17 September 2014

Permit pandemonium

Visitor vouchers

Mr Mustard had plans to write about Residents permits but first a few words about Visitor Vouchers which completely derailed his plans on Monday afternoon as instead of working he helped a local friend who was expecting builders to sort out enough visitor vouchers to cope with the imminent arrival of the builders. She had phoned the Crapita Coventry call centre, they are also known as "help lines" and it turned out they were absolutely no help at all. Mr Mustard's friend needed to know where her order of Visitor Vouchers, placed a while ago, had got to. The answer she got was that they had run out of vouchers. When asked how her builders were going to be able to park legally she was told that was for her to sort out. Henceforth, Crapita Coventry shall be known as the "absolutely no help at all" line.

Later on she was told she was being sent half day vouchers for the price of full day ones (half day vouchers still have an official price of £2.08) and that the NSL traffic wardens would be told not to ticket. Oh, how Mr Mustard laughed at the notion that advantage would not be taken of the situation. So let us suppose "24 half day full day" vouchers were purchased and 20 were used for the builders. The rest got put in a drawer and forgotten about until 2016 when whilst looking for something else they are unearthed and used for Auntie Mabel who has just come to stay for a few days. She puts out 3 half day vouchers, suitably scratched off, the car is out of sight at the end of the road and it picks up 3 PCN. Will the council believe the motorist who says "my niece spoke to the helpline two years ago who said everything would be all right"? Whenever they tell you something concrete like that at Crapita, ask them to send you an email right now to confirm. Take their full name. If they won't do both of those things, they are fobbing you off.

Resident Permits

Now to Permit Pandemonium. Mr Mustard kept getting cases of PCNs being issued to people who had paid for a new or renewed permit and were waiting weeks or months for the new one to arrive and other PCNs issued to people whose permit had expired without them having been sent a reminder after two decades of receiving them. He hardly ever sends in Freedom of Information requests nowadays, but this topic was worthy of one.

Here it is in digestible chunks:

Mr Mustard thinks, but can't be entirely sure, that the correct answer to the question posed is "zero" but it might be that the council simply handed a carrier bag full of unfinished applications over to Crapita or they could be stuffed in a filing cabinet in a forgotten corner. No-one wants to admit that if it were the case. Whatever the truth, handover does not seem to have been a slick one.

Now this is where the numbers get very interesting. Mr Mustard put them into a table, like this:

Month In hand Applications Issued Backlog
From 12 May 0 3,075 3,708 -633
June -633 3,021 2,019 369
July 369 3,067 2,541 895
Aug 895 2,514 2,595 814
up to 12 Sept 814 985 1,278 521

So in the first month Crapita sent out 633 more permits that they had received requests for. Such efficiency. More permits for less money, or some such nonsense!

Then in June & July far fewer permits were issued than requested. the reason for this may be that, Mr Mustard is told, the council database from in-house days, was not passed to Crapita or if it was they didn't convert it from the existing format into their preferred format.

This is why every person who tried to renew on-line found that their unique identifier had changed and they had to phone or email to get the new one. That is at least 12,000 residents who have had their time wasted. Mr Mustard knows, he was one of them. The council are at liberty to issue new unique identifiers to everyone but should send out notification of them in advance so that the transition for the resident is seamless and stress-free. It would also be an example of that rarely seen notion in Barnet, public service.

Mr Mustard then asked about the number of permits which had not been issued.

The combined answer is 842 which should be the same as the 521 at the top of the page. Perhaps there were 321 handed over form the council to Crapita that no-one took note of? That would mean that Crapita only issue 312 permits that no-one had requested. Perhaps lots of Capita CSG / Re employees gets given one on the quiet?

The answer to the date of the oldest permit application in hand but not yet issued was 1st August as a response was awaited from the customer, possibly to prove something afresh that he proved last year and which wasn't handed over.

If that is the case the permit that Mr Mustard was consulted about (and the related PCN the challenge to which was refused) which was requested and paid for in April and not yet issued (as at 3 September) so that must be the fault of Barnet Council not of Crapita unless it was in the unknown applications that we handed over after all. It doesn't seem very clear does it? the duties of each party. Maybe that was because no-one agreed in detail with Crapita what their duties were before gifting them the work as with blue badges where an Operating Level Agreement was only being cobbled together after the fact?

Overpaying Capita?

Mr Mustard saw in August 14 a Delegated Powers Report about extending the contract with Civica to refund all of the c. 12,000 Residents who are due a refund following the Judicial Review.

Note that in 3 months Crapita claim to have received 8,602 applications, or approx 34,000 in a full year. As 10% of the borough is thought to be inside a CPZ the 12,000 figure looks to be far more accurate than the 34,000. I do hope we are not paying Crapita per application processed and that if we are that someone at the council is properly checking the invoice. One for you Mr Reasonable at next year's armchair audit of the Annual Accounts?

Permit reminders

Finally we get to permit reminders. These are valued by residents who rely on them and have done for over 20 years. When the council fail, residents don't notice the expiry until the wake up call of an unfair PCN.

So it is impossible due to the lack of Crapita management functionality (it isn't the fault of a computer system) to know if the contracted for service was paid for or not. Why should the council pay for it then (they will already have done so of course). If this is also paid for by the item (although email reminders should be pretty cheap) then have we had value for money.

If this is what Crapita are doing in the simple sausage factory processing environment of parking permits and visitor vouchers what sort of complete mess are they getting more vital and complicated services into.

Why does any local authority use them? they are a false economy (if they are an economy at all). Only 9 more years? It feels like a life sentence.

There must be hundreds of ruthlessly efficient local companies who would gladly have tendered for this contract, if it had been offered on its own, and would have supplied local knowledge for free as well as providing local employment and loyalty.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 comment:

  1. One has to ask why the councillors keep getting elected. For me, I have now decided enough-is-enough, and it will be UKIP from now on. OK, they may make a mess, too, but at least I will have the satisfaction of poking a red-hot poker up the others arses !


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