23 August 2012

Westminster wheel wobble

Is this a car or a motorbike? in Westminster they are all the same
Mr Mustard has some friends, yes he really does, who live in the Home Counties, who occasionally go up to London, either the man on his own, often on his high-powered motorcycle or together as a family in the family car. Mr Mustard has known these friends for coming up to 30 years when he met the man who worked for some big city lawyers and Mr Mustard was a credit manager for an equally large firm. A common interest in motorcycles was the initial bond.

The man uses Westminster's pay-by-phone system and has registered both the family car and the motorbike.

Back in March 2012 there was a family visit to town and it being late afternoon it was fairly easy to find a parking space, pay £12, go off for the evening's entertainment and come back to the car to find a parking ticket affixed to the windscreen. Very odd, the £12 has been paid as the credit card statement shows (you can often see your most recent payments on-line) and there is a text message confirming payment. 

Telephone calls ensued to Westmister City Council and/or NSL who issued the ticket, and/or Vertex who deal with back office ticket processing (Westminster Council themselves are legally obliged to deal with formal representations) and/or Verrus who provide the pay-by-phone system and it turns out that £12 was paid and the motorcycle registration number was the one entered into the system as being what the payment was for. Now whereas here in Barnet it is free to park your motorcyle in Westminster, because lots of people now commute in, to park on the road costs £1 for all day (in Westminster's car parks in marked out bike bays it is free and you are in the dry to get out of your kit). It is blindingly obvious therefore that a simple administrative error has been made. The driver knew he had the family with him and was in a car, he must have told the pay-by-phone operative this because £12 was taken, and so someone somewhere made a mistake. Will anybody deal with this problem and quash the ticket? No.

Many local authorities bleat on that charging for parking isn't to make money, honest guv, it is purely to ration the space, to keep the traffic moving, to make sure the emergency services can get through etc etc although they don't complain about the side effect of making millions which helps to keep council tax down, oh no.  

Barnet Council aims to keep the borough’s roads and pavements safe for pedestrians and drivers. and make a few £million at the same time.

After all the arguing a deadline for an appeal got missed and so a decision was taken. To pay the ticket under protest and then sue in the County Court for a refund. This has now taken place and Westminster have agreed to refund the £130 and the £35 court fee.

Here is the message from Mr Mustard's friend:

"What a lot of bother over nothing in particular. They said it should have been sorted out a long time ago!!! Hey ho."
A number of interesting questions are raised.
Why did commonsense not prevail?
Why wasn't it sorted out a long time ago?
Did outsourcing to 3 different companies cause a problem?
If Westminster ran everything in-house would communications be better?
Is the Verrus pay-by-phone system fit for purpose?
Has it happened to you? (If so, issue in the County Court, it is easy)
Mr Mustard thinks that the problem is that as soon as a ticket is issued the mindset in every council is that they are right and the cancellation of any ticket is a let-off and they put the revenue loss before the motorist. In fact, Mr Mustard has obtained some exclusive footage of a small section of a video that is played at all parking enforcement training courses at Westminster Council to condition new appeal officers in the proper behaviour to adopt when hitting the cancel button.

Councils everywhere, stop being juvenile and start using some commonsense when appeals are received. Grow up and take the adult decisions.

Update of interest to people with more than one registered vehicle.

The only thing I have learnt is that even when you speak to a real person and give them the reg. number you want to use the system then goes back to the first one registered, so you have to listen closely and change the reg. before you confirm payment. That was never explained to us, and where the error occurred.

If the above happened to you, take your appeal all the way to PATAS.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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