please come along. If you don't have time for dinner at home before coming along the Bohemia do food, Mr Mustard sampled the crumble last time out - it was great.

The Antic Bohemia is situated at 762-764 High Rd, Tally Ho, London, N12 9QH which is right across the road from that well known Café Buzz

a good place for breakfast at any time of day.

Until Monday then.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

6 March 2013

Permit me to give you a parking ticket dear resident

More than 10,000 residents have a permit to park within their local CPZ (controlled parking zone). They pay at least £100 each year for this "service" which is intended to enable them to be able to park more easily near their residence. The council use the existence of CPZs to issues tens of thousands of penalty charge notices (PCN) and make sackloads of money. The least that a resident can expect is that they will receive a reminder in the post about a month before the renewal is due and that if for some reason something goes wrong (Mr Mustard gets other people's post all the time for example which could be your permit renewal reminder, don't worry he would pass it on but your mail could get delivered to an empty house next door?) then the least they can expect is a quick resolution of the problem at no cost. Does this happen? Not all the time. Some cases end up being heard by the independent adjudicator, like this one:.

Mrs G does not dispute that her car was parked at the location in Mill Ridge in a residents bay.

The alleged contravention is parking without clearly displaying a permit or pay and display ticket. The location was a residents bay. The Appellant has explained that she had problems with the holder for her residents permit. When she wrote to the Local Authority on 1.8.2012, she stated  that she realised that her permit had fallen from its place on the windscreen. The Civil Enforcement Officer, who observed the car in the residents bay noted that there was no valid residents permit.

A contravention occurs if at any time during which the vehicle is parked in a parking place the permit is not clearly displayed.  I am satisfied that no valid permit was clearly displayed at the relevant time.  

As an Adjudicator I am not empowered to exercise discretion or to mitigate penalties. I am satisfied that the contravention occurred and that the Penalty Charge Notice was correctly issued. The Appellant drew attention to the fact that a similar Penalty Charge Notice had been cancelled . The fact that the Local Authority exercises discretion to cancel one Penalty Charge Notice does not mean all Penalty Charge Notices for the same contravention should be cancelled. Although the Local Authority would have a record of resident permit holders, this does not excuse a driver from the responsibility of ensuring that permits are clearly displayed. I do not find that the Local Authority acted in any way unreasonably. (Mr Mustard does think that the local authority has acted unreasonably. All tickets with the same facts should have the same outcome; another adjudicator described such behaviour by Barnet Council as capricious which you will read later. The handheld equipment of the traffic warden should show that a permit exists and they could issue a PCN for £0.00 as a gentle nudge to sort out the problem as they once did for Mr Mustard in less avaricious times a few years ago.)

and another one where the permit had expired less than 24 hours previously:

Mr J attended the hearing. The Enforcement Authority was not represented.

The agreed facts are that the vehicle was parked in a permit bay displaying a permit that had expired the day before the contravention and a Penalty Charge Notice was issued.

Mr J has an annual permit. He applied to renew that permit but did not receive the replacement permit in time. The new permit started from 3 August, the day of the contravention.

The Authority rightly points out that the contravention occurs if a valid permit is not displayed, and so the Penalty Charge Notice was lawfully issued.

The Adjudicator is not empowered by law to allow an appeal on grounds of mitigation, but can make a recommendation to the Enforcement Authority to exercise their discretionary powers in the Appellant's favour. I do find that there is compelling mitigation in this case and point out the following:

1. The Appellant's permit had only expired the day before.
 2. He had already paid for a renewal and the only reason the new permit was not displayed is because it had not yet been received.
3. Had the Civil Enforcement Officer checked with base, he would have established that a new permit had been issued which covered 3 August.
4. The Enforcement Authority has not lost any revenue in this case.
5. There was no intention to avoid payment or park in contravention.

so a sensible decision by the Adjudicator that the parking ticket ought to be cancelled, Barnet Council do not have to comply though. They would be well advised to as the Code of Practice of London Councils says the following:

if the permit has only recently expired (e.g. less than 7 days) ......a warning could be issued. How on earth did this case go all the way through the system without some commonsense being applied? 

and the third recent adjudication about a resident permit:

In effect the appellant is arguing that the authority should have exercised its discretion differently.

It is not is dispute that the vehicle was parked in a residents' bay, without the residents permit, to which he is entitled and which he holds, on display. Prima facie therefore the officer was entitled to issue the Penalty Charge Notice.

The authority has a discretion as to whether or not to pursue a Penalty Charge Notice to its conclusion.

Mr D put the facts as he understood them to the authority. These are that he has been a permit holding resident for 6 years. In this instance his previous permit expired on the day in question (31 st October 2012) and he renewed it, for the first time online. He tried to display it and flew to Berlin on business. He says that he failed to attach the downloaded permit to the windscreen properly and it became detached and was no longer on display.

This is the first of 5 Penalty Charge Notices issued to the vehicle on 5 days from 31 October, for the contravention identified.  He found 4 of them when he returned from Berlin. The fifth, this PCN, (the first in time) he only knew of when he received the Notice to Owner.

There are one or two elements of Mr D's account which are not quite clear. The first is that, as the authority points out, the evidence shows that he only flew to Berlin on 2 November 2012, some 2 days after the problem began. The second is that the letter he produces of 24 October 2012 appears to be a paper letter enclosing the replacement permit ('please detach the permit below') rather than appearing as a downloaded document.  Also the new permit was valid from 1 November 2012, and it is not therefore clear why he would not have discovered the problem before he flew to Berlin.

But the strongest point in his favour, undoubtedly, is that an officer of the authority, having considered his representations, cancelled one of the subsequent PCNs, that of 2nd or 1st of November. However a different officer considered the same representations on the other 3 PCNs on which he had made representations, (and this one, of which he only became aware later) and rejected his case outright.

The authority's answer to his challenge on this basis is that the cancellation of one was "a goodwill gesture" only and does not bind the authority as to the other 3 or 4.PCNs. This seems to me to demonstrate on the face of it an unsustainable inconsistency. If the reason for the cancellation of one had been in fact because it was procedurally deficient, then pursuing other procedurally proper PCNs may have been a defensible,  even if a harsh decision. But to accept the same representations on the same facts for one of 5 PCNs and not apply that discretion to the other PCNs appears capricious and suggests that there has not been a considered and fair exercise of that discretion at all. (Barnet Council dishing out goodwill and then using it against the person they gave it to; nice move)

I allow the appeal on that basis.

Mr Mustard agrees with the Adjudicator. Parking tickets simply should not be issued during any period when a valid permit is in existence and the information should be on the handheld equipment of the traffic wardens, if they can have details of who has paid-by-phone they can equally have details of who holds a permit of any type. That would be truly providing a service.

Mr Mustard was interested in the way in which reminders are issued. he notes the statement on the application form, highlighted in yellow on the form above, that all reminders are, since at least June 12 when this form was updated, sent by email and thought that could well be why so many residents were not finding out about their renewal as they either didn't have email, hadn't told the council of an email address or didn't know this was the new policy because it had not been communicated to them. Mr Mustard made enquiry of the parking section at the council (they are getting quite used to his enquiries) and rapidly received the information that he had sought:

Dear Mr Mustard

The policy is to issue reminders by post. They are sent approximately one month before the permit holders current permit expires. I have amended the application form to remove the references to email reminders and have requested the permits department upload a new electronic copy to the Barnet website.

Many thanks for pointing this out to me.

Kind regards

Mr Mustard suggests that you go outside now and look at the permit on your car, and the tax disc whilst you are about it, and check that you are up to date. You might as well check your insurance and your MOT as well and did you know that a photocard driver's licence is only valid for 10 years and if that has expired you are breaking the law. We don't want the twitter personage @MPSBarnet talking to you in a non-social capacity because he won't be as funny as usual.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update Thursday 7 March 2013

another case at PATAS yesterday at which you have to laugh but it could be you!

I have dealt with this Appeal throughout in the absence of the parties. I adjourned consideration from 05 February 2013 to allow the Appellant to produce evidence of Council Tax paid to LB Barnet and for the Authority to confirm or refuse the suggestion. They have done neither.

Mr M has been placed into a bureaucratic impasse by the Authority. In a letter to him in response to a request for a resident's parking permit, they informed him that he did not live within the Borough so could not be issued with a permit by them. He found this a surprising statement given that he has been paying them substantial sums of Council Tax and on 19 October 2012 they were pleased to accept £3,575 from him in connection with construction work at his premises. His documents bear this out. 

When he raised this in his representations to the Authority following the issue of the Penalty Charge Notice ("PCN") he was informed in the Notice of Rejection in a letter under the banner "Barnet London Borough" that he was advised to "report the matter to barnet council". One presumes he thought that is what he was doing.

Mr. M clearly is a resident (or else the Authority has taken considerable sums from him to which it is not entitled) and able to apply for a permit. The location here was round the corner from his house and in the Borough. I find that enforcement of this Penalty Charge Notice is an abuse of process. The contravention and its enforcement cannot be sustained and I allow the Appeal on that basis.

and another case yesterday on the subject of permit renewal

This is a personal appeal attended by the Appellant's representative, Mr S. The Enforcement Authority did not appear and was not represented.
Mr S explained to me that the Appellant, who had resided at the same address for some four years, and was the holder of a resident's permit, had regularly received renewal reminders from the Enforcement Authority, but that the Appellant had not received such a reminder for 2012. The permit had expired and was not renewed until after the Penalty Charge Notice had been issued.

It was explained to me that the receipt of a renewal reminder is an essential prerequisite of renewal, as this would have included a unique reference number which must in input on-line to trigger the issue of a new permit. The Enforcement Authority's evidence does not indicate that any reminder had, in fact, been sent.

Whilst it is the primary responsibility of the motorist to ensure that he renews his permit, it does seem that, in this case, the Enforcement Authority must assume some responsibility for the Appellant's failure to renew on time and, in these circumstances, I consider that there are compelling reasons for the Enforcement Authority to consider the cancellation of the Notice to Owner.

and further information has reached Mr Mustard that whilst Mr McArdle was here as the interim parking manager (before he wandered off to NSL of all places after the award of the contract) was when the traffic wardens were instructed to stop allowing a week or two of grace to an expired permit to allow for delays in the post and to take the pressure off the renewals department who suffered, and still do almost every week, numerous computer system breakdowns. This also affects the ability of residents to renew on-line and then they ring up and moan at customer services or the parking permit team. Time for the new temporary parking manager to give clear instructions to NSL as to how he wants them to behave. It would be so much easier for him if he was in direct control of the staff.

Outsourcing changes the council's problem, it doesn't fix them.

Mr Mustard