30 September 2012

Barnet Council - Putting the Community Last

Last week Mr Mustard reported on the case of a lady given a parking ticket whilst collecting a death certificate when she inadvertently parked in a bay that you couldn't see and where the sign was 9 feet in the air, the sort of trick that you expect from a spivvy private car park wheel clamping firm and not a local authority - but we are in Barnet. The parking ticket has now been cancelled and the fine refunded following Mr Mustard's intervention which should not have been necessary.
Mr Mustard's friend Miss Feezance keeps an eye on Barnet's performance at the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (PATAS). It is to them you go when commonsense has not prevailed at Barnet although you need to appeal on technical grounds as the Adjudicators at PATAS do not have the right to exercise discretion, they simply apply parking law and they are all legally qualified.
Anyway, Mr Mustard noticed an entry yesterday on his friend's blog, here, ( a site worth bookmarking for when you get a parking ticket yourself ) about someone who is heavily disabled getting a parking ticket and Barnet Council and NSL continuing to process the ticket through the system without any thought for their fellow human beings.
This is from the Adjudicator's summary of why the appeal was allowed:

The appellant attended the hearing before me together with Mr D who was the driver of the vehicle on the date in question and Mr R as his representative.

Parking adjacent to a dropped footway is prohibited by virtue of Part 6 Section 86 of the Traffic Management Act 2004.

The relevant provision of the Traffic Management Act 2004 provides:

"In a special enforcement area a vehicle must not be parked on the carriageway adjacent to a footway, cycle track or verge where-

(a) the footway, cycle track or verge has been lowered to meet the level of the carriageway for the purpose of-

(i) assisting pedestrians crossing the carriageway,
(ii) assisting cyclists entering or leaving the carriageway, or
(iii) assisting vehicles entering or leaving the carriageway across the footway, cycle track or verge; or

(b) the carriageway has, for a purpose within paragraph (a)(i) to (iii), been raised to meet the level of the footway, cycle track or verge."

The appellant, Mr B has cerebral palsy and is severely disabled, he is confined to a heavy motorised wheelchair which he operates with his fingers. I accept that it was necessary for the vehicle to be parked close to a dropped kerb so that Mr B could exit the vehicle via the rear door of the vehicle using a ramp lowered from the vehicle to the ground.

It is clear to me that there is compelling mitigation in this case.

The Act does provide an exemption to allow loading/unloading under Section 86(5).

The exemption only applies where the loading/unloading cannot reasonably carried out in relation to those premises without the vehicle being parked adjacent to the dropped kerb and the vehicle was parked for no longer than necessary and for a period of no more than 20 minutes.

It is clear that without the use of the dropped kerb it would be very difficult and painful for Mr B to go from his vehicle onto the kerb to access the café. Therefore I am satisfied that the wheelchair with Mr B in the wheelchair could not reasonably be unloaded in relation to the café without the vehicle being parked adjacent to the dropped kerb.

Mr R states that he is aware that there is no requirement to sign the prohibition but he put to me the argument that the Authority had caused confusion and misunderstanding as to the prohibition of parking against a dropped kerb by marking it with a single yellow line as opposed to a double yellow line.

I accept that the Authority having marked a single yellow line against the dropped kerb is open to the criticism advanced by Mr R. If the Authority decides to place a road marking by a dropped kerb then it is under a duty to ensure the road marking is such that it gives the motorist adequate information as to any restriction or prohibition. I find the single yellow line by a dropped kerb to be confusing and misleading.

In addition Mr R put to me the fact that the encroachment against the dropped kerb was a minor encroachment. He produced measurements to show that the vehicle was only 49 inches across the dropped kerb. In my view this is not a minor encroachment and the appeal cannot succeed on this basis. (this argument might work if you were only a foot across a dropped kerb that is 12 feet wide - de minimis are the usual words used)
I note the Authority in the Notice of Rejection has referred incorrectly to the prohibition arising from the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003. In fact the prohibition stems from the Traffic Management Act 2004.

