9 January 2018

Recently widowed? Barnet Council don't care

Computer says no
Here is another adjudicator's decision which you might find displays a surprising (shocking?) and miserable attitude on the part of Barnet Council.

The Penalty Charge Notice was issued when the appellant’s car was parked in a resident’s bay. The civil enforcement officer noted that there was a resident’s permit in the car that had expired on 7th November 2015.

Mrs X states that she was issued with a virtual and that she received confirmation that the permit was valid until 29th November 2017. I have seen a letter sent to the appellant on 22nd November 2016 confirming that the application was processed and a permit issued until 29th November 2017.

In the case summary the local authority states that the application was made by phone and that payment for the permit was not made because the payment system was down. The local authority states that the appellant would have been fully aware of this and that Mrs X would have known the permit had been cancelled despite the email confirmation that she received.

Mrs X states that her husband was very ill in hospital in November 2016. He died on 13th January 2017. The appellant states that she had no idea that she did not have a valid resident’s permit.

The local authority’s computer record shows that a permit was issued with a start date of 30th November 2016 until 29th November 2017 and that it was cancelled on 21st November. The local authority does not supply any evidence of the phone call with the appellant. The local authority does not explain why an email was sent to Mrs X on 22nd November informing her that a permit had been issued when it had apparently been cancelled the day before.

I allow the appeal. I find that the appellant was sent an email informing her that a permit had been issued. She was entitled to rely on an email from the local authority. I am not persuaded on the evidence I have seen that Mrs X was aware that the email did not mean what it said.

The starting position is that the council failed to provide a payment system and then wants to penalise a recently widowed lady, with a record of paying annually for her permit, for her failure to pay when she couldn't. In the council's eyes everything is your fault, even when it isn't.

The council confirmed that a permit had been issued and yet they expected the widow to be doubting the email they had sent. Perhaps she thought they would take the payment from her card later once their system was working again. Given that you can renew instantly on the day that renewal is due the council must provide a system which is fit for purpose and if that system fails they must have an alternative available. That is called providing good service.

One of the drawbacks of virtual permits, as the DVLA have found for road fund, is that more people fail to renew and this is almost certainly inadvertent. If you have a piece of paper in your windscreen, a tax disc or a resident permit, then you can be reminded every time you get in your car by glancing at the details. Even better, road fund discs were colour coded by month and there was nothing to stop resident permits from following that system.

The council are obliged to consider mitigation when they receive such pleas for mercy and you would think that the council could let one PCN go for a widow but they find the PCN revenue very attractive and Mr Mustard thinks this blinds them to the correct exercise of discretion. If they reject a challenge they get money. If they accept it they don't. The council is the judge in their own court, as the saying goes.

The council claim to 'put the community first' but that mantra is simply empty words on a piece of paper. Frequently it is not borne out by their actions, which are often heartless, unreasonable and motivated by revenue raising.

One day the penny may drop and council will realise why the perception of the parking department is that it is atrocious (Mr Mustard's view of a satisfaction rating of 24%).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. A satisfaction rate of 24%. Surely not !! I would have thought it would be 0%. We are now at the stage when officials need to be sent to jail. Only then will the situation improve. I would think 6 months in Wormwood Scrubs would concentrate their minds a bit.


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