|vital steps to reach the top|
The Notice to Owner (NtO) is a vital document for a vehicle owner as it tells them a PCN has been issued which they may not know about because:
- the traffic warden photographed it on the windscreen and then removed it so you can't get the 50% discount
- someone else was driving and didn't tell you they got a PCN
- it was dark and raining and the PCN was slipped under the wipers and went flying when you used the wipers
- a schoolkid took the PCN for a laugh or a dare
If you don't respond to the PCN by paying it or contesting it, the cost of the PCN rises by 50% and you then have to wait somewhat nervously for the next document to arrive, the Order for Recovery so that you can file a witness statement at Court and go back to the beginning. You could be on a holiday of a lifetime whilst this happens and your car ends up seized by a bailiff.
The minutes of a meeting between NSL and Barnet Council "thin client" representatives has the following "Issue" (how Mr Mustard hates that word, this "issue" is a blunder, an error, a problem or some such other more accurate word) recorded at 16 January 2013
Issue: Failure of NtO issue.
Description: Audit screen in CE (the parking enforcement software) states NtO printed & posted on 17/08/2012, however correspondence screen states NtO failed to process. Customer states NtO not received, only CC (Charge Certificate) received in the post. Conflicting information within CE system. Example case AG########.
Action: Logged with Civica 16/01/2013 under support call ######. Awaiting update.
So there you have it. There has been a problem with a document that is vital to the legal processing of PCNs, not being issued, which should lead an honest council to stop what they are doing and undertake an audit of the system to see how many PCN were affected and cancel those PCN. Did they? Mr Mustard very much doubts it.
Mr Mustard turned to the minutes of 8 February 13. He couldn't find a mention of the NtO problem.
At the next meeting on 10 April 13 there is an item about "Civica issues" but no detail as to whether this includes the NtO printing problem. The action was to arrange a meeting so the problem certainly wasn't solved if it was included.
The meeting of 20 May 13 did note various failures to issue statutory notices (like the NtO) which had been going on since June 12 and were still ongoing at April 13 but didn't specifically mention this problem.
At the next meeting on 10 July 13 and the one after that of 10 September 13 (which was only about Key Performance Indicators) and the one of 8 October 13 and of 29 November 13 there was no mention of this NtO printing problem. PATAS accept a council report which says that a Notice has been printed and posted at face value so the independent adjudicator may have made some decisions on a false premise.
Maybe the problem was confined to just 2 or 3 PCN or maybe it affected 10,000 but given the poor minutes of meetings (which internal Audit have commented upon when they audited contract management as opposed to processing) we don't know. Mr Mustard will be sure to ask the parking manager next time he sees him.
Mr Mustard's experience of parking departments generally (and he has dealt with a few in London) is that they lack decency, good manners and honesty (excluding the two Barnet parking managers he deals with most weeks). They have to be dragged kicking and screaming to a moral and legal position.
Until revenue raising is not at the heart of the local authority parking operation, this situation is unlikely to change.
p.s. The software has now been changed from Civica CE to ICES so this problem will have gone away. Some other problem will have replaced it, most probably.