I allow the appeal as I find the single yellow line to be confusing and misleading and in any event this is a case where the unloading exemption applies.
Now this parking ticket was issued by Barnet Council before the contract was taken over from NSL. NSL however, must have become responsible for all of the part processed tickets as they took over the back office (that decision to sack them all and move the work out of Barnet  doesn't look like the best one to Mr Mustard) so what conclusions can we draw?
Barnet Council is insensitive and lacks commonsense.
NSL also touched this appeal and must have prepared the file for submission to PATAS. They are equally as heartless as Barnet Council.
NSL don't know parking law!
Why are these cases even reaching PATAS,  the third and final appeal stage?
The primary focus of the parking contract is to make money and not to sensibly and sensitively apply the rules to keep traffic flowing and the roads safe.
Issue all the tickets you like Barnet Council to people parked on double yellow lines on a junction as they are deserved but lay off people who need your help and the human touch.
Yours frugally
Mr Mustard

29 September 2012

Muck and Brass (brass is what Barnet Council want from this library)

Have you ever seen a library with such a huge variety of events on in it? The squatters, Friern Barnet community and volunteers are showing the council up. The council won't like that.

That last line could have been written for Cllr. Robert Rams "He needed to dream up a drastic new strategy..." as the current one isn't working. He has already dreamt up an imaginery landmark library at Tally Ho; why not dream up a new one in Friern Barnet, and actually build it?

End of post.

28 September 2012

Beyond a joke - double helping

Friday jokes are something of a tradition for the bloggers. It sounds like Richard Cornelius might be the laughing stock today if rumours are to be believed that he has not taken any action against Brian Coleman other than tell him of his displeasure. That isn't showing leadership Richard. In fact Mr Mustard can report that he has obtained a fly-on-the-wall photograph of Richard Cornelius discussing sanctions with Brian for, amongst other episodes, saying he won't apologise for besmirching the good name of Ron Cohen.

Apart from that London Councils are beyond a joke. Here was a car on Saturday morning in Chipping Barnet (Toyotas spell trouble!)

Feel free to tell Mr Mustard who the driver is
and here is the badge that was in the window.

The theory of this badge
Note the absence of an address on the little pad, just the house number is sufficient, which is meant to tell the traffic warden where the medical emergency is which the medical bod has been called out to. Now Mr Mustard knows everybody in his road and he has not heard of any medical emergency having occurred on Saturday morning and this would be the third emergency in a road of 40 houses in 2012 alone. Mr Mustard wonders if the emergency was actually here just across the road? (run out of tea bags or milk).

The next time Mr Mustard sees a London Councils supposed medical emergency car in the street he is going to hand around with his camera, or video camera & tripod and photograph or film the driver if they are carrying shopping bags. You have been warned! The Spires has a reasonably priced car park; use it if you are on personal business.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

27 September 2012

Have you had a poxy post pay-by-phone PCN?

parking tickets are like a rash in Barnet
Recently Mr Mustard made a new twitter acquaintance. This person had paid for their parking on the pay-by-phone system and then 2 minutes later, whilst about their business, they received a PCN (Penalty Charge Notice or parking ticket in old money).

This means that, officially, they have to start filling in on-line forms or writing letters in order to get the obviously incorrect ticket cancelled as in the case of parking tickets you are assumed to be guilty until proven innocent. By keeping the text that proved they had paid, using twitter and chasing @barnetcouncil the parking ticket did get cancelled but of course most people aren't going to do that, especially those who are not au fait with computers in general and twitter in particular (Mr Mustard didn't tweet until he started blogging).

There should be a local phone number you can ring, and an email address you can send to, for when the parking ticket is patently wrong and should be squashed with the minimum of fuss. It is understandable that appeals on substantive grounds have to be in writing (and those should also be possible by email which you currently cannot do) but not what amounts to the correction of errors perpetrated by the council (acting by their agents).

Mr Mustard has been looking into this area. The handheld equipment used by traffic wardens (to use their old name) is meant to update within 2 minutes according to one FOI answer he has had, and according to the equipment manufacturer, Motorola, it should be updated in less than a second. Mr Mustard has asked about one sample day to see how often the equipment does not work properly or there isn't a phone signal as that is what is relied upon. If he gets a sensible answer he will let you know.

