4 April 2020

COVID-19 discretionary help with council tax

Yesterday Mr Mustard saw this council tweet

Mr Mustard was slightly surprised at the apparently generous council action as the budget was under incredible pressure even before the pandemic but once he clicked through to the detail he saw the reason for the largesse, central government had given the council the money to give away. The following information is from a delegated powers report by the council's Director of Public Health.



 Further information is available on the council website, here

If you know anyone facing financial hardship and unable to pay their council tax bill, or needs grant funds to tide them over the crisis, please tell them about the help which may be available.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

2 April 2020

A late Christmas present from Barnet Council - a penalty for £130

Just look at the date of this contravention, 27th December. What is the traffic management purpose of this? The only purpose is to raise revenue.

All this achieves is that it sets another resident against the council and makes it harder for the BPA to promote their 'positive parking agenda', which is hogwash anyway.

It would be a simple matter for Barnet Council to not issue PCNs by cctv when schools are closed, just amend the Traffic Management Order to only apply during term time and set dates when the camera does not record contraventions.

Don't blame the adjudicator, however illogical it is he has to apply the law as it was written by Barnet Council, he is not allowed to use his discretion. In a parking case he could make a recommendation to cancel but not for moving traffic.

What you can learn from this is that even during a pandemic the council will still cheerfully send you a penalty by post for doing no harm and stopping (parking) on the yellow zig zag markings outside a school. So, just don't do it, not even for a second, do not stop.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


29 March 2020

Crystal Palace - make sure you give way

Mr Mustard is wandering out of his area a bit, going south of the river, but this location is one which appears frequently on the web forum PePiPoo (silly name but seriously useful). It is Salter's Hill heading up to the junction with Gipsy Hill and is monitored by a traffic enforcement camera. Most of the complaints Mr Mustard reads about are that the car with the PCN in the post had already committed to passing the priority sign at the time that the oncoming car came around the corner and so it was too late to give way. It always struck Mr Mustard that Lambeth Council were being unduly harsh in the manner in which they were sending out PCNs and it is clear that an adjudicator agrees, given the veiled criticism in the final paragraph.

It is 60m from the junction to the bridge. At 30mph the oncoming car can be there in 4.5 seconds (the junction is not a sharp on) so that is all the time you get to react and you need to be 14m back from the sign in order to be able to stop in time. Rather than penalise motorists doing their best what the council should do is widen the bridge (expensive) or install stop go lights (not cheap either). They would both be fairer solutions but the council won't do either of them as this way they make money rather than spend it.

Best be nice and give way when you should and avoid any possibility of a PCN, or just never go near Crystal Palace.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard
 

28 March 2020

Short term bays and blue badges

Someone who knows someone who knows Mr Mustard phoned him up. Mr Mustard's response is always the same, show him the paperwork. That was duly delivered, an evidence pack following a witness statement that representations had been made and a Notice of Rejection had not been received. That was problem number one, before we can even talk about the sign, the procedural hurdle.

When you make a witness statement on the ground that a Notice of Rejection was not received the council can either send you a copy and invite you to pay or make an Appeal to the tribunal (restoring you to where you would have been) or they simply refer the file to an adjudicator at the tribunal for directions. It's a bit bonkers but the tribunal send you a letter asking you to prove you made representations and if you don't respond to that letter they make a decision that the PCN is payable because you did not reply and yet when you look at what the council, Barking and Dagenham in this case, sent to the tribunal, it included both the representations and the Notice of Rejection so the tribunal are asking you a question they know the answer to and penalising you if you don't reply.

When Mr Mustard looked at the evidence pack he saw straight away what had gone wrong. Instead of the keeper of the car making the representations her grandson had done them. That was because she does not speak very good English it being her second language. The grandson's English is well up to scratch. He made the representations in his name (he happens to be an insured driver with Motability but isn't the keeper as that is the disabled person). Motability cars are noted at the DVLA by putting 04441 after the name of the person whose car it is. Now what should have happened is that the council should have pointed out they were in the wrong name and asked for confirmation they were on behalf of the keeper and confirmed that with her signature. They had acted promptly, on day 5 so there were still 23 days in which they could have been done again.

However, in this case, perhaps because the address was the same, the council instead issued a Notice of Rejection in the wrong name. Bingo, said Mr Mustard to himself. He had saved five previous tribunal decisions which all find that action to be wrong. Here is the earliest of them

Mr Mustard has submitted this decision to the tribunal along with proof of the representations and is hopeful that the Direction will be either that there will be a hearing or that the PCN is cancelled. There is a slim possibility of rejection if the adjudicator is not persuaded by the prior decisions as they are not precedents.

On twitter Mr Mustard invited you to say if the time limit for a blue badge holder was 10 or 20 minutes or without limit. You should have been offered 3 hours as well.

The car was observed twice, 25 minutes apart. A PCN was issued for being parked for longer than permitted, a blue badge and clock were on display but a good photograph of them was not taken.

This is what the driver made as representations, twice, to Barking & Dagenham Council:

'I have checked online and on the disabled parking booklet where I can park and it states that even if there is a time limit for the bay, it does not include blue badge holders'.

The council's formal Notice of Rejection contained the following:

That official response makes no sense.

A blue badge holder gets 3 hours on a single or double yellow line provided that loading is not banned (and that will be indicated by short yellow marks across the kerb and a sign if the marks are single ones not double - which apply for 24 hours a day). Thus a time limit of 3 hours in the bay would be logical but is not correct.

If you said 10 minutes you would be wrong. Officially you can only stay 10 minutes but there is now a period of overstay of 10 minutes in a bay if you were previously legally parked, and whether it is a pay bay or a free bay and there is a traffic management order in place, and during that time you cannot be given a PCN (as an adjudicator told me, it is still a contravention, just one you cannot get a PCN for).

Here is a tribunal decision which confirms the extra 10 minutes at this very spot and which tells us how trigger happy they are at Barking and Dagenham and that they didn't know the law as they made the motorist go to Appeal


If you said a blue badge holder could park for an unlimited time you were correct. This is because of this law.


which says that traffic management orders ('TMO') written under S45 or S46 must exempt blue badge holders from payment, a time limit on length of stay or return.

Was the Barking & Dagenham TMO made under one of those sections Mr Mustard hears you ask. Well, Mr Mustard doesn't know for certain because instead of putting the on street Axe Street TMO into the evidence pack for the tribunal the council put the TMO for the off street car park at Axe Street service road instead so they haven't proved to the tribunal that they have the right to issue a PCN at that location in the first place. Those are the sort of blunders which happen all the time and help Mr Mustard obtain a high success rate.

However, the correct map based TMO was drawn up by the same company as produced Barnet's and the boilerplate for the Barnet TMO starts like this

and Mr Mustard would be surprised if the Barking & Dagenham TMO did not start in the same vein.

Mr Mustard went through all the tribunal decisions at this location in the hope of finding one which confirmed his point of view, he only found one that said the opposite:

but Mr Mustard thinks that is a defective decision, and would not have been made if he had been the representative, for two reasons:

a - the extra 10 minutes, &
b - the blue badge

for both of which he would have put the relevant law in front of the adjudicator who should have known of them in any event, but they decide cases upon the evidence in front of them so incorrect decisions get made (sometimes in favour of the motorist).

So in the not very humble opinion of Mr Mustard he is right and the council and one adjudicator are wrong.

Mr Mustard is humble enough though to think he may have told blue badge holders who stayed for more than 25 minutes in these very common part time loading cum free parking bays to pay up when they were ticketed and had the blue badge on display.

If he did, he certainly won't again. Blue badge holders, please put your blue badge and clock out when you park in these. If you get a PCN Mr Mustard will fight it for you.  Please don't park in them for 6 hours as that defeats the purpose of generating rapid turnover of vehicles in town centres and it will lead to the council changing the rules to put a time limit on blue badge parking, it would in all fairness be longer than 15 minutes as blue badge holders are not as mobile.

Remember that a 15 minute bay is actually a 25 minute bay for everyone, but not 26! No need to stress if there is a small queue for your takeaway coffee.

If councils like Barking and Dagenham were not so focused on making as much revenue as they can from parking PCN it is possible that someone with a heart or common sense or a sense of civic duty would have made due adjustment for a blue badge holder, who are disabled by definition, or that they might have taken seriously the politely presented argument of the motorist and asked a more senior colleague or researched the law or even asked the motorist to give them the on line link they had found or asked to see the booklet which had been referred to. They didn't though as their raison d'etre is revenue at all cost.

The world should not be like this.

Mr Mustard will let you know the outcome, whether he prevails or not.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

26 March 2020

Barnet Council - digging a big hole

The above is one of Mr Mustard's successes, he found an error in the moving traffic PCN late in 2018 and it has been tested out at the tribunal 18 times so far with only two adjudicators refusing to follow the first decision and they didn't have Mr Mustard in front of them with his list of previously allowed decisions. That is fair enough, adjudicator decisions do not set precedents but may be persuasive. Now that the chief adjudicator has agreed with the argument Mr Mustard suspects that all adjudicators will in future make the same decision to allow Appeals and they are entitled to not follow their own previous refusals.

Mr Mustard is pleased that the adjudicator has picked up the recent woeful state of case summaries, this is what the tribunal manual says a Case Summary should contain, and one would expect headings for each section to make things easy.

Here is the section that really hurt the head in this very case:


What will happen if Barnet Council keep submitting case summaries that are unacceptable is that they will probably not be read by the Adjudicator and the council will be at greater risk of losing the Appeal. The Case Summary is also sent to the motorist concerned, they are going to be unable to fathom out what the council's argument is and that is clearly unfair - every person is entitled to a fair trial (a tribunal hearing counts as a simplified form of a trial) and the Appeal can be allowed under the Human Rights Act if the council's behaviour falls so far short of what is acceptable.

This is a good time to challenge your moving traffic PCN if it contains the complained of wording

No need to thank me, just donate to the North London Hospice.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

25 March 2020

Barnet Council preoccupied with own point of view!

This is the sixteenth decision on an argument about the wording of the PCN which Mr Mustard first took in December. He wrote about it here. Fourteen of those decisions led to cancelled PCNs and Barnet Council correcting the wording. Two adjudicators disagreed which is their right.

If you have a moving traffic (school zig-zags issued by camera, yellow boxes, turning the wrong way or breaching a no entry) PCN issued in February 20 or earlier, it is probably not compliant and should be challenged if it has this wording on the front:

The actual fact of a contravention is not relevant if the PCN wording is non-compliant.

Clearly the adjudicators have had enough of Barnet Council contesting Appeals when in all fairness they should cancel the PCN. Being described as 'preoccupied' when you should consider the arguments in an unbiased manner without any thought as to the revenue attaching is the way an Adjudicator delicately gives out a good slapping as lawyers usually have a way with words.

If the case summary which was hard to follow was anything like some that Mr Mustard has seen it is because the council presented 3 pages of text without headings or any structure and hardly any gaps. It hurt Mr Mustard's head as well.

If Barnet Council keep fighting these PCNs, with the non-compliant wording, costs are going to start being awarded against them. If any of the motorists that Mr Mustard is helping receive costs due to his efforts he will ask for them to be donated to the North London Hospice.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

PCNs - pragmatic advice - Covid-19




The above is advice, each local authority will make its own decisions about what to enforce and when. When he has a moment, Mr Mustard will start asking all local authorities in London what changes they have actually made & shame those who have not changed a thing. TfL have reacted quickly so fair play to them.

Do not enter a yellow box unless the box and your exit is clear.
Do not park on the pavement except where marked out for it.
Do not park across a dropped kerb on the corner of a road our outside a stranger's property.
Do not park on zebra crossing zig-zgas for safety's sake
Do not turn left or right where it is prohibited.

CCTV enforcement systems won't catch the virus but will catch you.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

23 March 2020

Barnet Council - virus parking concessions

The above message was sent to Mr Mustard by a Barnet Councillor.

If you are out normally in the day you perhaps don't need a resident permit and these being unusual times you may be working at home and you have to put your car somewhere and you are now safe to park it within a residents bay without using a daily visitor voucher.

By a single yellow for one hour that means that if the single yellow only operates from say 10-11am you can park on it. It doesn't mean you can park for one hour on a single yellow line that operates from 10am to 5pm.

Please park sensibly and don't use more than your necessary and fair share of the available bays, you aren't going to have a party at home at this time so you shouldn't be inviting three friends round for a game of poker and annoying the people who normally park at home by taking all of the spare spaces. If the concession is abused it will doubtless be withdrawn. Please only park within the bays of the residential area in which you live, you shouldn't be making journeys to other areas unless you are an essential worker.

Please don't park on the school zig zags as schools may still be operating, stay well away from zebra crossing markings, don't block dropped kerbs or park on double yellow lines or in bus stops as PCNs are still being issued at those locations.

Please park sensibly, don't obstruct the road as ambulances need to get through nor park partially or fully on the pavement unless there is a marked bay.

When necessary Mr Mustard has in the past visited motorists at home in order to assist them. He isn't going anywhere for now so we'll have to communicate by post or electronically for at least a few weeks.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

18 March 2020

Task tsk tsk

The above isn't one of the cases represented by Mr Mustard at the tribunal, the decision simply coming to his attention on his daily reading of the register.

Never before has Mr Mustard seen such a decision, one that is directed to be placed before the parking manager so he knows what has been going on in his department (he should in any event).

The failure to attend when so directed is disrespectful to the adjuidcator and not a course of action that Mr Mustard would recommend. It is set down in law with a penal notice.

Council parking departments are not above the law. They should tread carefully and politely.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

17 March 2020

Moving traffic contraventions - invalid PCNs

History has a habit of repeating itself. In 2006 the parking PCN of Barnet Council was found in Court to be invalid as a vital date was missing.

Here we are in 2020 and Mr Mustard keeps winning at the tribunal on the grounds that a time period is wrongly stated on the moving traffic PCN.

Moving traffic PCNs are the ones issued for

- stopping in a box junction 
- turning where you shouldn't (Tilling Road being a favourite error spot)
- stopping on school entrance markings (cctv issued PCN only affected)

On 27 February after a barrage of tribunal Appeals won by Mr Mustard and with two Review requests (like a second opinion) refused without a hearing, the council amended its moving traffic PCN to read like this on the first page. He has however seen a later PCN which still has the old wording, all very odd.


It is the third paragraph which used to be wrong, as it read like this


You can see the difference, 'date of service' = good, 'date of this notice' = bad.

If you have a PCN which contains the 'date of this notice' wording you should win any appeal to the tribunal as Mr Mustard has won 11 times, especially if you ask him to act for you (which only requires that you agree to donate to the North London Hospice as a thank you for his help). Two motorists have lost but the two adjudicators concerned don't handle Mr Mustard's cases (he is reserved to be dealt with by a small coterie of experienced adjudicators) so he isn't likely to lose.

If your PCN has this wrong paragraph on the front it is beatable (no guarantees but very likely). You should write the following to the council, if you haven't yet made your formal representations:

I wish to challenge the PCN on the grounds that the wording is non-compliant as found in tribunal case no. 2190464396 and ten other decisions.

If you have a Notice of Rejection you should select the ground that 'The penalty exceeded the amount applicable in the circumstances of the case' and then write

The PCN has been found not to be compliant in the following cases:

2190464396, 219046955A, 2190517925, 2190550501, 2190550793, 2190555287, 2200024112, 2200017274, 2190521398, 2200046534 and 2200053766

and compliant in 2200041905 and 2200067454.

One must be even handed at the tribunal and not present one sided evidence.


If you want Mr Mustard to handle this for you then he will happily do so free of any charge save for a donation by you if he wins, directly to the North London Hospice.

This is a once in a lifetime chance (probably) so don't miss out.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

10 March 2020

Harrow Council - manifestly unfair

This was not a case dealt with by Mr Mustard
Luckily Mr Mustard keeps all of his files open for as long as it takes to reach a point of finality.

Harrow Council on the other hand put theirs away in a dusty cupboard for a year or two, or three, and then drag them out, dust them off and restart the process at the point where they previously stopped. Not many people would still have their paperwork for a 2016 PCN and if the motorist had moved in the meantime would find that a bailiff had been instructed unbeknownst to them and the bailiff traces a new address, has the address on the warrant changed (that strikes Mr Mustard as an abuse of process as the Order for Recovery has not been served) and then clamps the car leaving the motorist with little choice but to pay up.

There isn't a body which keeps an overarching critical friend eye on what local authorities are up to in their parking departments, as if there were, this sort of abuse of the system could be stopped in its tracks.

Mr Mustard has dealt with four such cases in the last few months and luckily none of the motorists he was helping had moved so the proper pieces of paper were dealt with in time. Instead of gaining the income from four PCNs Harrow Council are instead out of pocket for four wasted £8 court registration fees and four tribunal listing fees of c. £30 each and there is an application pending for costs, for wholly unreasonable behaviour, of just one hour at £19. This is because the council behaviour in letting a PCN go to sleep, waking it up, messing Mr Mustard about at the representations stage by saying what he wrote wasn't a representation when it patently was and then throwing in the towel as soon as the going got tough i.e. once a tribunal appeal was started. They have to learn that incompetence and ill-judged actions don't pay.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Barnet Council traffic wardens give no quarter

This event happened in the Broadway, Mill Hill.

The reason that traffic wardens need body worn video to record 'code red' situations, i.e. when they are about to be thumped, is because they have been ridiculously unreasonable in the past, pouncing with indecent haste on motorists who are in the act of paying. Mr Mustard would hazard that the main reason the council did not produce the video recording is that it showed 100% that what the motorist was saying was true.

A clever motorist who screenshot his phone screen (on an Android phone hold power and volume down for a couple of seconds simultaneously or on an iPhone press the side button and volume up at the same time) and thus he had evidence of what he was doing. The council could also have obtained from PayByPhone evidence of what button presses were made using the App at the relevant time but mysteriously didn't produce that evidence either.

A smart motorist who saw the flaw in the council's argument that you can't leave your car; if the sign is 25m away and a box luton van is parked in front of you then there is zero choice, Adjudicators are sharp as tacks and apply common sense, a commodity which is severely lacking in many traffic wardens and in the council back office.

As well as not producing evidence which was in favour of the motorist the council also appear to have misrepresented his position in the case summary for the tribunal (or in the Notice of Rejection, Mr Mustard has not seen the case papers). The council often appears to be desperate when you look at the way in which they deal with tribunal cases. If they continue to be partial, adjudicators will notice and motorists will get the benefit of the doubt due to the poor reputation of Barnet Council for knowingly not being even-handed.

This action will not have endeared Barnet Council to the motorist in question. Councils have been given too much power which they use in an unfair fashion in order to raise funds to help plug the budget gap.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard