7 March 2014

Golden Bull Awards - NSL nominated

Plain English Campaign
It was back in March 2011 that Mr Mustard suggested to Barnet Council that they use Plain English in everything they do, he having ploughed through one tortuous committee report too many. This is the reply he received on 23 July 2011:

Apologies for the lack of a response, not least as I am broadly supportive of your suggestion.

I have discussed this matter with the Leader of the Council and intend to bring forward proposals as to how the Council will work to meet Plain English standards.

I note there is a cost of becoming a corporate member of the Plain English campaign and the Council will therefore need to consider the most cost effective way of achieving the standard.

Which Mr Mustard rightly guessed meant:

"Here, have a reply although we aren't going to do anything"

as nothing has happened since. Mr Mustard did respond at the time saying that the money saved in paper alone by writing more concise reports would fund the annual fee but that email hasn't been responded to yet (give it time, it is only 2 and a half years old).

Clearly NSL don't subscribe to the campaign on their own account as here is one paragraph he has received in a Notice of Rejection of Representations:

"You in your correspondence that paragraph sent to you were not correct. However, I can confirm the paragraph sent to you regarding the above contravention is correct."

Can anyone enlighten Mr Mustard as to what NSL are trying to say?

That wasn't the only error in the letter. NSL, on behalf of the council, wrote that due to the Data Protection Act of 1998 they could only reply to the registered keeper and this is in a letter they wrote to Mr Mustard who isn't the registered keeper. They do, however, have the right to write to him because he has supplied a signed authority from the registered keeper, as he always does. The Data Protection Act is probably the most misunderstood law in England. Here is another cracking line with punctuation that may make you weep:

You also, mentioned that the signage at the location does not state a time and that the Traffic Management Order, do not agree. I will state the signage meets the regulations set out under the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directives* 2002. (TSRGD)

Mr Mustard never said the sign doesn't meet the TSRGD. He wrote:

The restricted hours of the Residents Bays in Redacted Rd are 8am to 6.30pm. The sign bears no times so is to be read as a 24 hour restriction. Thus the time plate and the Traffic Management Order ("TMO") do not agree and the alleged contravention is not enforceable. If you wish to maintain that the bays are 24 hour bays please provide the TMO with your Notice of Rejection.

Needless to say the TMO was not provided and a different question was answered (a common ploy that doesn't work on Mr Mustard) and in fact answering a different question to the one asked has been found at PATAS to be a failure to properly consider representations and led to the PCN being cancelled.

Now the council have a duty to properly consider representations made as to why a particular parking ticket should be cancelled. Given the nonsense of their reply Mr Mustard will be completing the PATAS form later today, which will cost the council a £40 non-refundable PATAS fee, and Mr Mustard can't see himself losing at PATAS on this case. He is on 15 wins out of 15 appearances so far in 2014 and it is often the parlous performance of NSL that causes the council to lose.

This is one of the troubles with the One Barnet outsourcing, and this parking enforcement contract was one of the first such contracts, that you have to trust the abilities of the contractor, who might not turn out to be all they were cracked up to be (by themselves, natch) and who cannot properly be supervised when they are in, say, Croydon and the thin client side are in Barnet. So it is the council's reputation that suffers, and one day councillors will wake up and realise it and negotiate their way out of the NSL contract (which otherwise will run until 30 April 2017). It also shows the danger of thin client sides; they need to be beefier and then some cost savings go out of the window and mean that outsourcing perhaps couldn't be justified in the first place.

Have you got any nonsense letters from the council? Do send them to Mr Mustard or to the Plain English Campaign

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

* - should read directions not directives.

Friday 7 March at 10.42 

As ever Mr Mustard brought this NSL issued letter directly to the attention of the parking client side with whom he has a good relationship as they realise that he helps them do their job better. They are as unimpressed as Mr Mustard was with NSL and will be discussing the letter with them. Oh to be a fly on the wall.

Update Monday 10 March 14.

The PCN has been cancelled by a parking manager who is directly employed by the council.

1 comment:

  1. I contested a PCN and received a response from LBB - rejecting my claim - written by someone with very poor literacy skills. Plain English and good English please. (I took it to PATAS and it was cancelled and the letter informing me was perfectly literate.)


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