Mr Mustard had a chat with a traffic warden. They said it would take 4 or 5 minutes (that means 5 then!) for a pay-by-phone payment to show up on his/her handset. If you have paid for 30 minutes that is quite a chunk of time when you are at risk.

To find out how widespread the problem is, Mr Mustard needs your help. If you paid for parking using the pay-by-phone system or paypoint and received a parking ticket after you had paid please send proof to him at mrmustard@zoho.com and tell him how easy it was to get the ticket cancelled.

If you have sent in an appeal and been rejected please send copies of both letters to Mr Mustard who can probably sweep away the administrative hurdles for you.

If you paid for parking, had proof, appealed, got rejected and then gave up and paid the parking ticket please tell mrmustard@zoho.com about that as well and he will do his best to get your money back for you.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

26 September 2012

Temporary overload

Mr Mustard took too many clothes for his 4 day trip in the Ardennes
Barnet Council is over-burdened with consultants, interims, town hall tax dodgers, agency staff (largely through Hays) and temporary staff of every description. Managing an organisation of 3,000 when a third of them are not part of permanent teams is a ridiculous way of going on. When you start a new job it takes weeks or months to find your way around, get to know who is who in the organisation, where everything is, what procedures are, even what the council does, never mind becoming part of a team that gells together.

Mr Mustard is not a football fan (although he has been to a Barnet FC game) but he thought he would compare Barnet Council as a team to whoever was top of the premiership when he started this posting which turned out to be Chelsea (Mr Mustard had no idea). Their squad of 25 has averaged 90 games apiece. Not got nine players on temporary loan have they? (if they have Mr Mustard wouldn't know).

Now let us look at Barnet Council squad numbers which Mr Mustard obtained under the FOI legislation and very useful it is too. As it happens the council now publish staff numbers in the quarterly performance reviews of each directorate.

Directorate Hays Casual Both Estab. %
Adult Social Care 70 10 80 318 25%
Children's Service 100 330 430 996 43%
Chief Executives Service 35 4 39 401 10%
Commercial Service 41 0 41 138 30%
Corporate Governance 19 2 21 81 26%
Deputy Chief Executive Service 38 8 46 210 22%
Environment Planning and Regeneration 162 85 247 869 28%
Totals 465 439 904 3,013 30%

That is an awful lot of temporary help. Some departments are almost exclusively run by temps. Blue badges is one of them where Mr Mustard is informed that there is only one permanent employee who isn't even full time and so one isn't too surprised when you hear of the delays in renewing a blue badge. It takes months for a new employee to become comfortable in a new role and for a team of workers to gel. Wheover designed this policy which is intended to minimise redundancy pay when the huge One Barnet changes occur has not factored into the equation the lower productivity that the average temp will have compared to an average employee, the extra cost of employing temps and the lack of team spirit which, although hard to measure, makes all the difference when a department is under pressure.

Contrast this with Chelsea FC

Squad member Position Nationality Played
1. Petr Cech Goalkeeper Czech 260
2. Branislav Ivanovic Defender Serbian 111
3. Ashley Cole Defender English 185
4. David Luiz Defender Brazilian 35
5. Michael Essien Midfielder Ghanaian 163
7. Ramires Midfielder Brazilian 62
8. Frank Lampard Midfielder English 378
9. Fernando Torres Forward Spanish 50
10. Juan Mata Forward Spanish 37
11. Emboaba Oscar Midfielder Brazilian 2
12. Mikel Midfielder Nigerian 164
15. Florent Malouda Midfielder French 149
16. Raul Meireles Midfielder Portuguese 31
17. Eden Hazard Midfielder Belgian 4
19. Paulo Ferreira Defender Portuguese 134
21. Marko Marin Midfielder German 0
22. Ross Turnbull Goalkeeper English 4
23. Daniel Sturridge Forward English 58
24. Gary Cahill Defender English 12
26. John Terry Defender English 374
28. Cesar Azpilicueta Defender Spanish 0
30. Yossi Benayoun Midfielder Israeli 8
34. Ryan Bertrand Defender English 11
35. Lucas Piazon Midfielder Brazilian 0
40. Henrique Hilario Goalkeeper Portuguese 20
Total matches played



Now stop and think. Chelsea are (or at least were) top of the league and have a fairly stable workforce (that is what players are)  and they score goals.

Barnet Council chop and change their team all of the time and couldn't hit a barn door most of the time.

Perhaps the Barnet Council high percentage of temporary help policy is the wrong one?

The other strange point is the use of 439 casuals who are on the Barnet Council payroll. The Hays contract becomes a contract with Comensura next month and so is coming to an end but when it was signed up for in February 2008 some of the justification was the following:

The contract will enable the council to achieve better control and value for money in the recruitment of temporary staff

The Hays Temp Desk arrangement, operating for 3 years has achieved savings of more than £2.5m. They complete all the recruitment, saving Barnet staff across all service areas, considerable time and enabling the Council to achieve temp staff rates 20-25% less than if we purchased on the open market.

Through the existence of a centralised agency temp desk, the Council can control and monitor its use of temporary workers and the agencies that supply temporary workers to London Borough of Barnet, thereby achieving better control of temporary staff costs and visibility to reduce expenditure and improve performance from suppliers.

They were words, just words, empty words, space filling words and then many parts of the council carried on with their own local open amrket arrangements with individuals and didn't maximise the savings or management information which would have come from fully using the contract.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

25 September 2012

Councillors do have hearts

An unusually positive heading from Mr Mustard you might think but only after he had learnt via twitter of a parking ticket being upheld in sad circumstances that made the parking ticket manifestly unjust. This made him really sad & very mad but has been tempered by some councillors' emails. We are meant to live in a civilised society. Parking tickets are not a sign of one.

If you do have to die, and we all will one day, then one of the most calm & comforting places in which to do it is the North London Hospice. Mr Mustard does his bit to support them and most of their income does come from donations. You could help, click here by giving time or money. Read the rest of this blog first before you decide.

You might need your hankie and a cup of tea is also recommended.

Mr Mustard tries to write short letters as everyone is busy but sometimes you just can't. There was so much wrong that he ended up on page 7. It was very wet on Sunday so Mr Mustard avoided the vegetable patch and got typing. He didn't stop for 4 hours and 5 mugs of tea.
Letter about a parking ticket sent to Barnet Council by Mr Mustard

For those of you who don't know Ms Pam Wharfe is the interim Director of Environment, Planning and Regeneration (paid £132,480 p.a.) which is the Directorate which contains the remnants of the parking department, 5 people, as enforcement and processing has been contracted out since 1 May to NSL.

The outcome of this email which was copied to every councillor was that within a few hours Mr Mustard had received emails from three councillors, one from each party as it happens, not that Mr Mustard cares, which showed that they do care and do know right from wrong.

Mr Mustard isn't going to tell you who wrote but the messages included:

To Ms Wharfe:
The facts make me despair. I have no doubt you will be contacting NSL to seek an explanation for this shambles. Please will you copy me in to your correspondence. If contact is made by phone will you confirm the date and time of the phone call? Please will you provide me with the response, if any, you get back from NSL.. I anticipate that at the very least the PCN will be cancelled.

I ask, in light of this email having been sent to me, that you revisit the position with regard to this PCN

to Mr Mustard:
I have just read the first letter – I am shocked – I hope the notice is cancelled.

Sod's law is that Ms Wharfe is not in today so my email has been passed by her PA to the Assistant Director of Highways, Declan Hoare (£86,823) to deal with. Let's see how long it takes.

Lessons to be learnt - One Barnet

The appointment of NSL as parking enforcement contractor was voted on by Cabinet Resources Committee on 14 December 2011. You can find the papers here. Basically without reading the multiple pages it was alleged that NSL were going to do a much better job than the in-house service and more cheaply to boot (look, no-one likes traffic wardens but if you have your own you can directly and swiftly influence what they do and you might just get them to use a more balanced and even-handed approach and inculcate some local knowledge and discretion) and yet the performance report for the first quarter for EPR (Environment, Planning & Regeneration) about which Mr Mustard will blog shortly shows that car park income is down from a budgeted £979,000 to an actual £376,000 (and the council blame the recession. Remind Mr Mustard when the recession started. Whenever it was, 2 or 3 years ago, it was well before the budget was set) and the special parking account is down from a revised budgeted £7,067,000 to £5,847,000 so is £1,220,000 behind budget. That is simply a disaster. This One Barnet nonsense scaled up from a £3m p.a. contract to £100m p.a. will be hideous leading to losses of possibly £36m p.a. instead of savings. Time for councillors to think very carefully.

