31 May 2012

NSL: Never a dull moment

The main moments, so far.

14 December 2011 - Cabinet Resources Committee

(Report of the Cabinet Member for Environment– Agenda Item 12)
For the reasons set out in the Cabinet Member’s report, the Committee;
1. The contract for the provision of Parking Enforcement and Related Services is awarded to NSL Ltd for a period of five years with an option to extend for a further two years.

26 January 2012 - Mr Mustard emailed every councillor as follows:

Dear Councillors

I do not think that NSL are going to enhance the reputation of Barnet Council if they display the sort of behaviour that a tribunal has found they did in Westminster.

Of course you will say that this sort of behaviour will not be allowed in Barnet but leopards don't change their spots and Barnet Council has an ignominious record when it comes to the monitoring of contracts.


Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

to which absolutely no response was received

13 March 2012

Mr Mustard sends in an FOI request to Barnet Council for a copy of the financial viability study of NSL which should have been carried out at an early stage, the Contract with NSL if signed or the expected date of signature and a copy of the Parent Company Guarantee or Performance Bond as the case may be.

17 April 2012

The Mail Online reports on the case of the NSL traffic warden who was sacked, because he says, he exposed the alleged employment of illegal immigrants. The name of the Operational Support Manager who was alleged to be behind this was Adebowale Onadeko. The case goes against the sacked worker who was the whistleblower.

26 April 2012

The FOI response is overdue so Mr Mustard sends a gentle nudge. Silence continues.

I May 2012

The Ham & High reports that there is to be an appeal in the NSL illegal immigrant case as further evidence has come to light.

1 May 2012

NSL start to provide the parking enforcement for Barnet Council. They put all existing back office staff on gardening leave and they are at risk of redundancy. Parking wardens get new uniforms & machinery and carry on patrolling the streets as their job location has not changed.

28 May 2012

Bedfordshire on Sunday reports that a manager of NSL a traffic warden firm, one Adebowale Onadeko has been ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work (is this the new name for community service?) and pay costs of £85 for trying to buy an iPhone with a fake credit card, an event which goes back to October 2011. If you go back to the 17 April entry one can only imagine that this event won't help NSL contest an appeal by a sacked worker whose boss now has a conviction.

31 May 2012

Mr Mustard asks Barnet Council for a review of his FOI request which is 6 weeks late in being answered.

Mr Mustard discovers that Adebowale Onadeko was on the Barnet contract in May 2012 but suddenly there is now a vacancy for his role. The parking staff are very worried that this individual, so capable of fraudulent activity, has their bank details from their personnel files.

What can we learn from this sorry tale?

Well for a start you need to take a good look at your potential supplier and google them to see if they have any skeletons in the cupboard (have we seen them all yet?).

You need to have the backbone to say "stop, let's take another look at what we are doing".

Maybe that when bloggers ask questions you should stop and think about them and not go into a bunker mentality; bloggers want a better borough too, you know.

That if you outsource you do not outsource risk and problems. What you lose is the ability to check the background of staff and to choose the best people for the job yourself.

That giving information, like credit card details, to third party suppliers (like Verrus Pay-by-Phone) means that you cannot control who sees them or where they go to in the world.

That this was the first outsourcing under the One Barnet umbrella and it has got off to a very bad start. What on earth will go wrong when the much larger & multi-faceted DRS contract is passed to third parties and sub-contractors?

One Barnet is not the panacea for all ills.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Let's play 20 questions in Brunswick Park ward today

Today the residents of Brunswick Park have to choose a new councillor. They might find Shaheen Mahmood on their doorstep (if you see a black Mercedes estate rolling up, it could be her). The prospective councillor will want to tell you how fantastic her team have been and what she is going to do for the ward (not much according to leaflets and letters seen by Mr Mustard). She needs to be tested a little. Here are some questions you could ask.

Please can you explain the One Barnet programme to me.

Do you think public parks should be hired out for private events?

Do you think parking meters should be available so that people can pay with cash or a credit card on the spot (especially the old who may not have a mobile phone)?

What do you think of the MetPro scandal?

What do you think of RM Countryside not having had a contract?

What do you think of Barnet Council being fined £70,000 in May 12 for losing data about vulnerable children?

Do you think Brunswick Park library should remain closed or be opened again? 

Which bus do I have to take to get to Tally Ho?

Why did it take 2 years and 4 months to start rebuilding work on the Brunswick Park Health centre ?

Do you think there are too many highly paid officers?

Is Nick Walkley worth £200,000 a year?

Do you think any Pelican crossings in the borough should be removed?

What would you try to change about the way the council is run?

Do you think you should perhaps walk around the ward rather than drive?

Should Lisa Rutter step down as she doesn't live in the ward?

If you want Brunswick Park ward car parks to be free why not all of them across the borough?

Please send any other questions, and answers you receive, to mrmustard@zoho.com or put them in the comments box.

