17 February 2015

No compassion; no goodwill

A truly sickening state of affairs.

Here are the bare bones of the facts.

Day 1. An elderly lady (80+) parks in a 4 hour limit disabled bay, displays her blue badge and forgets to set the clock. It shows 11.00 and the PCN is issued at 15:30 for staying beyond the time allowed. The contravention is for code 30(o): Parked for longer than permitted (blue badge holder).

Day 15. The lady's husband (aged 100) dies.

Day 19. Mr Mustard files a challenge to the PCN & mentions the bereavement.

Day 24. The challenge is rejected. Mr Mustard tweets about it, the Tooting Twister is alert and the Parking Management at the council immediately email Mr Mustard for the details. They subsequently request a copy of the death certificate.

Now for some more detail and comment. Here is the gist of the challenge that Mr Mustard sent in:

Dear Sirs

I represent 80+ year old (Mrs Redacted) of (redacted address) as attached authority.

She received a PCN on 2 January 2015 for being parked longer than permitted. I cannot discern the time set on the blue badge clock and whether it is correctly set or not but even if it isn't that does not prove that the car was parked for longer than the permitted time, it only proves the time that the clock was set at.

I attach statements from the lady herself and a relative who was in the house and can confirm the departure and return times on that day such that we know that the vehicle can only have been parked for a maximum of 2 hours and 15 minutes.

I draw to your attention to the very recent death of her husband, at the age of 100, on (redacted date), and whether or not you agree with my argument I suggest and request that this PCN should be cancelled as a gesture of compassion and goodwill in any event.

Yours faithfully

It is very unusual but NSL decided upon, typed and posted their response to Mr Mustard in just 5 days. A pity they didn't stop to think for longer or refer the matter to the council (which it is thought they didn't but Mr Mustard can't be 100% on that point)

Here is the main part of it:

(proving one of the perils of outsourcing; a complete loss of control)

Mr Mustard wonders about the individual who personally signed this letter and whether they are a fit & proper person to do their job (they will have to be redeployed soon because the handling of challenges is going to be brought back into the council and not a day too soon) or whether they should perhaps do something else that doesn't require any compassion to be shown. Perhaps they are too young to have yet lost someone close to them and so don't understand about life? Certainly, some training is in order.

So officially, the council (but actually NSL and this highlights the loss of control which comes with outsourcing) don't think it appropriate to cancel a PCN for a recently bereaved person.

The NSL employee says a contravention had occurred. It had, but not the one they ticketed for. It should have been this one

and if repeated at the formal representations change the failure to consider the point of challenge would have been counted as a procedural impropriety by the PATAS adjudicator. For that reason alone the PCN should have been cancelled.

So the council sympathise with you having a bereavement of your husband of 60+ years but still want you money. The council didn't even offer the 50% reduction which they sometimes do even if you challenge more than 14 days after the PCN was issued and even sometimes when they have sent you a PATAS form. They usually offer the discount late when they feel that the council's position is weak (is Mr Mustard's feeling). They evidently didn't think so in this case.

The council are unable to issue a goodwill cancellation. Oh dear, Mr Mustard can hear adjudicators seething with annoyance at that remark and writing a decision which puts the council straight about the use oif discretion in no uncertain terms. Mr Mustard's experience is that adjudicators show compassion where it is due (even though they have to apply the law, they will try and find a justification to enable them to cancel the PCN).

The council are happy to continue with enforcement action Mr Mustard doesn't blog the words of the parking manager but reading between the lines he is not a happy bunny. The next monthly management meeting with NSL is going to be a fraught affair (predicts Mr Mustard who, despite being professionally rather busy, has piled the desk of the parking manager high with complaints this month).

Mr Mustard has been asked for a copy of the death certificate. He has in turn asked the grandson for one and then remembered that the contravention code used was the wrong one. Thus the council don't need to see the death certificate no matter how delicately they ask Mr Mustard who then has to ask the family at a time when he does not want to intrude upon their grief. The reason the council ask for the death certificate is that, apparently, lots of people lie to parking about someone having died.

The fact remains that the council have a wide discretion to cancel any PCN for any reason they like. Mr Mustard thinks they should exercise it in this case. Generally his customers tell him the truth (although he may be about to blog about a case where he wasn't - everyone gets it wrong sometimes).

Yours, sadly

Mr Mustard

p.s. Mr Mustard is offering parking management the right of reply.

Update Tuesday 24 February.

Mr Mustard produced a copy of the death certificate yesterday to satisfy parking management's requirement, even though it pained him to ask the family, and they have now cancelled the PCN which is an exercise of their discretion for which they have been thanked. Mr Mustard is still debating with them whether the PCN code used was the correct one. That argument will start again the next time that a blue badge clock isn't set by someone else.

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