21 May 2014

You pay your parking ticket and then the bailiff clamps your car!

This story simply shouldn't have happened.

23 September 2013 - The Chipping Barnet 'D' CPZ zone, near High Barnet tube, was extended. The lady in question, Miss H, a lady in her late seventies, applied twice for a permit but partly due to the judicial review result her applications didn't get processed as her cheque was for too much money. This left her without a permit when the zone started. A dispensation was issued but no-one told Miss H that it would expire.

3 October 13 - A permit was issued but not put in the car immediately.

9 October 13 - A second PCN was issued, for £110 (the first one was paid in full).

11 October 13 - An informal challenge was made.

11 November 13 - A Notice to Owner (NtO) was issued.

?? November 13  - Formal representations were made in response to the NtO.

28 November 13 - The council (NSL) reject the representations but said £55 would be accepted if paid within 14 days of the letter (no time allowed for delivery as is customary).

6 December 13 - A cheque for £55 is sent by Special Delivery at a cost of £6.22

11 December 13 - The cheque is cleared.

18 December 13 - A Charge Certificate is issued for £165 less a credit for the £55 paid. This is a blunder of the first water and is an illegal demand for money and threatens to register the non-existent debt at the county court and then send in the bailiffs. Miss H was abroad on holiday. This was one reason why she had paid up (she wouldn't have paid anything if she had been introduced to Mr Mustard sooner than she was).

9 January 2014 - An Order for Recovery is issued.

24 January 14 - TASK bailiffs write to say they are investigating and will respond within 28 days. Mr Mustard doesn't know what prompted this letter from TASK apart from some correspondence from Miss H that was probably sent to the council (which means NSL who own TASK).

18 February 14 - The Warrant of Execution is issued.

18 February 14 - The standard first letter is sent by TASK bailiffs.

20 February 14 - Miss H phones the bailiffs and is asked to send proof of payment (which Miss H will have sent off.)

14 April 14 - A bailiff arrives at the home of Miss H, clamps her car and then knocks and asks for £408.52 which she pays as she needs her car to get about.

16 April 14 - Mr Mustard visits Miss H at home at the request of a charity who happen to know of his expertise. Miss H is upset, shocked, annoyed, seriously out of pocket and innocent of any wrongdoing.

16 April 14 - Mr Mustard emails the Parking Manager at Barnet Council (thus cutting out NSL) and outlines the above. His email includes the following paragraphs:

What should happen now is that the sum paid to the bailiff of £408.52 is refunded as it was not due for payment and in compensation the PCN value paid, of £55, should be refunded. A letter of apology should also be sent by NSL Ltd to Miss h as she has had the worry of this to deal with and can ill afford to be without the funds paid to the bailiff.

This whole mess has come about because permits were dealt with in one place (I have not studied it in detail but Miss H did try to get a permit in good time and had two applications returned by the looks of it, probably due to the judicial review of the price), customer service calls in another and enforcement in a third. The system that is in existence in Barnet is simply not fit for purpose. I know it is not your decision to be set up in this way but it isn't properly serving the residents of Barnet.

Our senior citizens should not have to suffer the attentions of bailiffs as a result of the administrative incompetence of NSL Ltd, the parking enforcement contractor of the council.

30 April 14 - Mr Mustard reminds the parking manager that he is waiting.

30 April 14 - The parking manager says he is awaiting feedback (presumably from NSL who must now be in a right sweat - this event isn't going to do their KPI any good)

20 May 14 - Mr Mustard reminds the parking manager that he is waiting.

20 May 14 - Mr Mustard receives a full reply.

Dear Mr Mustard

I apologise for the lateness of my reply. I had again been called away unexpectedly.

Miss H should not have been subjected to the Bailiffs nor paid any additional money. I confirm that a full refund of all monies paid to the Bailiff will be refunded with immediate effect. I confirm that our service provider have internally identified why this error has occurred and will be taking appropriate action. An apology letter will be sent to Miss H confirming the refund.

I apologise on behalf of the Council for the poor level of customer service Miss H has experienced. As a means of making amends I have requested 40 visitors vouchers be sent to Miss H at her address in zone D, they should arrive by the end of the week.

If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to email me.

Kind regards

Parking Manager

So, there is the happy ending that you were promised.

What went wrong? Just about everything.

Permit issuance was in-house back in September (it is now being dealt with by Capita which won't make things any better) and instead of rejecting the application the council should have banked the larger cheque and then sent a refund. That way Miss H would have had her permit on the day the zone extension came into force. Why this was still a problem when the council had declared on 2 August that they would not contest the parking judicial review decision is unclear.

The council should have cancelled the PCN as they knew Miss H had been issued with a permit. The fact that it had not been put in her car within a few days is not a heinous crime and she should have been given the benefit of the doubt.

When the council sent their letter of 28 November 13 they probably didn't set the computer properly to stop all action if £55 was paid by 11 December 13.

When the payment of 6 December was banked no-one thought to stop all further processing as this was an agreed full and final settlement. This is probably because cheques were sent, at that time, to Worthing and that is the offices of RR Donnelley and their job probably finished at the point of banking. It would be up to someone at NSL in Croydon to review the list of receipts and then update the processing software. That probably wasn't anyone's job either.

It looks like TASK, who shouldn't even have been involved at 24 January 14, as there isn't a Warrant in existence at that date, didn't properly follow up the promise made in their letter. NSL should not have given the query to their sister company TASK to investigate and really shouldn't use their own group company bailiff at all as there isn't sufficient scrutiny of what the bailiff does or enough independence.

It looks like the proof of payment sent in by Miss H didn't get looked at properly.

The amount charged by the bailiff was excessive (this one was under the old pre 6 April rules) even if the £117 was owing, which it wasn't.

So this is what you get when you outsource your parking enforcement to NSL and TASK. The mistreatment of pensioners. That is what One Barnet means. Remember this when you vote tomorrow. You didn't find this One Barnet outsourcing in the 2010 Conservative manifesto. What has been left out of the 2014 one? more of the same but worse?

Mr Mustard will see the apology. It had better be a good one.

At least he hasn't got to send this case to the Local Government Ombudsman, unlike Harrow Council who haven't yet twigged that when Mr Mustard sends them a complaint, that there will be plenty to complain about which they should take seriously. In Harrow they (the Newlyn employed bailiff) have removed a car that doesn't belong to the person named on the warrant which is a big no no. The compensation due will be sizeable. Mr Mustard gave them every chance to return the car and be reasonable.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Printed, promoted and published by Derek Dishman, 21 Carnarvon Rd, Barnet EN5 4LX

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