If the answers are not satisfactory then you will want to vote for Andreas Ioannides, the Labour Party candidate. By all means ask him about what he would like to change but until Labour win more seats they can't achieve much.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

30 May 2012

Boris - your letter is pathetic

Now I know you won't have written the letter Boris but you have enough well paid advisers to do better than this effort. Mr Mustard will be charitable and suggest you have never seen the letter and your digital signature goes on it. You need to keep a better eye on your underlings.

sorry the copy is so poor, so is the content!
Mr Mustard will save your tired eyes. Here is what Boris wrote (it has your name on Boris so you will have to take the flak).

Dear .....

I'm writing to ask you to give Shaheen Mahmood your support tomorrow in the Brunswick Park Ward By-Election. Simples.

This election is not about what the Government is doing or whether or not the Council is popular. Some people will always think about what the government does when they decide which candidate to vote for. If you don't want that then you should campaign to get the party name taken off ballot papers. The by-election will most definitely be decided on whether the council are popular or not. It is telling that you put this remark in as you know that they are not popular; you lost Brian Coleman from Barnet remember. If what the majority conservative administration is doing locally in Barnet is not popular then the message has to be sent by rejecting this candidate that policies need to change.

It's about who is going to represent Brunswick Park Ward most effectively over the next 2 years. If Shaheen Mahmood is elected she will be the new girl and will be whipped into shape and a pound to a penny she will stick her hand in the air and vote every One Barnet stupid decision through with the rest of the flock.

I strongly believe that the only person for the job is Shaheen. Natch.

This is not just because Shaheen is a Conservative; it's because she is the only candidate who lives in the ward. Shaheen is a conservative, I am a conservative. This is about the only sensible line in the whole letter. Boris has been mugged into repeating the she lives in the ward so she is the only person for the job. OK, a hypothesis. Suppose the Brunswick Park village idiot (probably horribly un-PC but never mind, have a go in the comments box) were to join the conservative party, stuff envelopes, deliver leaflets etc etc and somehow get the nomination, would they be the only person for the job. Only in the sense that they are the only conservative candidate. They would still be the village idiot. This nonsense about local is automatically best has got to stop.

This means that she is the only candidate who is in the ward day-in day-out and is therefore in the best position to understand and work towards solving the problems faced by her fellow residents. Doubtless Shaheen goes off to do her work for the Muslim Conservative Forum elsewhere. The phone number for her 0207 984 8248 appears to be located at the conservative party HQ in Millbank, London SW1. One would expect Shaheen to spend a lot of time there. Other candidates could live outside of the ward and still visit it for longer than Shaheen. Just because you live elsewhere doesn't mean you can't understand the problems; maybe you are telling us Boris that when you came to the Peel Centre you didn't understand about Barnet's parking problems because you don't live here? no, I thought not.

Shaheen is also a key member of your local Conservative team who have a proven track record of working for the local community. "Is she?" thought Mr Mustard who hadn't heard of her before. What did he do. Well he googled her of course. He put "Shaheen Mahmood Brunswick Park" into google, then he chose UK only and then he chose dates before 31/12/2011 in order to refine the search and find all of Shaheen early marvels in the ward. What did he get? He got 11 results none of which related to anything Shaheen has been doing locally. Note that the team have a proven track record. You aren't being asked to vote for the team but for the person. Call Mr Mustard picky but you can "work for" a result and not achieve it. Very weak endorsement that from Boris.

The team has been instrumental in delivering results for residents on local issues. For example, as you read this letter, work is underway on rebuilding Brunswick Park Ward's Health Centre. It is true that work has just started, see this article in the reliable local paper. So, the health centre burnt down in January 2010 and it is only just being rebuilt now. Hardly a "result". Besides, the council can't have got involved between the insurer and the NHS as they had to standing in the claim. This late rebuilding is nothing to be proud of.

It has also supported the ward's Safer Neighbourhood Team in their drive to crack down on anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping, as well as fighting to keep parking free at the ward's two car parks in Osidge Lane and Brunswick Park Road. Mrs Angry will probably explain about the loss of a number of sergeants from the SNTs in due course. Mr Mustard put a FOI question in about fly-tipping. The answer seems to be outstanding from January. What Mr Mustard does know from elsewhere was that at that stage there had been no prosecutions for fly-tipping since October 2010. Not much of a crack down! Parking, oh Boris you are a wag. The conservative administration put through new parking charges without any objection from their own councillors and then suddenly all hell breaks loose with the public and councillors in nearby East Barnet are suddenly against them. There was a leaflet about parking that had to be withdrawn. Did no-one tell you?

And for the first time in Barnet Council's history, council tax has been frozen for a record fourth year running, while at the same time safeguarding key local services such as weekly bin collections. Barnet Council does not have all that long a history. Freezing council tax is a mistake and only possible because of funding from central government. When the tax does rise it will rocket. Keeping the weekly main bin collection is a mistake. Recycling rates are poor in Barnet. The plan for the future is to have a green waste collection every 2 weeks. Plants grow when the temperature is above 5° so weekly collections are needed in summer and none in winter. The dry goods recycling will be every two weeks and that is the one that needs to be full so ought to be emptied more often to maximise opportunity. There will also be a food waste bin. The streets will be awash with bins. The people who rely on social services wouldn't agree that key local services have been safeguarded. They now have to pay more for less.

So when you go to the polling station tomorrow, I would urge you to vote for Shaheen Mahmood, who I know is just the kind of person Brunswick Park Ward residents need to represent them over the next two years. What positive reasons has Boris managed to give you that stand up to Mr Mustard's scrutiny? Not one. Don't vote for Shaheen, vote for change, vote for:

Andreas Ioannides, the Labour Party candidate.

Yours sincerely

Boris Johnson
Mayor of London

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

By-election special - Brunswick Park - Thursday 31 May

Well here we go, fresh from ousting Brian Coleman AM from the London Assembly there is another chance for voters to send a message to our local government that we don't like the way that the borough is run at present. The honour falls to the voters of Brunswick Park ward. 

The candidates are:-

Yahaya Dumba Kiingi (Liberal Democrats)

Shaheen Kauser Mahmood (Conservative Party Candidate)

Andreas Ioannidis (The Labour Party Candidate)

Lots has been written already by other bloggers on this subject and you can catch up with their views on the following pages, and others

Barnet Bugle

The Barnet Eye

Citizen Barnet

Mrs Angry of Broken Barnet

Mr Reasonable

Who would Mr Mustard vote for if he lived in Brunswick Park ward? Not the Liberal Democrat candidate as he can't truly expect to win. It's a great shame as the 3 lib dems we have in Childs Hill ward have done sterling service for years and it would be better for them to have a greater say in things.

Not the conservative candidate either. Why not? Well firstly because she has as the headline on her letter to voters of 25 May 12 that she is the only candidate who lives in the ward. If this is such a great thing why is it that Lisa Rutter doesn't live in the ward; does that make her a lesser councillor? Mr Mustard isn't Lisa's biggest fan although she seemed quite good at planting trees, talking to people and cutting ribbons etc. as mayor, but to say in effect that, if elected, one of your existing fellow councillors is less worthy as a councillor is completely wrong.

She also claims not to be a politician. This is so ridiculous. Why are you standing for a political office if you are not a politician? It doesn't sit very easily either with your position as the contact person for the Conservative Muslim Forum which, presumably, has some interest in politics?

Why do you float round the ward in a large black Mercedes estate car when the ward is not very big and you really should be a bit greener and walk like everyone else including Mr Mustard who was delivering BAPS leaflets which tell residents about the One Barnet mass privatisation programme. By walking you would meet more local people and have had the chance to tell them why they should vote for you. ( BAPS = Barnet Alliance for Public Services )

Now what will you get if you vote for Shaheen Mahmood? Mr Mustard has to surmise from what isn't being said. You will get someone who, coming so late to the game, will be unable to do anything to stop the One Barnet mass privatisation even if she wanted to. She would need to read 3 years of council reports, which does not seem very likely, just to get up to speed. You can just see her hand going up with the flock of lambs at meetings of the whole council.

She isn't going to rock the boat and ask for the nearby Friern Barnet library to be re-opened. People on that edge of Brunswick Park ward used the FB library as could any resident of the borough.

If any governor of St Paul's Church of England School in N11 can quietly tip mrmustard@zoho.com the wink about why Shaheen self-disqualified herself from being a governor in about January 2012, or just before, he would be much obliged.

You won't get free bays back in CPZs.

You will get more remote services provided by BT or Capita or some such conglomerate from whichever country they find cheapest to locate the services.

Parking has already been outsourced by the conservative administration. This candidate won't be able to stop that as it is a fait accompli.

You won't see parking meters put back in every location.

You will still see private parks rented out for private parties (how you can put that councillors have listened to residents in your letter of 25 May 2012 to voters is brass neck indeed. The current administration may have listened but it ignored the 99% who said they didn't want private events in public parks).

You will still see allotment rents being steeply increased.
You will see the continued progress of the One Barnet mass privatisation programme for which Mr Mustard has never seen an intelligent report with a properly detailed cost benefit analysis.

You won't see the existing in-house teams being given the chance to bid to run their services.

You will carry on seeing masses of town hall tax dodging consultants on up to £1,000 a day with their noses in the trough which your council tax is wasted filling.

You will get the massive Brent Cross expansion programme. 

Will Barnet FC fans vote for you? not after the way the club has been treated.

The policies which this current conservative administration have embarked upon, and which most of the non-cabinet councillors almost certainly know very little of the detail, are wrecking the borough. 

The only way to make them listen and change it seems is to take every chance to vote them out of office and Labour in.

So please on Thursday vote for:

Andreas Ioannidis 
(The Labour Party Candidate)

If Mr Mustard could vote in this by-election, he would do so tactically ( he is not a member of the Labour party ) and would vote Labour in order to send the message to the conservative councillors

We do not like what you are doing to our borough and we are going to stop you before you ruin it.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Fight the undermanagement epidemic

From: Murphy, Bill
Sent: 16 May 2012 10:51
To: Local Taxation Group; Housing Benefit - All Staff; Revenues Control Group
Cc: Gregson, John; Burns, Robert; Burgess, John (Unison)
Subject: Update from Revenues and Benefits Project Board
Dear Colleagues,
The Revenues & Benefits Transformation Project Board met yesterday and noted the progress on the consultation process and in the preparations for transfers of work and staff to the contact centre and for the new claims pilot. The board approved the changes to staffing agreed following feedback from staff in the consultation process, i.e. to create two specialist team leader posts for Revenues and Benefits in the contact centre, and discussed the process for filling these posts - this will be announced shortly. i.e. despite 10 consultants sitting at the back of Revenues and Benefits faffing about doing who knows what and Bill Murphy himself the town hall tax dodging AD, who could be off on his bike any day, they knew between them less than the staff do and have had to undo the cutting of 2 manager posts. If the council had let the staff make an in-house bid they would have been able to come up with a plan that provided exactly what is required, as they know more about the job than any consultant, and it would almost certainly have been cheaper. If for some bizarre reason it had turned out more expensive there would not have been dissent from the staff if they had been able to join in the game on a level playing field. Unlike Barnet FC it's downhill first half and then downhill second half at NLBP..
The forward work plan was reviewed and some changes made to reflect the need to minimise risks to the service. The key milestones are now:
Management workshop to finalise roles and responsibilities 17 May
Transition Team kickoff 23 May
Service Level Agreement between R&B and Contact Centre signed off: 30 May
Team Leaders and Officers confirmed in the new structure: 1 June
Transfers to contact centre: 18 June
Start of new claims pilot: 18 June
Leadership and Culture Change Workshop for new structure 21 June
New claims rollout: Mid-August
The Transition Team will develop its own work programme from late May onwards, with its first priority being knowledge and skills transfer to people in the new structure. In addition, it will pick up projects including Universal Credit pilot, localisation of Council Tax support and Social Fund, as well as dealing with the majority of activities related to the transfer to the NSCSO.
Bill Murphy
Assistant Director, Customer Services
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 2142
Mobile 07847 188 983
Save this number and if your council tax is being dealt with badly or your benefits are late then ring it. Bill works for you and needs to know when things are going badly wrong. Don't let him fob you off, politely insist that he takes responsibility.
Yours frugally
Mr Mustard

29 May 2012

£165,504 saved

The worry for Robert is if the council manage really well without him and start to wonder what they got for their £165,504 per annum.

From: First Team
Sent: 29 May 2012 16:01
To: AllStaff

Subject: Message from the Chief Executive - Director of Children's Service secondment

I am writing to let you all know that our Director of Children’s Service, Robert McCulloch-Graham, will be seconded to the National Troubled Families Programme at DCLG for 12 months. This is a significant opportunity for Robert and for the council that reflects Barnet’s strength in this field and the commitment of Robert and staff in the service to support children in the most troubled of circumstances.

As you know, we have long argued that effectively joining up a range of public services around a service user’s needs is central to how this council should support residents in the future. Our work with troubled families is the perfect illustration of this and reflects national support for our work.

Given that there is a Senior Management Restructure underway, I have decided, in consultation with the relevant Cabinet members, that Kate Kennally, Director of Adult Social Care and Health, will take on the additional statutory Director of Children’s Service duties. This allows all of the Children’s Service Management team to remain in place and provide as much continuity as is possible. I will be working with Kate and Robert and their management teams to manage the transition. This will involve asking both Jay Mercer (Deputy Director, Children’s Service) and Dawn Wakeling (Deputy Director, Adults) to take on additional duties and I am grateful for their support.


A good plan. Take out the top man and get his salary paid from elsewhere. The top of the tree is often simply a figurehead and the lower orders do the real work anyway, the passed on duties will cause a cascading of tasks down the line to the very bottom. The one thing that "non stick" didn't say was whether or not the 3 people taking on more duties, but no more hours, are going to get any extra payment? Mr Mustard does hope not as they get more than enough pay already. Of course, we are only losing Robert for 12 months which soon goes and so making any permanent changes without taking account of his return in 2013 would be silly.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Handover (bad) fist (of)

Latest addition to mayoral fleet. The mail coach
Update Tuesday 29 May 2012. Following a quick tweet exchange the Royal Mail have confirmed that the PO Box is now up and running properly. Goodness knows who did what and when but hopefully no-one got their letters of appeal back. If you did please let Mr Mustard know and send him a copy of your parking ticket. If you are in the parking department and know what happened to this on-off parking box do please tell mrmustard@zoho.com in complete confidence.

Executive summary.

The handover of parking to NSL is a shambles. Communications are going back to 1680

The article

It is almost a year since the proposed out-sourcing of the issue and enforcement of parking tickets (Penalty Charges Notices / PCN) was given the nod once over by committee which Mr Mustard failed to attend (the shame). Here is the report.
Parking Business Case - Barnet Council
So let us test just a little of this report, shall we? well some-one has to and it won't have been fully stress tested by councillors or senior officers who if they needed a licence to do what they do would all have been banned by now for reckless privatising.

Some empty words from the report:

A relentless drive for efficiency thus no emails!

The aim of the parking project is to provide a streamlined service which will result in a more efficient service that provides a better experience for customers. This would help improve the reputation of the council.
This improved service will also fit with corporate objectives to form a new relationship
with citizens, work in a joined-up (joined up writing required) way, and improve efficiency.

It will give choice to the customer as to how and when they engage with, and pay for, the service. No real 2012 choice, only webform or letter.

The main benefit of outsourcing the Parking Service is to improve the parking provision
to our citizens and make it easier for them to use the service. What could be easier than sending an email?
You get the idea. The new service will be fab and easy, getting a parking ticket will be fun (OK, not quite that last bit).
It is always stressful, annoying and irritating when you get a parking ticket. It doesn't help that the handover from Barnet Council to NSL has evidently been poorly planned and/or executed as otherwise we wouldn't be reading stuff in the local paper about parking tickets being issued to people who have not noticed that their permit has expired (and why would you, there is more to life than worrying about something which historically, Barnet Council sent you a reminder for). How many errors can occur in Pam Wharfe's directorate before she has to go?

This line is interesting but not true.

A council representative said in a statement: “Resident permit renewal reminders are now going out as normal. Any residents who received a penalty charge as a result of the delay can contact the council to have the ticket cancelled.”
It is disgustingly immoral that the council can blunder and then make the innocent motorist do the work to ring up the council, which he can't do as appeals are dealt with by NSL,  and make an appeal. Why should you have to appeal against a parking ticket issued as a result of administrative error? The Council should simply run a report of all permits that have recently expired and then look up each registration number and cancel any subsequent tickets. Come on Barnet! 

The information about this error should have been put in the news & parking sections of the Barnet website. We paid enough for it so it could at least impart useful information. The news that there is to be a parking charges review, to correct the previous parking charges review of 2011, has appeared quickly. Barnet's stupid way is to only put good news in the website., Well news for you Barnet Council is that if you make an error and then correct it voluntarily and say you were wrong you get better thought of than if you didn't make the error at all.

The system

Before NSL one could contact the council about your parking ticket in one of several ways

Letter, email, on-line webform, telephone, fax (years ago you could even do it in person in the parking office in High Barnet but that was closed - too visible for the public probably).

What does the law say about how one should be able to appeal?

This (maybe, lawyers please feel free to update this opinion)

3.—(1) Regulations 4 to 7 have effect where a penalty charge which has become payable under the General Regulations has not been paid and either—
(a) a penalty charge notice has been served by a civil enforcement officer under regulation 9 of the General Regulations, and a notice to owner served by the enforcement authority under regulation 19 of those Regulations; or
(b) a penalty charge notice has been served under regulation 10 of the General Regulations.
(2) A penalty charge notice served under regulation 9 of the General Regulations must, in addition to the matters required to be included in it under paragraph 1 of the Schedule to the General Regulations, include the following information—
(a) that a person on whom a notice to owner is served will be entitled to make representations to the enforcement authority against the penalty charge and may appeal to an adjudicator if those representations are rejected; and
(b) that, if representations against the penalty charge are received at such address as may be specified for the purpose before a notice to owner is served—
(i) those representations will be considered;
(ii) but that, if a notice to owner is served notwithstanding those representations, representations against the penalty charge must be made in the form and manner and at the time specified in the notice to owner.
(3) A notice to owner served under regulation 19 of the General Regulations must, in addition to the matters required to be included in it under that regulation, include the following information—
(a) that representations on the basis specified in regulation 4 against payment of the penalty charge may be made to the enforcement authority, but that any representations made outside the period of 28 days beginning with the date on which the notice is served (“the payment period”) may be disregarded;
(b) the nature of the representations which may be made under regulation 4;
(c) the address (including if appropriate any email address or FAX telephone number, as well as the postal address) to which representations must be sent and the form in which they must be made;

Mr Mustard has highlighted the final section. The council can set the address to which you must write. They also have the option to allow email and fax communications. Webforms don't get a mention but maybe the regulations have been updated by now and if that was offered as an option apart from writing it would be acceptable (lawyers could argue for hours about whether a webform is an email).

Let us look at the old methods one by one.

Fax: This is little used nowadays (Mr Mustard dispensed with the dedicated fax machine in his office some 3 years ago although the HP all-in-one machine he paid £199 for can scan, print and fax) and it wouldn't cost much for NSL to have one even if only one fax arrived per day. It is useful for when the internet fails.

Telephone: NSL do not take telephone calls. Barnet Council do not take telephone calls about parking tickets. This is OK in the context of tickets which are not to be appealed but when the council have blundered and if they don't voluntarily correct their own errors (what sort of parallel universe do the parking management live in where you can cock up and walk away?) then they should provide a telephone number so that the affected residents can make a quick phone call and have the matter dealt with. Residents have busy lives. Quoting Cllr Jack Cohen (good morning Jack)  "Whatever happened to the concept of public service" (He might have said "ethos" but you get the idea).

Mr Mustard wants you to set up a telephone hotline, Barnet Council, which will enable people who have been issued with a ticket in error to get it cancelled with just one phone call. He will allow you until Monday to set that up. If not, he will publish his own list of numbers which might be the mobile phone number of every senior executive in parking all the way up to the interim Director so that people can complain properly. Won't that be fun?

On-line webform: Mr Mustard can't test this because he doesn't have a parking ticket (please send him one at mrmustard@zoho.com) but thinks that webforms generally are a straitjacket. It is a controlling way of making you communicate and limits your options. The reason NSL want to use it is as it populates the relevant fields of the software for them. So the motorist does the work for the council/NSL which, as you are appealing and thus feel you are innocent, is having the tail wag the dog. Best to write then. Oh dear.

Email: One used to be able to email your appeal to parking@barnet.gov.uk but no longer it seems. There is an address of barnet@nslservices.co.uk on the council website that is going to be taken off (thank you to the man who answered Mr Mustard's questions yesterday on the parking helpdesk - it helps to make Mr Mustard's blogs accurate) as soon as they can do it ( there are 100 people trained in the web software so it shouldn't take long). Mr Mustard has just sent an email to that address which is still accepting email and looks forward to the answer to the question that he sent. It seem entirely reasonable, especially as it is allowed for in the legislation, that one should be able to appeal by email. Mr Mustard has been told that NSL haven't got a scanner but that can't be true, can it? Mr Mustard is happy to hear from any moles who are on the inside at NSL in Worthing. Anyone would think that the council wanted appealing to be difficult so they can catch out more motorists and rake in more fines? (shurely not?)

Come on Barnet Council, again! Make an email address available for appeals.

So Barnet Council take us back to 1680 (the start of the penny post - might be useful information for the pub quiz). We have to write. This webpage shows the address we have to write to. It is

Barnet Parking Services (NSL really)
PO Box 4894, 
BN11 9WT

Did you know that the Royal Mail will tell you the physical address of a PO Box? (Mr Mustard prefers to write to a physical address)  Mr Mustard phoned the Royal Mail. They said "there is no such box". Stap me thought Mr Mustard, you have got it wrong Mr Postman. He gently prodded the helpful Royal Mail man (was it Pat?) who checked all his systems and said no definitely no PO box with that number. Mr Mustard asked what would happen to any letters sent to that PO Box. They will be returned said Mr Postman. Oh bugger thought Mr Mustard but he hasn't heard of this happening.

Do make sure you send your appeals by a "signed for"  service as that stops the old excuse that your letter was not received.

So, Mr Mustard tweeted (if you don't know about "twitter" now is the time to find out. Mr Mustard's twitter name is @_MrMustard - make sure you use the underbar as otherwise another MrMustard gets his messages) the Royal Mail like this:
and here is the reply

Something funny is going on.

You will have an argument if you are out of time for your informal representations or a formal appeal if the council have given out a duff PO Box or if NSL haven't paid for it and it has been cancelled or some other blunder has occurred. 

What a mess. This is the first service to be privatised under the One Barnet  programme. Not a good start and very worrying when much much bigger departments get out-sourced. The parking service is just a huge sausage factory. You put parking tickets into a machine, process them and they either come out as cancellations, or appeals, or paid etc just different flavours of sausage. It really should be a cake walk (too much talk of food - Ed).

Now Mr Mustard will sit back and wait to be corrected by Barnet Council (if he is wrong he doesn't mind - he will put right anything that is not factual) or for them to suddenly do some crisis management.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Lucy - please scrap the Brent Cross over expansion

We will listen..........

Well here is your chance at the Brent Cross Coalition.

Email Lucy and tell her you are opposed to the Brent Cross expansion plan and she will listen to your views. What are you waiting for?, get emailing.

Don't send your email to that first.contact bucket but cut out the middleman and send it direct to Lucy at lucy.shomali@barnet.gov.uk

If she doesn't listen do please tell Mr Mustard and he will let the world know that the screensaver is comprised of empty words.

There won't of course be any regeneration or growth in town centres whilst they are being strangled by the council's sky high parking charges and the fact that it is not possible to pay at the point of parking with cash or credit card so Lucy's salary is a bit of a waste. £86,823 in case you wondered.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Two wheel moorings

Mr Mustard has just had a break from Barnet Council and spent a few sunny days on his motorbike travelling down to the French Ardennes and to Chimay in Belgium ( the fact that Chimay is the home of the Chimay brewery is entirely coincidental)

Mr Mustard has stayed at Two Wheel Moorings a handful of times and feels like he is home when he is there although High Barnet does not have the luxury of the river Meuse going through it. He promised to give the 5 room biker hotel a plug in the blog in case you have 2 wheels and fancy a trip. It's easy to get to Dun-sur-Meuse in a day even if you don't leave home until 9am.

the hotel itself
This is their website

Dun-sur-Meuse is a lovely small village to visit

There are lots of First World War monuments in the area if that is your thing. Montfaucon has 234 steps up to the viewing platform which some mad fool in motorbike boots, leather trousers and bike jacket climbed even though he suffers from vertigo and it was over 30°C.


Normal blogging service will now be resumed.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 May 2012

Brent Cross - a free photography exhibition

style in the subway
A guest blog:


I'd like to invite you to see my upcoming photography show "My Brent Cross" as I think it could be something you might be interested in.

As a resident of the Brent Cross area I've been very interested in the planned regeneration programme, and for my final year of my Photography degree I have been working on a series exploring this theme.

The series is about Brent Cross the area, the shopping centre and the people - as they are now - from the perspective of an emerging artist who lives in the Brent Cross area.
The series will be exhibited at the Middlesex university photography degree show and it would be great if you fancy coming to see the show.

The exhibition will be held at the Old Truman Brewery, F- Block, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL, Sunday 10th June - Monday 11th June from 10am-7pm.

Many thanks and all the best,

CY Frankel
Do please go along. It is a free exhibition. Please support your local artist.
Yours frugally (hard to get more frugal than free) 
Mr Mustard

25 May 2012

The Friday Joke - Mr Mustard is sent an FOI request

Yes that is correct, Mr Mustard who is often to be found lobbing FOI requests in the direction of Barnet Council (sorry FOI officers but it's not personal, it's because you work for an incompetently managed and secretive council) received two from an anonymous wag last Sunday.

Although not subject to the legislation, he decided to reply and rather sooner than Barnet Council can manage.

Here is the first question:-

Ref 007.01
When did Mr Mustard go vegetarian?
Why is he vegetarian?

Mr Mustard went sort of vegetarian in about 1967 (he eats fish and can eat liver! but hasn't eaten any meat for several years except in a sandwich which it was hard to discern the contents of at a buffet).
He went vegetarian because he decided he didn't like the taste of meat. He would keep pigs if he lived in the country (but he can't leave Barnet until his work is done).

and here is the second question:-

Ref 007.02
Which motorcycle did Mr Mustard learn to ride first?
What was the first motorcyle he bought?
Where is the best track/circuit Mr Mustard has ridden on?
As he was brought up in the countryside Mr Mustard first rode an old scooter in the fields, probably a lambretta or a piaggio and a complete wreck by the time the youth of the village had finished with it.
His first real motorcycle was technically a moped (as it had pedals) but it was designed with pedals that you didn't pedal, they folded up into the footrest position. It was a classic bike designed to get around the rules. It was the iconic Yamaha FSIE
every bloke who is now of a certain age had one of these
It was known as the Fizzy but at 49 c.c. and a maximum 31mph that was a misleading description of the "Putting the community first" type.

That was the last machine that Mr Mustard crashed, a graceful slide off on ice not far from the school gates.

The first proper motorbike was an MZ. (Stop him someone & quickly, Mr Mustard is off down memory lane, oh no, too late he has escaped) MZ an acronym, stands for Motorradwerk Zschopau (German for motorcycle factory at Zschopau) in the Erzgebirge region of Saxony
It was a hulk of a bike
untouched by the style police
Those mudguards were massive, the mirrors vibrated madly, the tyres were made of concrete, it was slow and heavy and the exhaust had to be decoked with caustic soda. It was cheap transport though.

That was sold and might still be running, who knows? Next was a BSA, the B40 with 350 c.c. and a kick starter. Mr Mustard took it up and down the A1 quite a lot. He remembers when kit wasn't as good and he used to tip his leather boots out in the sink on arriving after long wet journeys. What fun.
lovely comfy seat for the pillion
Mr Mustard has just sold his Honda Hornet and so is tempted to put a classic in the garage. Best he keeps away from the small ads. 

After that Mr Mustard had a Honda as the Japanese were starting to get going.

Being a twin this was easier to start and was better engineered and didn't leak oil everywhere.

Unfortunately Mr Mustard was on board this bike turning right at a green light in the City Road adjacent to Moorfields, when a car jumped the lights and swatted him off (the driver must have just come from out-patients?). A bruised shin was the only injury (would have got thousands for it in 2012) and Mr Mustard's recollection is that the forks were bent, the bike was sold and he started commuting into Finsbury Square from Palmers Green by train.
Now the best circuit question is a hard one. For now, until he tries some more, Park Algar is hard to beat. Mr Mustard has no idea who Bill Leeney is but he rides very smoothly and so is a joy to watch. the angle of the sky mimics the angle of the bike; luckily you don't realise the lean angle you carry and it's only too much if you fall off.
Mr Mustard's favourite section is the long long right hander from 2.05 onwards and then it's up the steep slope onto to the start finish straight and take the chequered flag.

If you are not satisfied with the answers given please send your request for a review to foi@barnet.gov.uk (who know more about bikes than you might expect).
Yours frugally
Mr Mustard 

23 May 2012

Special warblings - The omnidatashambles

the latest in a long line of Mayors - Brian Schama
From: Adams, Nikki P.A. to Nick
Sent: 18 May 2012 15:42
To: AllStaff
Subject: Weekly Message from the Chief Executive 99% of staff probably hit delete when this lands in their inbox
Tuesday evening was Annual Council meeting. Cllr Schama was confirmed as Mayor for the Municipal Year 2012-13. The mayoralty remains a significant part of life here in Barnet undertaking hundreds of visits to groups, special events and representing the Borough at London wide events. Given that this is Jubilee and Olympic Year I’d expect Cllr Schama to have an even busier schedule than usual. Mr Mustard expects that Cllr Schama will be a good mayor and his only concern that Cllr Schama has high standards of what he expects from officers and the time available for him to bring his non-nonsense commonsense why aren't we walking before we try to run view to committee meetings will be much limited.

Alongside the ceremonial aspects of Annual Council there is also important political business to transact as appointments for the coming year are confirmed. The only substantial change to the Cabinet was that Cllr Dean Cohen replaces Cllr Brian Coleman as Cabinet Member for Environment. Cllr Coleman has in turn been appointed Chair of the Budget and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Why the chairman gets £15,333 for chairing that will be the subject of a future blog.
The Opposition Labour Group also nominates a Shadow Cabinet and there have been more changes here. Cllr Cooke becomes Shadow Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Houston becomes Shadow Cabinet Member for Children and Education, Cllr Schneiderman becomes Shadow Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Brodkin becomes Shadow Cabinet Member for Crime and Policing and Cllr Julie Johnson Shadow becomes Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration. A little table would have been easier presentation to absorb.
You can find more details about Committee Memberships on the Council and Democracy pages of the website. But not about allowances which are more deeply buried.
However Annual Council is really all about the mayoralty and the outgoing Mayor spoke with pride about her time in office. Amongst the many highlights she outlined was a day when she had visited places of worship representative of every major faith. Her pride and the on-going enthusiasm of a very diverse community for civic recognition were obvious for all to see. Longer than the longest Oscar speech to all accounts.
And of course in the background are our outstanding Mayoral Team, the Mayor’s drivers, including the never flustered Lewis, and the admin team led by Angela. The out-going Mayor thanked them for their support and I wanted to join her in doing so this week. Finding a way through the protocols, diary clashes and traffic can be a nightmare but the team do it extremely well.
Some of you will have seen news coverage that the Council has been fined £70k by the Information Commissioner for a breach of the OPA. OPA? Don't you read anything Nick or is your P.A. not conversant with the DPA as in the Data Protection Act - actually that seems to be endemic. The loss occurred when a member of staff was burgled and a laptop (encrypted) and papers containing personal data were stolen. Another £70,000 of tax payers' money wasted by Officers. Slippery stuff this data eh Nick? You forgot to mention your previous in this regard when the details of 9000 children slipped out of the council's care in March 2010 and you had to sign a letter promising to be more careful in future. Funny isn't it how closely guarded papers are about the One Barnet programme but data about kids is left lying around. So slow implementing change that another loss occurred. These things tend to come along in threes. What next?
The ICO criticisms focus on the paper record handling policies of the Council. I therefore think it worthwhile reminding staff what current policies, accepted by the ICO, are.
These are:
  • There is a general presumption against taking off-site personal or other confidential data contained within paper records/hard copy material.
  • Personal or other confidential data contained within paper records/hard copy material should only be taken off-site when it is a necessity and not a convenience.
  • Line management approval must be obtained before personal or other confidential data contained within paper records/hard copy material is taken off-site. The approval request must provide details of the personal or other confidential data proposed to be taken off-site and the necessity for doing so and the relevant times.
  • Where personal or other confidential data contained within paper records/hard copy material is taken off-site it should be kept to a minimum both in terms of content and duration. Why don't we provide a fire safe at the home of people who have to take confidential papers home sometimes? Only £30
  • Whilst off-site and temporarily in the home of an employee (or other person covered by the policy), paper records/hard copy material containing personal or other confidential data, that is not being actively worked upon, must be kept secure and separate from any valuable items such as laptops. So that hopefully the laptop gets stolen and the paperwork is left behind.
  • Where personal or other confidential data contained within paper records/hard copy material is taken off-site and is in transit from one location to another, it should be transported in a way that mitigates against the risks of theft or loss. Computers should be chained down at all times when outside work. It's easy and cheap.
  • This means that, insofar as possible, all necessary steps should be taken to seek to ensure that the paper records/hard copy material are/is not mistaken for a laptop, other electrical device or valuable item by a thief and should be transported in a separate container to such items. Tut tut, hard copy paperwork is a valuable item.
Furthermore where paper records containing personal or confidential information are taken off site, staff must ensure they have made a log of the removed/copied papers. This is to ensure that the council can appropriately risk assess the level of harm likely to be caused should a loss of data occur. Why not just scan and encrypt them in the first place and put them on the hard drive?
A full copy of the policy is available on the intranet and staff must ensure they are familiar with it. If you have any concerns in meeting the requirements of the policy, these should in the first instance be raised with your line manager. The onus is placed on the employee. Will managers check?
If you require further advice or guidance on Data Protection or Data Security, please email data.protection@barnet.gov.uk
Nick Walkley
Chief Executive
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park , Oakleigh Road South , London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 7001
Barnet Online: www.barnet.gov.uk

Sorry if you are really bored with these non-stick messages. Why should the staff suffer alone?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard