30 November 2012

Golders Manor Drive - can you help?

Golders Manor Drive, London NW11 (Stacey Harris) / CC BY-SA 2.0
Someone needs your help. They got a parking ticket and the appeal was heard at PATAS this week. Here are the notes:

Mr M. Jnr. attended in person at the hearing of his appeal before me. He was accompanied by his father, Mr M Snr.. Mr M Jnr. accepted that the Penalty Charge Notice in this case was issued because his vehicle was parked in a bay bearing a sign indicating that the bay was reserved to permit holders only from Monday to Friday between 11 am and Midday. However, he appealed on the grounds that the sign was not in place when he parked. Indeed, he was adamant that the sign had been erected that very morning.

In correspondence with the local authority, the appellant asked the authority when the sign was erected. There has been a deafening silence from the authority on this point. The authority concedes that there was no sign to indicate the restriction in previous months, but maintains that there was a sign at the time of the contravention.

That however, is not the point. Of course the appellant accepts that the sign was in place when the PCN was issued; he argues that it was not in place when he parked. Indeed, he goes further, and suggests that the sign was only erected that morning.

As the authority has failed to inform me when the sign was erected (a matter which it cannot be difficult to ascertain) I must accept the appellant's account that it was only erected that morning. On the evidence that is before me, I accept that the appellant parked in an unmarked bay and accordingly I will allow the appeal.

The appellant indicated that he will be asking for costs. This must be done in writing and I have asked him to prepare a schedule of costs. The authority will then be given an opportunity to respond. If it is the case that the sign was indeed erected that morning, an application for costs will be hard to resist.

If any reader happened to see a sign being erected in Golders Manor Drive on 30 May 2012 do let Mr Mustard know and he will try and find the motorist and/or provide the information directly to PATAS quoting case no. 2120557324.

It is rather depressing that a local authority seeks to stoop so low in order to catch unwitting motorists who have tried to follow the rules. All the council does is put futher members of society against them. 

This is redolent of their behaviour in north finchley when they did a swoop with several wardens at the same time as changing the signs. You can see for yourself that PATAS do not like this sort of udnerhand behaviour and will give costs to motorists who have been stung.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

The Friday Joke - Robert Rams

As some of the text is not all that clear you might find the following text to be helpful:

Former Leader Councillor Brian Salinger tried to obtain details of the visits
“When the visits carried out who went on them and what did they learn from them? None of that is contained in here, six pages is desk top research. What members here are looking for are, what have you learnt from meeting up with councils face to face?
To Councillor Rams he asked “Which of these have you visited?
Councillor Rams replied
I haven’t visited any of the sites, just by not visiting does not mean you are not learning from your officers and desktop research”
Chair of Business Management Overview & Scrutiny Committee Councillor Hugh Rayner intervened and said:
“In fairness councillor Rams all we have here is a list of visits it doesn’t say whether they were for one hour, one day, one week, it doesn’t say when they were there, it doesn’t say what benefit we got from them, it doesn’t say who went, how detailed whether it was one person or a team, it’s so sketchy its absolutely useless I’m afraid”
He followed again by saying:
“I think the most important thing is to know what you learnt from each of them, for instance if you went on a visit and you found contracting out wasn’t a good idea maybe that should be noted, that they considered it was not a good idea and but here we don’t know.”

This reminds Mr Mustard of friends and colleagues who have been away on honeymoon. You find yourself asking if they have had a nice time, as if anything else could have been the result of a week or a fortnight of amour, and they say "very nice thank you".

And then Mr Mustard found himself thinking about Robert Rams and his recent nuptials ( yes, a hideous thought but there you go) and asking him, "how was the honeymoon Robert?" and this is of course a very important partneship along the lines of One Barnet but with less money involved and with less complications if things go wrong and Robert replying, "well all right you know but I relied on an officer for the hard parts!" (That was the Friday joke in case you missed it).

Mr Mustard apologises for any terrible images that are currently scurrying around your brain.

Please look at this calming image for a while until you are back to normal.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

29 November 2012

The reading age of the Cabinet?

The Reading Room
Mr Mustard thinks that a contract of 8,000 pages (+ appendices) which plays with the lives of 500 people should be read by every cabinet member before they vote at their meeting of 6 December. Accordingly he wrote to every Cabinet member, and sent a copy to all councillors, as follows:

Dear Cabinet Members & Mayor

I don't sign anything without reading it first.

It is the Mayor of Barnet's signature* which will actually put in place the NSCSO contract. I do hope that he is going to read it all first and I also hope that you Cabinet members will all do your duty diligently and read the entire thing so that you will be in a position to make an informed decision on my behalf as a council tax payer who will have to pay for any bad judgment that you make.

I need to know if you do or don't read all 8000 pages.

Please let me know how many pages you have read so far (you can express this as 3 lever arch files out of 20 if that is appropriate ).

Please tell me how many you intend to read before 6 December.

I will email you again on 6 December for a final count.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

* (Note: The Mayor is excused as Mr Mustard now learns that his office goes on the Contract but he doesn't physically sign any longer as it detracts too much from the time needed to plant trees and cut ribbons and he/she really didn't have time to read everything properly in the past.)

Now this was only on Tuesday at 1.30pm and all Cabinet members should currently be locked away on level 7 of Barnet House (where Mr Mustard thinks the only copy of the contract is safely gathering dust untouched by human hand) being made to read the entire document and ask searching questions. Maybe they have been too busy reading to answer Mr Mustard and so to give them a little chivvy up Mr Mustard has decided to post a table of pages read by each Cabinet member and update it as extra information is received.

Here we are now with the officers' decision recommendation having been made on Thursday 22nd and the Cabinet meeting fast approaching on 6 December. How many do we know for certain of the 8,000 pages have been read?


Cabinet member Pages read
Richard Cornelius none at all
Andrew Harper none at all
Dean Cohen none at all
Robert Rams none at all
Helena Hart none at all
Tom Davey none at all
Daniel Thomas none at all
Sachin Rajput none at all
David Longstaff none at all
Joanna Tambourides none at all

Not looking good for an informed decision so far is it?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 November 2012

The NSL One Barnet parking contract doesn't work

Deep Purple
Last Friday there was a very interesting case in front of the independent Adjudicator at PATAS. Here is what the adjudicator had to say.

The authority's case is that the Appellant's vehicle was parked with one or more wheels on or over a footpath or any part of a road other than a carriageway when in Prospect Place on 17 May 2012 at 21.56

The Appellant denies the contravention.

I have considered the evidence in this case and whilst photographic evidence is not a mandatory requirement, it is rare for it not to be produced. In this case its absence makes it difficult to resolve the principal dispute in this case.

Further, the map site report appears unrealistic for a parking allegedly on the kerb - the Civil Enforcement Officer has not it appears even drawn a diagram.

Furthermore, a disproportionate amount of time is having to be spent on Barnet cases due to the presentation of its evidence; the purple cards (at least 12) have to be greatly magnified before they can be deciphered.

Finally, considering all the evidence I find that the Appellant's case to be stronger than that of the authority, I am not satisfied that the authority has proved that the Appellant's wheels were on the footway.

The appeal is allowed.

The parking enforcement contract with NSL started on 1 May 2012. Here we are on 23 November 2012 and NSL still have not got their act together. If they can't sort themselves out on a simple contract like parking, a sausage machine operation, then how the heck are Capita going to manage on NSCSO where they have lots of different roles to play.

Are Capita fantastic? Not in Southampton. See this.

It is clear that whilst out-sourcing might cure some problems, you simply get another set in exchange for them. It is not a panacea for all ills. A bit like modern medicines, there are "side effects", which really should be called faults.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


27 November 2012

Bad news by powerpoint

Now that Mr Mustard is an honorary member of Revs & Bens he gets the briefings that are given to staff. They do not console him one iota. All he wants to know is does he have a job in Barnet or is he to be exiled to Blackburn with Darwen which is the major uncertainty under which he will have to live for months and then be made redundant. His work will suffer as will his health.  Staff Bidder Briefing - Customer Services and Revs and Bens - 221112

Why does the council continue to reply on a graph that has been discredited in order to justify its actions. Is that the best justification there is? a fictional graph full of unsupported assumptions which Mr Reasonable has shown to be a nonsense. 

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Is every Barnet Council parking ticket invalid?

It would appear so. Christmas has come early.

Update September 14 - in a recent PATAS decision of a panel of three adjudicators the wording has now been found to be OK although as ever that decision is not binding on other adjudicators although Mr Mustard expects that other adjudicators will largely follow it. The decision may well be subject to a review and after that go to the High Court. The question is not yet settled.

Mr Mustard was alerted to a recent case at PATAS in which the independent Adjudicator had no hesitation in declaring the PCN / Penalty Charge Notice / parking ticket non-compliant with the relevant Regulations and thus not enforceable i.e. Barnet Council have to cancel it, they simply have no choice. If the council, acting by themselves or via their agent NSL Ltd, do not concede that the wrongly worded PCNs are indeed not compliant then they run the risk of a large number of appeals to PATAS which cost the motorist nothing save a little time and cost the council £46 each time and many man hours. Recent history is that NSL cannot cope with the need to prepare appeal files for PATAS, that many do not get filed, and that the PCN are then cancelled. 

So if you have a parking ticket which, just has below the times during which your vehicle was observed, the words in blue, then you are home and dry for a cancellation.
Pcn Correct and Incorrect Wordings

Now Mr Mustard will save you some time. He has drafted a standard appeal letter which you can download, print out and send off to Worthing. It would be sensible to send this by the "Signed for" service (the former Recorded Delivery) so that no-one can deny that you sent in an appeal (as if a council or its agent would cheat or lie!). 

You can use this letter if you have only just received the parking ticket as well as if you have received the Notice to Owner.

Pcn Appeal Letter 1g 1h Wording
Please do let Mr Mustard know if you Appeal is not accepted and he may well step in to assist as he is becoming well known in the thin client parking section and when Mr Mustard writes what the staff know to be the truth they simply cancel the parking ticket.

There are two questions which come to mind.

1. Having fallen foul of a date error in 2006 which was not in accordance with the then applicable Road Traffic Act 1991, in the infamous Moses case, how have Barnet Council managed to fail to comply with the legislation once again?

2. Given that the parking enforcement contract was awarded to NSL Ltd partly because of their supposed expertise in this area, why have they not noticed the incorrect wording and suggested it be corrected?

So much for One Barnet outsourcing being the end to Barnet Council's problems.

If Mr Mustard has already advised you on an appeal using different grounds, please also send one of these forms in to make sure that your parking ticket does get cancelled.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

26 November 2012

Feel the love from Mr Mustard !

Love Story

Mr Mustard's new life in Blackburn

Blackburn Town Hall (2008)
Please be so good, dear reader, as to imagine that Mr Mustard works in Revenues and Benefits for Barnet Council, which given his skill set, he could do (senior officers are now in paroxysms of fear) and that if he wants to keep his job, and he needs the money, he has to move to Blackburn where he knows precisely two people and no-one else.

How will Mr Mustard's life change?

Just looking at this week alone Mr Mustard has a language lesson. He has had the same professor of French teaching him for 19 years, who is an expert in how people learn, and she would be very sad to lose one of her oldest and best pupils. Mr Mustard would also be sad.

Mr Mustard has 2 snooker league matches, one for the team which he has been a member of for more than a decade, possibly two, where the members of the team look out for each other and are obviously good friends. So that is 7 friends who it won't be possible to see very often, probably only once a year. The snooker league will need a new treasurer, for Mr Mustard has been filling that position for the last decade, and that will disrupt the smooth running of the league.

Mr Mustard likes French films. He sees these at the Phoenix, the Renoir, The Screen on the Hill, he plans to go to the Everyman very soon and there are other arthouse type cinemas that he has frequented in the past. Film choice in Blackburn will be much reduced to mainstream films.

Mrs Mustard isn't amused. She has a good job as a PA in Docklands. She would probably be able to transfer to a branch of the bank but it will be much less interesting work than in the risk management department and will pay about 50% of what she currently gets. She will have to be prised away from her friends at the bank who like to have an occasional girls' night out and will be 200 miles away from her sister and mnother who she sees every week.

Mr Mustard's motorbike club will be a member short. Sure he can join another one but having just spent an evening in the company of bikers he has known for years it will be a wrench to have to leave them behind.

Mr Mustard has 2 motorbikes. His friend and neighbour also has 2. So that is 4 bikes that they can use flexibly. It isn't everyone you trust with your high powered bikes. That arrangement will take years to establish with someone else if it ever is.

The street will miss the "blogger bus". The spare keys are available to any neighbour (vehicle insured for any driver over 25) to use the van for runs to University (3 different ones in October), to the dump, to move a piano (as it did last Saturday) and so on. In exchange Mr Mustard has access to a selection of cars to borrow. The camaraderie of the street took years to develop and may never be replicated anywhere else.

Mr Mustard is going to the BFI this week (The Man in the White Suit if you were wondering) Is there a branch of the BFI anywhere near Blackburn? Probably not.

Mr Mustard is also a member of an exclusive small dining film club in which each member serves dinner and then a film is screened (no TV at Mr Mustard's but a projector and screen). That will stop. How long will it take him to find new friends in Blackburn with the same interests?

The men of the street try to get to the pub once a month. Mr Mustard will be denied the pleasure of a visit to the newly developed Black Horse and takings at the Nelson will be down and the quiz team will be one member short. Of course there are pubs and quizzes in Blackburn but Mr Mustard likes the company and the beer in the ones he already goes to. Mr Mustard was in a cafe 5 miles away last week when a lady said "I know you, don't I" and she turned out to be a regular in one of the other teams. Barnet is such a small world sometimes.

Mr Mustard has spent 3 years getting the allotment he shares with 2 friends into shape. Here is the tree that had to cleared off the old one along with 2m high wall to wall brambles.

It took years to get this plot. They tend to be in short supply everywhere. Will he get another plot inside 5 years in Blackburn? Will it be in a right state and take 2 years to sort out? Maybe a kind reader in Blackburn could enlighten him.

Mr Mustard doesn't have children but he is familiar with the school run as he has done it, and is listed on the appropriate forms, for collecting friends' children from the school if the parents can't or if they have to come home in the middle of the day. That is 3 families who will need to find another helper. Mr Mustard's avatar was drawn by Fred aged 8 for whom Mr Mustard is occasionally the child-sitter. Young Fred is marvellous and corrects his mother when she arranges a baby-sitter pointing out that he isn't a baby anymore.

Mr Mustard takes motorcyling holidays in France. Moving to Blackburn will add 200 miles and 4 hours each way onto the journey and mean that the 4 day trips he currently goes on for short breaks will probably have to be 5 to make them worthwhile.

If he moved to Blackburn he would be one of only a handful of people who stick with Capita and he would be paid £25,000 a year and new staff will get £16,000. Will that make him popular with the new staff when the information inevitably leaks?
There are many other aspects to Mr Mustard's life that would also have to change and hundreds of other people and businesses would be adversely affected. He would need a new doctor, a new dentist (hard to find on the NHS at present) a new home etc etc. What a palaver.

Think about this Cabinet councillors. You are just thinking of the grubby financial aspects of the contract and not at all of people's lives, feelings, finances. Staff are not a commodity to be bought and sold. Many of them will have worked for 5, 10 or 20 years for the council. Has their loyalty been mis-placed?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

23 November 2012

The Friday Joke - Redundant - we have a screensaver for that!

Communicating with staff by email is a really blunt way of doing so. Much better to talk to everyone in small groups.
From: First Team
Sent: 23 November 2012 17:11
To: AllStaff
Subject: Weekly message from the Deputy Chief Executive

This week has obviously been dominated by the news of Capita being named as the officer recommendation for the NSCSO contract.

The announcement of the details and of the business case has surprised people in two ways. Externally observers seem taken aback by the scale of the savings the council will receive - £125 million over the lifetime of the contract with an extra £8 million investment in the service as the contract starts.

Internally staff affected have undoubtedly been surprised by the rapid scale and pace of transformation.

The two are obviously connected.

197 posts could leave the borough for other towns in England and Northern Ireland by December 2013. For people with a partner working in London and children in London schools, the thought of upping sticks and moving to the north of England is probably unappealing. But it is important for those of you affected that you shouldn't immediately think the only alternative is redundancy.

Capita, if they are confirmed as our partners, are a large organisation with 50,000 staff and they will be committed to finding alternative roles within the company for NSCSO staff wherever possible.

In the meantime, screensavers and posters advertise the range of support available for anyone who would like to take it up, both in relation to NSCSO and budget savings.

Andrew (Black Hole Travers)

Please define "unappealing" in the comment box below.

The council treat employees as a commodity and don't give a tinker's cuss for their lives and feelings. They disgust Mr Mustard.

This Friday joke isn't, of course, at all funny.

Update 11:47

An open apology to Mr Travers

Apostrophes cause so much trouble. In this case the message, sent to me by several sources unfortunately came in an incorrect version first and a correct version later. When changing from one email format to another the apostrophe often turns into a comma and my informant tidied up the email and accidentally deleted the end of the word "shouldn't". I am sorry that an incorrect version was published (see Brian, look how quick and easy an email can be!).

Yours contritely

Mr Mustard

Another satisfied customer

Holy cow!
Mr Mustard likes to help people with their parking ticket problems. It is very satisfying when an obvious injustice can be rectified.

He was a bit late to the party in respect of a man who we shall call Mr Monday as he received a parking ticket on bank holiday Monday, on a single yellow line in Whetstone where he simply wasn't doing any harm; no-one was trying to drive northwards past B&Q that day. Such traffic as there was flowed well. The case had already been through all 3 stages, informal, formal and PATAS, when Mr Monday's mini twitter storm was brought to Mr Mustard's attention.

Mr Mustard likes nothing better than some tedious detail and he got to work. He found a procedural error in the paperwork (he has found another one since but that devastating blog will have to wait) and then he wrote to the Parking Manager at Barnet Council. What Mr Mustard expected a council to do once a procedural error was pointed out was to accept that they were in the wrong, were not legally or morally justfied in keeping the penalty charge, and for them to make a refund. That was what he expected. Did it happen? Let's see.

Dear Parking Manager

I am sure you will be pleased to know that this is, for a change, going to be a short email. I am now assisting Mr Monday with his parking ticket (PCN).

PATAS rejected his appeal which was on the grounds that a Bank Holiday Monday is a normal Monday for parking purposes.

His appeal against the PATAS ruling will be that Barnet Council have operated in a manifestly unfair manner by relying on a Notice to Owner that is not compliant with Reg 19(2)d and which they knew, from previous PATAS cases, was not compliant with the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007 and thus the council have committed a procedural impropriety and so the PCN must be cancelled.

As the deadline for challenging the PATAS decision is this week I would be grateful if you could please confirm by close of business on Monday 8 October 12 that you will cancel the PCN and send Mr Monday a refund.

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

A reply came a couple of days later.

Dear Mr Monday

Apologies for my lateness in replying.

I have noted the decision at Patas and also your permission to correspond with Mr Mustard.

It is also noted that you have now paid.

As I have said the case has already gone through a statutory process, and the established process does allow for you to appeal against the Patas ruling.

The council should not be seen to obstruct the wishes of the appellant who has a legal right to appeal against the Patas ruling and this decision is yours.


Parking Manager

It is quite interesting to note that the council think it perfectly OK to treat your payment, even if made because of  their procedural improrpriety, as now belonging to the council. The moral attitude of the council is a poor one.

Mr Monday was not put off. Mr Mustard drafted a letter for him to send to PATAS and away it went within the 14 days that are allowed for an appeal against a PATAS decision. This is what it said.

I request the Adjudicator to review his decision on the grounds that the interests of justice require such a review. After the decision was made on 27 September I discovered that the Enforcement Authority have committed a procedural impropriety in that The Notice to Owner does not meet the requirements of Reg 19(2)d Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007 in that the date on which the Penalty Charge Notice was served does not appear in the Notice to Owner. You will not be surprised to know that I had never heard of these regulations until I was told about them very recently.

I am also told that the following three Barnet Council cases have been decided (since my PCN was issued) on the above grounds and the PCNs have been cancelled.

2110587624 on 4 May 2012
2120124393 on 25 July 2012
2120257681 on 9 July 2012

I am disappointed in the behaviour of the local authority in continuing to chase me for money when they knew, from your decisions, that they had been acting improperly.

Yours faithfully

Mr Monday

The case was accepted for a review and went back into the lists for another paper hearing. Doubtless the council are asked if they have anything extra to say. If they did, the content is not known. Here is their decision.

This case comes before me as a review.

Having considered all the evidence I am satisfied that it is in the interests of justice for me to perform this review.

The appellant now puts forward legal argument concerning a procedural impropriety relating to the Notice to Owner. This was not pursued before the original Adjudicator but it is unanswerable. I therefore conclude that it is in the interests of justice to deal with it now.

On the basis of the evidence before me it is clear that the Notice to Owner was defective and unenforceable as it did not comply with the mandatory requirement of Regulation 19(2)(d)) of the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007 (the General Regulations). 

This provides as follows:
(2) A notice to owner served under paragraph (1) must, in addition to the matters required to be included in it under regulation 3(3) of the Representations and Appeals Regulations, state (d) the date on which the penalty charge notice was served. It is clear that the Notice to Owner in this case, whilst it specifies the date of the alleged contravention, does not expressly state the date on which the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) was served.

By reference to the precedent cases of PATAS 2120257681 & 2120124393, this constitutes a procedural impropriety and I must therefore allow the review and consequently this appeal.

the original response, wording as above

Look at the wording that the adjudicator has used. He has simply smashed the council's case to pieces. The parking manager must have known this was going to happen and yet he was so desperate to hang on to Mr Monday's £110 that he refused to issue a refund. If the parking manager didn't know this was going to happen then he shouldn't be the parking manager. He is only a temp. The sooner we get our own permanent manager the better.

Mr Monday was pleased. Here is the email he sent to Mr Mustard when he found out the good news.

Holy cow you did it!

Mr Mustard, that is very impressive indeed

How you gathered all that knowledge in your spare time is beyond me.

Not only is it impressive but it's for an enormously important and socially beneficial cause; helping uninformed and exploited individuals fight back the increasingly aggressive (corrupt dare I say) establishment that is the local council.

Highly commendable and I can't thank you enough.


Mr Monday 

Incidentally, if your Notice to Owner is wrong in the same way, and most of them are, you can also get your parking ticket cancelled.

Parking is a One Barnet contract. The outsourcing providers are meant to be experts in their field and better than Barnet Council for less money. Well NSL clearly aren't as otherwise they would not have sent out a Notice to Owner that was patently defective. 

Outsourcing is not the solution.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

22 November 2012

The contractor is not your flexible friend

BT, Capita or EC Harris will not do this for you
We keep hearing, especially from Cllr Richard Cornelius, about how flexible the big NSCSO and DRS One Barnet contracts will be and will be able to bend to take into account all of the changes that might occur over the next 10 years. You are deluding us Richard (well trying to anyway). Given that the contracts involve £100m p.a. of services Mr Mustard expects that something will be forgotten and they won't even cover what they are meant to from the off.

We have an opportunity to study the parking enforcement contract, an early One Barnet contract, as an example of supposedly in-built flexibility. Mr Mustard obtained 90% of that contract under Freedom of Information legislation. He has a copy of schedule 5, Change Control Procedures. Now Mr Mustard can't bring you the actual wording as it is from the British Parking Association and they claim copyright over it, having had it drawn up by expensive lawyers and now they flog it to every council that they can in order to make some funds. Mr Mustard can tell you what the clauses are that it contains, they are pretty standard boring legal stuff and easily fit on 2 pages of A4.

Firstly some principles are set out.

Either party (Barnet Council or NSL) can request a change and propose a Contract amendment.

Neither party can refuse to budge if the proposed change is a reasonable one (lawyers already rubbing their hands together at the thought of what constitutes unreasonably withholding consent).

Nothing changes until an agreed Note of the changes is signed by both parties.

NSL don't get paid for any changes that are not supported by a Note.

Then there has to be a procedure (well we are talking about a council).

There have to be discussions which end up with nothing at all changing, the council making a written request for a change or NSL recommending a change.

The council's written request has to be the subject of a signed Note from NSL  within 7 days. This contains the extra price or the price reduction (Mr Mustard thinks of this Note as the "we've got you over a barrel" form, because there is nowhere else the council can go to for the change and monopoly power = name your own price).

The Note also sets out the what, the where, the why and the when.

If it was NSL who recommended a change then the Council get to ask for more information and either accept or reject the proposed change.

Then finally there is some legal wording about who is entitled to sign and that the Notes amount to contract variations.

That is it. There is no amazing radical flexible solution built into the One Barnet Contracts.

This is where we are. Over a barrel.

Mr Mustard is completely unconvinced that entering into 10 year contracts on a wing and a prayer is a good idea.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

21 November 2012

One Barnet - Sparse scrutiny - a joint letter

The blind leading the blind

Dear Councillor,

We are about to hear which company has been awarded one of the two massive contracts that constitute the £1 Billion One Barnet privatisation scheme.

Barely a week after the recommended bid is announced, Cabinet will vote on the proposals, and this borough will surrender control of a huge number of its services to an unaccountable private sector provider, for a minimum period of ten years.

Leader Richard Cornelius has written to a resident of Barnet stating he feels that a week allows sufficient time for the scrutiny by councillors of a contract of this size and significance, one that has taken four years in creation, by a process which has itself cost millions of pounds of taxpayers' money in fees to consultants.

We suggest to you that a week is self evidently a completely inadequate length of time for councillors to inform themselves of the details and full significance of what is clearly a hugely complex undertaking, and one with enormous implications for the future of all residents.

One Barnet is the most ambitious privatisation exercise that has ever been attempted by any local authority.

Despite the unprecedented scale of this project, NO independent assessment has been made of the enormous risks such an enterprise must inevitably present.

Equally astonishing is the fact that the internal assessment, the One Barnet Risk Register, has never been presented to the council's own Audit Committee.

Not only does this represent the most irresponsible disregard for the security of local residents' investment in One Barnet, it quite clearly makes the authority liable to legal challenge on the basis of failing properly to consult with members and residents, as required by the demands of the democratic process.

We ask all councillors to consider the very real concerns we raise: resist the demand to rubber stamp a decision from which, effectively, you have been excluded by the leadership and senior management team of this authority. Ask yourselves why you have been excluded from the process of scrutiny.

And then please have the courage do the job you were elected to do: to protect the best interests of the residents and tax payers of the London Borough of Barnet, and act immediately to call for a suspension of this reckless programme.

Yours sincerely

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

(the famous five Barnet Bloggers)

The parking cash cow and the future of the High Street

Mr Mustard has this morning emailed Cllr Dean Cohen who inherited the parking problem as part of his portfolio when he took over from Brian Coleman. He has been passed a poisoned chalice and is new to Cabinet and Mr Mustard looks forward to receiving a considered response.

21 November 2012

Dear Cllr Cohen

High dependency on parking income

You have responsibility for parking. The council have become reliant upon parking income during the last decade partly in order to artificially keep council tax down. It is probably not feasible to expect you to be able to stop this dependency overnight but a withdrawal from this nasty habit is required over the next 2 or 3 years.

A push in this direction is also coming from central government.

No compulsion to make a surplus

I attach a copy of the Road Traffic Regulation Act which sets out, inter alia, the uses on which any surplus from parking should be spent. The key point for me is however in paragraph 55(2). There is absolutely no requirement for the council to make a surplus out of parking (although having a buffer to carry forward of £1m might be sensible) but aiming for breakeven (the basis on which the Chipping Barnet CPZ was sold to us some 20+ years ago) or a modest surplus would be prudent.

Let us look at what you have inherited. See pages 37-39 of the Budget Book 2012-13.

Hindering the High Street

The intention is to make a surplus £6,895,970 in this financial year. The Cabinet met on 7 November to discuss a Growth Strategy for Barnet of which Chapter 1 was "Investing in regeneration and supporting business and enterprise". which doesn't seem to contain anything about reducing car parking charges to make the High Street a more attractive place to visit. It is one of the vital factors that must be taken into account. If parking charges, and the risk of getting one of 160,000 parking tickets issued every year, are not reduced you will never succeed in regenerating the High Street. The council controls one of the major factors that affects the viability of a High Street and as leaders you should be setting an example for others to follow - you are, but it is a bad one, taxing the High Street out of existence.

Parking tax of 4.2%

Page 37 shows that of the planned spending of £288m on services some £7m will come from The Special Parking Account ("SPA") of which more than half is the result of penalty charge notices. Moving on to page 38 the council tax requirement for the borough is £159m. If it were not for the excessive SPA surplus you would need to collect £166m so council tax is being subsidised by 4.2% by motorists instead of being paid by council tax payers generally. My own CPZ permit was increased in price from £40 to £100 p.a. last year which is an outrage and the elderly are put off from having visitors by the increase in the cost of all day visitor vouchers from £1 to £4.

Headed in the wrong direction

The projection for the next 2 years is headed in the wrong direction with an increase in the SPA of almost £500,000 in 2013/14. This will have to be reversed out and some scope for reduction found. If the cabinet hadn't decided upon another dubious council tax freeze then you would have had some room to move away from taxing a sub-set of society (High Streets, CPZ residents and the motorist in general) and could have more fairly spread the cost of providing services across the people who are meant to pay for them, council tax payers as a whole.

Not a revenue raiser

The point of parking tickets is not to raise revenue as the council are doing but to try and educate motorists to park fairly and with consideration for others and to ration space where it is in short supply. Sadly there will always be people who take a chance and keep on receiving tickets for blocking dropped kerbs, on double yellows or parked on the pavement (those offences are worthy of a penalty charge ) but penalising people for being 2 minutes over the time paid for (true), for dropping goods off at charity shops (yes, this happened), whilst mending a puncture (yes, this has happened ), whilst a child is choking on crisps on the back seat (unbelievably true), whilst a temporarily homeless person is living in their car (the council should be ashamed), these types of parking ticket just get the council a bad name and make them look like they have put the need for income above all else.

Radical thought and action required

This is a subject I have blogged about.

It might seem radical, and I would urge you to think much more radically than you have done so far (you are new to Cabinet so do need time to find your feet but the High Street doesn't have a lot of time so you do need to get your skates on please), but free parking throughout the High Street of different time periods would mean that shoppers could park, shop owners could not park outside their own shops all day, there would be a good turnover of visitors, and meters would not need to be purchased. The council could still issue parking tickets to regular, and the worst over-staying, offenders.

Will you, Dean Cohen, help to save the High Street?

Do please start planning for 2013/14 and let me know what positive steps you are going to take. Please be bold. Don't make the mistake of thinking that I will be fobbed off with what is in effect a single 2 hour free parking concession on one Saturday before Xmas. 

That is feeble.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

16 November 2012

Sat 17 Nov at 4pm - Friern Barnet library extra meeting

Extraordinary meeting

A guest blog on behalf of the Friern Barnet Community Library. Email them on this link.

We are calling an extraordinary meeting to discuss extraordinary events tomorrow Saturday, 17th November 2012 at 4pm in the library.

Barnet Council are meeting about the decision to market Friern Barnet Library - Cabinet Resources Committee on 17th Dec which is the day before court case. Members of the public are BARRED – see this link:

If you can’t attend the meeting then either attend the ward surgeries or phone or email councillors to object to any decisions being made before the court hearing. If you phone, make sure it is at a reasonable hour and that you are polite.

If you live in East Barnet Ward you can attend the surgery tomorrow of Cllr. Rams.

If you want to lobby outside the meeting at 11.30am - then let us know.

If you live in Totteridge Ward you can attend the surgery of Cllr. Cornelius.

The emails and tel nos from the council website:

cllr.r.rams@barnet.gov.uk - Phone: 020 8446 7291

Surgery Details 10.30am -

12.00 noon on 1st Saturday of each month at New Barnet Community Centre, 48-50 Victoria Road, New Barnet EN4 9PF.

10.30am - 12.00 noon on 3rd Saturday of each month at East Barnet Library, 85 Brookhill Road, East Barnet EN4 8SG. (Next meeting TOMORROW 17th Nov)

cllr.d.thomas@barnet.gov.uk Bus. phone: 07944 038 591

Surgery : First Wednesday of each month, 7.00-8.00pm. Avenue House, East End Road, Finchley N3.

cllr.r.cornelius@barnet.gov.uk Bus. phone: 020 8359 2059

Surgery : Third Saturday of the month 10.30am-12noon. Barnet House, 1255 High Road, N20. (Next meeting TOMORROW 17th Nov)

1st Thursday of each month 6pm-7.30pm.
Alternating between:
Edgware Library, Station Road, Edgware HA8 and
Mill Hill Library, Hartley Avenue, Mill Hill NW7.
Call 020 8958 3364 to confirm location of next surgery.

No Surgery details listed

cllr.s.rajput@barnet.gov.uk Phone: 020 8449 3610

Surgery Details - Third Saturday of the month 10.30am-12noon.
Barnet House, 1255 High Road, N20.

These councillors are listed above as they are the members of the Cabinet Resources Committee.

Polite but firm is the approach to take. They represent you (supposedly).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard