4 February 2014

Someone crashed into your car - that will cost you £110

Barnet Council dispensation system is a car crash in waiting
Dear Sirs

I represent my friend and neighbour Bill of (address redacted) whose usual vehicle is AA11BBB which he shares with his father Ben.

The PCN is challenged on the following grounds:

1. The time plate suggests that the Residents Bays are restricted 24 hours of the day & 7 days of the week but the Traffic Management Order will show that it is only from 8am to 6.30 Monday to Saturday. Thus the time plate does not match the TMO and is not enforceable.

2. The council has been unfair. Bill suffered an accident which was the fault of a third party. A courtesy car was delivered on the evening of Friday 31st January and although Ben requested the registration number in advance of delivery Aviva (or their car delivery agent) were unable to tell Ben what it would be. Thus he was thwarted in his wish to notify the council during normal working hours on Friday. Ben sent an email in at 6.53pm pointing out that he had a courtesy car.

On Saturday Ben again rang the council to try and obtain a dispensation and found that the relevant department did not operate on a Saturday.

On Monday morning Ben again rang (020 8359 7446) and obtained a dispensation DSP018313 and placed a note to this effect in the car windscreen but he was too late with a PCN having already been issued.

The council issue PCN up until 11pm at night and at weekends. The council have a general duty at law to be fair and it clearly isn’t fair if enforcement takes place when the ability to make an everyday change for a courtesy car is only available during normal office hours. Car crashes don't only happen during those times. The council should, in order to be fair, cancel the PCN.

3. After finding the PCN on his car (and before coming here for a restorative cup of tea) Ben rang again (020 8359 7446). A lady told him that the dispensation did not apply until tomorrow and that he had to pay the PCN. Ben tried to explain how crazy this seemed but the lady was adamant that he had to pay.

Firstly, I have often heard that dispensations are given out without telling the motorist that they do not apply until the next day. This is absurd as people phone because they need one now. This is also entrapment and if your current computerised systems are not up to the job then a manual system needs to be introduced in order to provide a decent level of customer service. It is a simple matter. If the supervisor of the traffic wardens is told about each dispensation being issued as it happens, then whenever a traffic warden sees a note in a windscreen that there is a dispensation, which hasn't been updated to his handheld equipment, he can phone through to the office who say yes or no as to the validity. That would be the fair, reasonable and business-like way to go on.

Secondly, it is not correct behaviour that the advice line in respect of parking should instruct people to make payment of a PCN that they have every right to contest (again this is not the first time that I have heard of this happening). People tend to place faith in officialdom (often quite wrongly when it comes to parking in my view) and to issue instructions that benefit the council financially when if a challenge was made it might be accepted is clearly improper.

There is absolutely no traffic management purpose to this PCN as it is the council's own inability to operate a permit system fit for 2014 that has led to the PCN and the council should not profit from its own inefficiency.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Isn't it a delicious irony that the council are hyper-efficient with up to 50 traffic wardens roaming the streets at almost all hours of the day and night, weekends and bank holidays because there is money in it for them and yet they can't issue a dispensation at 6.30pm on a Friday or 10am on a Saturday?

There is a new computer system coming which will probably have virtual permits as a feature and so this problem will hopefully go away in about a year's time but until then either a manual workaround should be put in place or at the least all PCN for courtesy cars should be cancelled when challenged.

Mr Mustard isn't sure who is currently responsible for answering calls on 020 8359 7446 but it is most probably Capita and this wrong advice demonstrates the inability to have call centres which handle calls for multiple departments. The operatives simply cannot know enough. There should be dedicated phone lines that only answer calls about permits and PCN. That way expertise and customer knowledge builds up.

Mr Mustard sent a copy of the above challenge to a parking manager. He doesn't think the PCN will live for long. If it doesn't get cancelled the council are ultimately in for yet another visit to PATAS (and a £40 fee) where they usually lose. There is a guide to the process of challenging a PCN at the top left of the blog. Feel free to cut and paste any of Mr Mustard's arguments that are relevant and add any others of your own. The more arguments you present the more likely the council are going to fail to respond to one which is a procedural impropriety and a reason for your PCN to be cancelled at PATAS. Also, the more people that write in the more likely it is that some PCN have to be cancelled because NSL won't have enough time to argue.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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