So councillors, NSL, the outsourcer acts, and you take the flak. You can't out-source the risk can you?
You can't outsource the responsibility either?
You can't control what the outsourcer does.
The savings aren't yet coming through on a simple contract.
Will they come through on the really difficult ones like DRS & NSCSO?

Is One Barnet a panacea for all our ills? No, I thought now.

Grab the reins councillors and show us what you are made of. Maybe the time has come to start actually looking at the in-house option. You can control that and it may cost less than you think.

It may be the only way to stop Mr Mustard from exposing all of the failures that outsourcers make.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

#29 especially for basketball players

#30 - that 9ft or nearly 3m to you

#31 around the corner, an 8 hour bay in a 1 hour zone

#32 - obviously not a Barnet Council or NSL slogan

#33 - mind the pedestrians as you study carefully the change of zone signs

#34 - Do you see a parking bay?

#35 - Shouldn't there be a 60cm by 5cm white line here?

#36 - remember your lines!

#37 - a yellow line across a crossover - who would understand that? note faint white lines

#38 - nice Aprilia 1000cc V4 but no bay marking lines

#39 more confusion; is that a bay or not?

#40 - is that car in a bay?

#41 - the pole seems a bit short (left of brick wall)

#42 - a typical North Finchley sign - not legible

#43 - there is a parking bay here somewhere

22 September 2012

A Twist of the Wrist

Mr Mustard is a keen motorcyclist and has read the following book. It is more popular than he realised. How amusing that it should have been written by Keith Code, and not Code, of Conduct.
Twist Risk Basics
Mr Mustard will be on his motorcycle tomorrow in order to whizz (at 30mph max) to Cafe Buzz (free parking for motorcycles in pay & display bays whether the signs are blacked out or not). He will make sure he doesn't get in front of an erratically driven Toyota.

On Wednesday evening after Brian's grandstanding performance as Chairman of the Budget & Performance Overview & Scrutiny committee (some self scrutiny would now be in order) it is customary for the bloggers and friends and sometimes councillors of all 3 parties to retire to a well known local hostelry for a nice glass of Young's beer, a couple of large glasses of Sauvignon or a soft drink or shandy depending on the means of transport home. Mr Mustard usually gives a lift to anyone who needs one which is often another blogger or two. As he drove the blogger bus past the Town Hall the leader of the council Richard Cornelius was standing on the pavement chatting to other councillors and/or officers (Mr Mustard couldn't clock them all as he was driving) and so Mr Mustard gave Richard a cheery wave and Richard, being so polite, couldn't stop himself from waving back. He is such a sport that Mr Mustard is thinking of personally inviting him to the pub for a post-meeting libation and will stand him a drink (he hasn't told the other bloggers this but the pub is of course public so he is sure they will welcome a bit more company). The price of the drink is likely to be a thorough grilling by whoever is in the pub that night. Cameras will be kept in their bags and so there should not be any unseemly bar room brawls.

Mr Mustard likes to email Richard with advice or suggestions and he did it twice this week. So they don't feel left out every councillor gets their own copy except Brian Coleman for this one.

Dear Cllr. Cornelius

Oh dear. It seems, to all accounts, that a bad example has been set by Cllr Coleman (I have for once left him off the circulation list) and I doubt that this is the first time on which he has flouted the very parking regulations that he was responsible for until the Cabinet reshuffle.

I think the Council will look hypocritical if it continues to chase any unpaid parking tickets currently in issue for the same offence of a car parked in a loading bay and not in the process of loading.

Why don't you announce an amnesty for that offence? It can't be all that many tickets so would hardly affect the Special Parking Account (which isn't meant to be used for revenue raising in any event) and would generate some much needed good publicity for Barnet Council. You could tie the loading bay ticket cancellation offer to an undertaking from the motorist to not repeat the offence in the future thus achieving the laudable aim of improving compliance. It's a bit like those driver retraining days that are offered instead of penalty points, nudging citizens into better behaviour rather than beating them with a stick (in the form of a PCN).

Have a lovely weekend.

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

Richard often replies but not always. He hasn't had time to reply to this recent message yet and he is probably now engaged on an evening of damage limitation and struggling with what he should do. It's too late to go back Richard, the damage is done, look here it is:

Broken Barnet; Broken Wrist
Start looking to the future. May 2014 is just around the corner (just like that mysterious black van, apparently)

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

11 September parking ticket swoop on North Finchley

Were you in North Finchley on the morning of 11 September 2012?

Did you park in a parking bay where the signs were blacked out so that it was impossible for you to buy a parking ticket even if you wanted to?

Did you come back to find a parking ticket on your car.

Mr Mustard has protested to Barnet Council about this and basically they deny that parking signs were changed at the same time as a gang of 6 traffic wardens happened to show up and start dishing out tickets like confetti. Mr Mustard is sceptical of what he has been told as a local told him otherwise.

The CCTV will reveal all. Please contact Mr Mustard who will help you with your appeal free of charge. The council have a duty to be fair and he doesn't think they have been.

What we will do is invest £10 and ask for a copy of the cctv for the period from when you parked your car until you departed North Finchley.

Access to CCTV information Application Form
Mr Mustard looks forward to making your acquaintance.

Feel free to make any other cctv requests that you fancy. It is your £10. There is a list of camera locations here on the Barnet Council website.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

21 September 2012

Fight night in North Finchley

Mr Mustard likes Cafe Buzz. He greatly admires Helen Michael who has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of her fellow traders whose businesses have been badly damaged by the double policy assault of making it hard to pay (by removing parking meters) and increasing charges at a time of recession and increased internet competition, a policy spearheaded by the then Cabinet Member with "responsibility" for parking, one Brian Coleman.

Imagine how incensed traders were when they saw Brian Coleman's car in a loading bay and him at a nearby ATM. Not one to talk and not act Helen Michael grabbed her phone and started to film Brian's car. At this point pandemonium ensued, which you can read about here in the Evening Standard.

Would the Finchley Boxing Club have allowed such a mis-match between two fighters of different weights
Half of photo stolen from son of Mrs Angry?
No, they wouldn't have risked Brian in with such a tigress. If Mr Mustard was a betting man, which he isn't, same as Brian funnily enough, he would say Brian was twice her weight.

Grappling with a lady and bruising her arm is not gentlemanly behaviour.

Mr Mustard observed Brian at close quarters on Wednesday evening. In Committee Room 3, the public are only separated from the meeting table by about a metre. We have to look at the back of the heads of councillors on one side of the table but get a reasonable view of the other 3 sides. Mr Mustard has never spoken to Brian Coleman, although they have exchanged a few emails, including the lovely one from Brian that said:

"stop emailing me you idiot"

which looks rather pot and kettle now.

Mr Mustard noted down, more or less, some of the things that Brian said (Mr Mustard writes in a frenzy of purple ink on a yellow pad - Paperchase pads are top notch).

At the end of public question time which Brian raced through like a greyhound, albeit the fattest greyhound you could imagine, and which the public who asked the questions found wholly unsatisfactory, see Mr Reasonable's blog, he finished by saying "Thank you for the exciting questions" which he quite possibly didn't mean. Mr Mustard thinks that the Police will have expected proper answers to their questions and won't stop asking until they get answers. No convenient 30 minute time limit for those questions.

Brian said "I don't mind how people live their lives as long as they don't break the law" which are words he may have to eat at some future date.

On Brian's turgid King of Bling blog, no don't look, it will only encourage him, there was a posting "Get a life" about the "amateur and often obsessive blogger”. In this piece Brian made some amazing claims, including:-

"my 88 year old Mother was attacked in the street" oh dear, Helen Michael is not a blogger but Brian obviously doesn't approve of attacking ladies in the street and yet he has been arrested on suspicion of assault (and we know that was of a lady, whether 88 or not is irrelevant and Mr Mustard has never seen his mother in person, only on film at the GLA election count).

Here is a tweet from today which is apposite to the whole situation.

When it comes to making your mark on the world, do you want to leave scars, or do you want to leave smiles?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard