21 January 2019

Barnet Council found to be unreasonable

In this bay Mr Mustard's client was given a PCN for not having a permit. The bay had no sign so was, as every bay must have some sort of signage (it might be adequate to have words painted on the road for a 24 hour doctor's bay) so the bay was a free bay.

Mr Mustard took over at the tribunal stage and the PCN was cancelled. Mr Mustard thought that the council's behaviour was wholly unreasonable such that costs should be paid but such awards are very rare and he didn't prevail in his application.

Still, Barnet Council are unreasonable, just not quite unreasonable enough to have to pay any money out, which would have gone to the hospice in any event.

Time the law was changed to make compensation automatic for council errors. They pounce on yours gleefully, the playing field needs a bit of levelling up.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

15 January 2019

Ealing Council issue a permit for a non-existent car

Mr Mustard's client accidentally used the letter 'O' instead of the number '0' when applying for a residents permit. Ealing Council issued it with a letter O where the number zero should have been. When the traffic warden wandered down the street he did not find a permit with the exactly matching registration and so issued a PCN. Unsurprisingly the resident challenged the PCN as O&0 look pretty similar unless you are a typeface buff and then you know the letter is round and the number is oval. The council rejected the challenge but didn't point out the incorrect permit issue.

At this juncture Mr Mustard was consulted, he guessed the problem, got his client to talk to Ealing Council permit department and hey presto one cancelled PCN and the client told to correct the permit entry (why the council couldn't do it is a mystery).

Given that if Mr Mustard wants a part for his car or to park it using PayByPhone or RingGo he enters his registration number and gets told the make, model, age, emissions etc etc of his car, he doesn't see why the council can't check to make sure they are issuing a permit to an actual car in existence. Thus, he has written to Ealing Council as below.

What do you think readers? Ealing Council will agree and amend their systems or reply saying the onus is on the motorist to get it right, completely forgetting that it is their onus to check the paperwork and not issue permits to vehicles that don't exist?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

10 January 2019

Irony alert - Barnet Council failing to issue PCNs when demanded.

Paragraph 8 is correct in the context of this decision (Mr Mustard expects but the location is unknown) but adds the caveat that you can't park across your dropped kerb during the operational hours if you are inside a CPZ and there is a single yellow across the drop. You have been warned.

Paragraph 17 is amusing. Here is part of a case Mr Mustard is handling at the tribunal next week.

In this case the council issued a PCN without a request from the occupier and won't back off (although Mr Mustard has emailed the parking manager so that attitude may change very suddenly). The Highway Code is merely guidance and is incomplete advice. In England we hold a Driving Licence not License (grrr).

The tribunal have previously told Barnet Council not to say the CEO is a credible witness. That is a matter that the adjudicator will decide.

What is incredible is Barnet's attitude to the motorist, getting them to produce a letter from their sister which might be as convincing as a note from your mum to the school that you were sick yesterday, when you were skiving and wrote the note yourself.

Paragraph 20 doesn't say that the council charge you to have a white line painted.

Paragraph 21 is the one which will kill the PCN at the tribunal. Given the behaviour of the council in resisting the Appeal it looks like Mr Mustard will be making his first claim of 2019 for costs on the grounds of their wholly unreasonable behaviour. He only made one such claim in 2018 but council performance has steadily gone off in 2018.

There is a better solution for the council than making residents phone up for enforcement. Have an app developed. then residents can sit at home, press a button, send a photo if they wish, and have the request pinged to the hand held equipment of the nearest CEO. Mr Mustard doesn't defend people who park across the dropped kerb of others without permission.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

8 January 2019

Lewisham Council - automated stupidity

The scene is set, above. Note that the no entry signs are set a metre or two back from the give way lines. It was, in the adjudicator's view, when the Traffic Management Order is read, ok to drive up the road towards the camera and then reverse (the van in the picture is a handy illustration of the point near which the motorist in this case changed direction from forwards to reverse) as the prohibition is on driving along Giffin Street, which is to your left and right, and turning away from the camera into Frankham Street.

Here is the decision on the Appeal and on costs.

There is an unhealthy amount of automation in the world of moving traffic PCNs. this is because council's wouldn't make any money if they employed real people instead. This leads to an unhealthy reliance on computerised decision making which Lewisham have been brought to book over.

Additional points on which the adjudicator could have found for the motorist are that the PCN did not accurately describe the alleged contravention. 'Failing to comply with a no entry sign is a contravention but it was there in support of a prohibition on 'causing a vehicle to enter Frankham Street from Giffin Street' so the contravention as alleged had not taken place.

The council said about the PCN that it 'cannot be withdrawn' which is a pack of lies. The council can cancel what they issue, for any reason, even if they accept that there was a contravention.

Councils are always keen to warn motorists that false statements can lead to a Court fine of £5,000. Lewisham have got off lightly in this case.

The adjudicator boots out of the window the idea that costs should not be awarded because the motorist could have had his case heard on the papers. One of the good things about the tribunal (unlike outside London at the TPT nowadays) is that the motorist gets the chance to put their evidence in person and the adjudicator gets the chance to ask all the questions they need to in order to refine the arguments & fact find. Lewisham are lucky that the adjudicator did not order them to turn up to argue their case, a power which he opted not to exercise.

Mr Mustard finds all the time that enforcement authorities bend or misrepresent the evidence to suit their position, they often answer a different point to the one argued in order to try and negate the argument. They will say things like 'the  PCN was properly issued' which it was, when the real argument is about the facts of the parking which led to the issue of the PCN.

Before a PCN is issued a human being is meant to check the cctv to check that a contravention did occur. Mr Mustard is fond of parking up for 10 seconds in the middle of an empty yellow box at midnight to make sure the cctv verifier is awake and doing their job properly and not just ticking yes to a PCN. However, in this case, he thinks that a checker would be so mean that they would issue a PCN to anyone who went a metre past the back of the no entry signs and then reversed, which is not the reason why the signs were installed, taking a purposive approach.

We'll see if Lewisham learn. If they don't things could go badly for them.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

For experts; decision 2180445409

Barnet Council - Grants - April to Dec 18

Mr Mustard was looking for something else in the datasets but thought this list of grants by Barnet Council, for April to December 18 was worth bringing to your attention, due to the fact that there have been so few grants for an organisation which has a planned spend for the year of £982,328,000

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

7 January 2019

Weasel words in private parking - UK CPM

Mr Mustard doesn't generally touch private parking charge notices but when the motorist concerned is a blue badge holder and beleaguered by other health problems he does what he can to help, in this case by writing the challenge and then the Appeal to the IAS who will reject it as a matter of routine.

The driver in question accidentally strayed off the public highway onto a property frontage. The parking attendant was there, on site. Permission was asked of the attendant to park, he granted it. The driver then left and the devious attendant noted down the necessary details and took photographs in order to send a Notice to Keeper. What a snake.

The words above are from the (scant) evidence sent by CPM to the IAS. Never has the use of the word 'unfortunately' been imbued with so little of its real meaning.

The next paragraph of the evidence discloses the raison d'etre behind private parking 'management'. there is no management at all. The only reason the parking attendant is there is to collect the evidence in order to issue parking charge notices. Only one snag, the sign on site:

The motorist was unsure so did seek further advice from CPM's representative and then parked with permission. Whilst the IAS will brush such an inconvenient fact aside, a district judge won't, they will weigh up the evidence and decide if they prefer that of the motorist or of the parking attendant. The sign will speak for itself.

Probably best to never trust a private parking attendant.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

19 December 2018

City of London - no expedition

Mr Mustard is a stickler when it comes to paperwork. He creates a physical file for each PCN he manages which contains all the statutory documents, such as the Notice to Owner, and the emails sent and received, as well as his notes. Every two weeks or so he checks the balance on the relevant council's computer so that, hopefully, no PCN gets away from him into a position in which nothing can be done about it. 

Not every PCN progresses from the Charge Certificate to the Order for Recovery as council have to pay the TEC section of the County Court £8 for each one they register as a debt and if they don't then collect, it is money down the drain. This is why councils (wrongly in Mr Mustard's view) get bailiffs to vet each debt in advance to see if it is worth registering. Mr Mustard has complained to councils which send a bailiff letter at that stage and Haringey Council, for example, stopped once he raised the matter.

Mr Mustard has a PCN issued by the City of London on which they had issued the Charge Certificate on 22 December 2016. He only knew this as a Reminder (a document which is not within the sanctioned process was sent on 25 January 2017. It is cheaper to post out a reminder than pay £8 to the TEC). Representations had been made on 7 November 16 and a Notice of Rejection had not been received. Mr Mustard was relaxed as he knew both that a witness statement could be made if an Order for Recovery was issued and also as he knew that the City of London never registered PCNs as debts and therefore didn't instruct bailiffs subsequently because they couldn't. Just in case he kept the file in the live draw and it was just as well that he did as in December 18, 2 years and 3 months after the PCN was issued, his client received an Order for Recovery. An in time witness statement was duly filed and the court have cancelled the debt registration, so we are back to £130 at risk. This was a case of a bay suspension, it is well known that the City of London signs for such a move are inadequate.

Most people would have thrown the paperwork away by now but not Mr Mustard. He penned a complaint to the City.

I represent Miss S as attached authority.

You sent a charge certificate on 22 December 2016 and you have now just sent her an Order for Recovery (a TE9 has now been filed) some two years later. This is unfair.

If you refer this PCN to the tribunal I will rely on, inter alia, the attached persuasive decision. You might care to cancel it instead.

FOI request: How many Order for Recovery documents have been issued since 1 November 2018 where the Charge Certificate was issued more than 6 months previously?
This is an extract of the tribunal decision Mr Mustard quoted in support of his argument

Reasonable expedition means that a council must get on with it fairly swiftly. They must either lose or use the powers that they have.

He now has a response to the complaint.

Thank you for your email below. Unfortunately the authority to act you have provided is dated 5 years ago so it is arguably lapsed and I cannot be fully confident that Miss S has given you authority to act in this specific case.  If you have been acting for Miss S for the last 5 years in relation to his/her* PCNs and continue to do so then you should get an updated signed authority to act when approaching local authorities or the tribunal.    

The City of London has been delayed in registering cases at Northampton County Court. Despite the time limits for claim for penalties arising from statute being 6 years, the City would normally register cases within 6 months of the charge certificate. We have however been unable to meet this timetable over the last 18 months due the introduction of a new back office system and a requirement to recruit and train additional staff to address backlogs. This resulted in a planned pause in registrations. 

The City is however confident in this case that there has been no material prejudice to the keeper as it is clear that they were aware of the original notice through formal representations and a subsequent phone call, both of which are documented on our system. The keeper’s position remains as per their original challenge, i.e. that they felt the suspension notice was unclear, and our position remains unchanged, i.e. we feel the notice was clear, so I would argue that there is no prejudice arising from the legitimate delay in this case although I accept from a customer service perspective it is poor.

If this matter does end up before the tribunal it would be perfectly right for you to question delay and any other matters your client wishes you to raise, provided you have the requisite authority to act. We will address these points and an independent adjudicator would make a balanced decision having considered the evidence of both parties.

Thank you for your kind attention in this matter.

(Mr Mustard has redacted the name of the motorist but the City did know they had sent the Notice to Owner to a lady so have not been overly diligent in their reply).

Mr Mustard certainly will question the delay at the tribunal. The lady cannot remember having phoned the City but it may have been 2 years ago. The City's email is carefully devoid of that detail. Mr Mustard has a tribunal decision in which system error did not excuse the delay.

Mightily magnanimous of the City to agree that their service has been poor but to not then cancel the PCN makes them look foolish and money grubbing (money they are unlikely to ever see).

Mr Mustard does now have an updated authority letter as the tribunal have introduced new rules such that he has to produce one specific to each PCN for GDPR compliance but it was self serving to assume that his authority had expired as how else did he know about the Order for Recovery having been served.

As you saw above Mr Mustard asked an FOI question to find out how many similar cases there were. Here is the answer:

1458 Order for Recovery notices have been issued since 01/11/2018 to 10/12/2018 where the Charge Certificate was issued more than 6 months previous.

Mr Mustard doesn't know when the City got its act together again but we do know that for 18 months they were not acting with reasonable expedition and should simply cancel all the PCNs. Over 18 months they may have late processed about 17,500 tickets and many of those people are going to have moved home and the first they will know about this is when the bailiff clamps their car, as redirection of post will only have been for 3 or 6 months and as when people move they are likely, quite properly, to have thrown away paperwork related to moribund PCNs.

The trouble with parking enforcement in the public sector is that it is assumed that enforcement authorities will wield their power sensibly. If & when they don't, as in this example, there is no supervisory body which could investigate at short notice and ensure that the process is being fairly managed.

We will just have to let twitter take care of it.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard