30 August 2013

Green motoring costs more in Barnet

In this article in the Barnet Times about £200,000 which is being prematurely and expensively spent in Barnet (and if Boris wasn't giving the borough a refund these 4 charging points would not be installed at all) the Cabinet member with responsibility for transport, Dean Cohen, said the following:

“We have already shown a willingness to support electric vehicles in Barnet and over the coming months we will be looking at ways to increase the number of electric charge points if we can.

Electric cars are becoming more popular around the country, especially in London and we want to make sure that Barnet is ahead of the curve. We are keen to hear from owners of electric cars about where they would most like charging points to be located."

This is the usual self serving guff that councillors, or the PR department, come out with. The facts don't warrant an increased number of points. 351 electric vehicles registered in Greater London in the last 3 years spread across 32 London Boroughs means that around 4 are likely to have been registered in Barnet each year. They will have a charging point apiece.

If Barnet Council are so keen to support electric vehicles they will of course reduce the cost of a CPZ permit, won't they?

Council website

So a "green" permit costs £52.50 for a year, whereas one for a petrol or diesel car costs £40, see the link here.

If that is what counts for support at Barnet Council, count Mr Mustard out.

That £200,000 could have provided us with 40 coin operated parking meters, now that would have been money well spent in providing a service that people want to use.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

29 August 2013

Velux understand customer service

a velux loft window

(Almost) Nothing to do with Barnet Council or parking although there are lessons to be learnt here by any body trying to provide good customer service.

Mustard Mansions was rebuilt from the ground up about 4 years ago. All that was kept was the brick shell, one staircase and the floor joists in one room. An extra floor was added after spending 2 years fighting the Barnet Council planning department as Mr Mustard was trying to raise the roofline by 2 feet or so and the planning department resisted despite the new roof being no higher than the surrounding houses (no, stop with the logic). Anyway, the new roof was a mansard (think pretty French cities) and it had 3 new Velux windows fitted.

As it is healthier to sleep in complete darkness Mr Mustard purchased 3 original Velux blackout blinds over the internet from a shop in Coventry. The blinds come with a 3 year guarantee (the windows themselves come with 10 years and are likely to see Mr Mustard out as they are well known for their longevity) and inevitably broke in year 4. Mr Mustard is a stickler for keeping his paperwork and so he dragged out the invoice, emailed the supplier and asked for some extra discount on a replacement. They couldn't help as they had closed that division down.

Mr Mustard was slightly miffed as he had purchased a quality product and it shouldn't break that soon. He emailed Velux. They emailed back saying they weren't the supplier and so couldn't replace it but would sell Mr Mustard the necessary spare parts. Mr Mustard wasn't really very happy with that but as it was only the cord which keeps the blind level as it moves he thought what the heck, let's take the blind apart and so yesterday he did so. The spare parts diagram was a little small but Mr Mustard identified the part number and to be sure he sent a photograph of the broken part to Velux. They phoned him this morning to check his address and then emailed him, as follows;

Good morning,

Thank you for your email. Unfortunately the part that you require is not available as a spare part. On this occasion as a gesture of goodwill I have arranged for a free of charge replacement to be sent out to you.

The replacement blind is scheduled for delivery on 5th September and will be delivered between 8am and 6pm by TNT.

If you have any queries regarding the replacement please don't hesitate to contact VELUX directly.

Kind regards

VELUX Company Ltd.

Now Velux didn't know that Mr Mustard was who he was nor that amongst other business ventures he refurbishes old houses which sometimes leads to rooflights being fitted and there are makes other than Velux that he could use.

There is only one make of rooflight that Mr Mustard will now fit, yes, it's Velux.

Isn't it nice to see proper good old fashioned customer service in action.

Now, back to those venal and rapacious parking tickets.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 August 2013

Subtle hampering

If you get the above message you might be out of time in which to make representations to Barnet Council about your parking ticket (PCN) but, on the other hand, you might not.

You get three bites at the cherry (a PCN is more like a rotten apple though) when it comes to appealing.

The first time, known as informal representations, are usually made in the 28 days after you have been hit served with a PCN. These representations are outside of the statutory process but do allow for obvious errors to be picked up and PCN cancelled at an early stage with least fuss for the motorist. The fewest tickets are cancelled at this stage, about 10%. You can send in an informal appeal at any time up until the Notice to Owner is issued which is a maximum of 6 months after the PCN is served.

The second time, formal representations are made in the 28 days after the Notice to Owner is served. This is set down in statute. Miss this deadline at your peril. These appeals succeed twice as often as informal ones, about 20% of the time, even when the words used are identical.

The third time, for Barnet Council cases, is to PATAS, the home of the independent adjudicator. These appeals succeeded 72% of the time last year (90% for Mr Mustard's cases) and so you can see that the longer you fight for the more chance you have of winning. Keep those appeals flowing; if your argument is a good one, simply use it three times.

Now what Mr Mustard has discovered, after testing on a number of cases, is that if you appeal informally as soon as you get the PCN and have that appeal rejected, the computer system is set so that you cannot make another informal appeal on-line even though you might still be within the 28 days. This means that if you have thought of another point of appeal you cannot use the on-line system to submit it. This is to fetter your ability to appeal on-line and is in contrast to what the PCN says on its face:

"If representations against the penalty charge are received at the address detailed overleaf before the Notice to Owner has been served, those representations will be considered;..." except that you can't easily make them on-line which is offered as an alternative method of communication.

instead you will have to write to:

Barnet Parking, PO Box 4894, Worthing, BN11 9WT 
(get a free proof of posting at the Post Office)

email to barnet@nslservices.co.uk

If Mr Mustard was being cynical he would think that the council were trying to put you off from appealing as they dislike receiving too many appeals, it slows them down from their primary task of extracting as much money as possible from the motorist.

Doubtless this fettering will turn out to be a terrible accident in the computer software section and will be changed very soon to allow for on-line appeals at any moment up until 28 days after the Notice to Owner was served.

Paragraph 86 of the Secretary of State's guidance on civil enforcement of parking contraventions is well worth a read:

"Enforcement authorities have a duty not to fetter their discretion, so should ensure that PCNs, NtOs, leaflets and any other advice they give do not mislead the public about what they may consider in the way of representations"

Appeal experts in other boroughs will probably want to test this informal appeal blocking to see if it is a common feature elsewhere. Feel free to add a comment below.

The reason it is worth sending in one or more informal appeals is that the council have to respond to them or they have committed a procedural impropriety as the PCN says that they will be considered. Not doing what a council says it will do on the face of the PCN is clearly unjust. Some adjudicators might say that there is no requirement within the legislation to respond to informal representations but that is to ignore good manners and the council's own service standards when it comes to correspondence and to act contrary to the offer on the face of the PCN. Point that failing out, the PCN promise, to an adjudicator and then they will almost certainly agree with you that it is a procedural impropriety and as soon as that is established the legislation requires the adjudicator to cancel your PCN. Result.

Get your pen or keyboard out and get writing or typing.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

25 August 2013

Cycling in Barnet

This blog post is copied with permission from the Barnet Cycling campaign. Although better known for fighting for car parking charges to be lowered and cash meters to be reinstalled Mr Mustard is all in favour of better and safer facilities for cyclists and occasionally he is one although usually on 2 wheels with an engine attached and that is also a mode of travel that carries risk

The times they are a’changing in Barnet and now the time has come to show the council that there is broad support for a more pro cycling stance. Barnet have expressed interest in the Mini Holland program being put forward by the Mayor’s office. With £30-40 million on offer for cycling and urban realm improvements to our borough, there is real scope for change.

Find out more about the Mini Hollands proposals…

The exact details of what would/could be done are being discussed now but we would like to put forward Barnet LCC’s vision of what is possible. There are great potential benefits to ALL Barnet residents whether they cycle or not.

The Mini Hollands program contains a wide range of measures but includes the reallocation of road space to make it easier for local people to choose cycling as their preferred mode of transport for local trips. The creation of segregated routes on some main roads and the removal of rat runs in neighbouring wards will help create the conditions that many people say would get them onto their bikes.

Additionally, the Barclays Cycle Superhighway Scheme could be extended into Barnet, unlocking additional funding and providing a strong spinal route through the borough further enhancing the benefits of the Mini Hollands scheme.

Where will this space come from? The answer will be dependent on the specific conditions. Sometimes it will mean the loss of a traffic lane and sometimes some space will be made from narrowing the pavement. There will also be the loss of the occasional parking space. While we are fully aware that parking is a “hot” issue in Barnet, we believe that the business case for segregated cycling provision on main shopping streets (eg. North Finchley) is very well proven. It has been shown again and again that these sort of facilities increase footfall and turnover where they are put in.

Please see links at the bottom of this post for more about the business case for these sort of changes.
What about pedestrians? Don’t segregated facilities make it hard to cross the road? The fact is that it is hard to cross the road now. Badly designed bike lanes introduce problems for pedestrians and for cyclists alike but well designed ones are of benefit to all. Here at Barnet LCC, we are going to be making sure that whatever gets built conforms to the very highest standards as shown to work well, for all users, in other countries.

Getting more people cycling locally (particularly on the school run) will reduce morning congestion, making it easier for those who must drive. Many people would like to cycle more but are put off by the hostile road environment. Indeed the urban realm benefits in our high streets and neighbourhoods will be felt by all residents. There really is a huge prize on offer here. We are pleased to have the support of prominent locals.
Encouraging active lifestyles will help to keep people healthy and fit into older age, which is very important for an ageing population. It also encourages the use of local shops and services, which ensures that those facilities are supported and available for older  and disabled people who need them nearby.
- Julia Hines, Age UK Barnet
A great idea. Very happy to support this positive urban regeneration initiative.
-Helen Michael, Cafe Buzz, North Finchley
What can you do? You can let Barnet know that you want this to happen! Cllr. Dean Cohen is the new Environment and Transport chap. His contact details are given below.

Please either write your own letter/email to him or simply copy/paste the one we have provided below.

We need as many of these as possible by mid September, so please do sent one in and ask all your friends/contacts to do likewise. Together we can secure over £30 million for cycling and urban regeneration in Barnet!

Cllr. Dean Cohen – Cabinet Member for Environment
6 Russell Gardens
NW11 9NL
Mobile:  07887 778509

Here is a simple form letter.

Please do remember to include your name and full address when sending it.

Thank you for your support!

Cllr Dean Cohen,
I am writing to you as a local resident to let you know that I fully support a move toward a more cycle friendly Barnet. Our borough is well known for its focus on family life and good schools. The Mini Holland scheme proposed by Boris Johnson will represent a great step forward in an area that Barnet has traditionally been rather weak on. More and more people are choosing to cycle and many more would with the support that such a scheme offers. Reallocation of road space is the right next step to grow cycling beyond its current low level. This is a chance to have the best facilities in London, if not the country. 

Barnet deserves the best.

I wish you all the best luck in your pursuit of the funding on offer.


23 August 2013

From 99% to 50% to ?%

In the local paper a couple of weeks ago Cllr Dean Cohen, who has parking within his portfolio, said that 99% of people pay their parking tickets. Mr Mustard knew this was hopelessly inaccurate, although he didn't have the exact figure as it isn't actually a statistic that is tracked, it is money that is used to monitor payment success with. Anyway, someone else asked a short series of Freedom of Information questions about parking tickets which Mr Mustard fell over whilst looking for something else on the whatdotheyknow website and here they are:

Total number of PCN (Penalty Charge Notice) issued by the London Borough of Barnet in the year 2012 150,211 (looks like the calendar and not the council year)
Total number of recipient who paid up without contesting in the same period 74,938 (50%)
Total number of recipient who appealed to PATAS 2,158
Total number of recipient who were successful at PATAS 1,520 (70% of appeals to PATAS)
The date from which the mistake in wording was corrected? 5 December 2012

How interesting. The council used the incorrect wording for 4 years, although they say it is OK even though PATAS found against them the vast majority of the time, and just over a week after Mr Mustard blogs about the incorrect wording the council change it, as a precautionary measure naturally, not because it was wrong. As the wording is laid down by legislation two versions of it could not both be compliant. Draw your own conclusions.

Is it the intention of the Council to refund the money to all the recipients in whose case the non-compliant wordings were used?

So Mr Mustard emailed Dean Cohen 10 days ago to ask him to confirm he really did say 99%. Answer came there none, as yet. He might be on holiday or else too embarrassed to answer. It would appear though that councillors don't routinely read FOI responses, this one dates from questions posed in June & July so would have been fresh in the mind although Mr Mustard expects Cabinet members to have a better handle on what their department does in any event. The fact that 50% pay up does not fully inform us what the other 50% do (although we know that 1.4% go to PATAS and some of the rest will pay up after contesting and others will stick their head in the sand which is a very bad idea and yet more will leave the country or be driving a foreign registered vehicle)

Motorists in Barnet are far too compliant. Half of them just meekly pay up. Barnet Council get a lot of things wrong when it comes to processing parking tickets and once someone independent sees them your chances of getting the PCN squashed increase markedly. Might Mr Mustard advise you to study the process using his handy simple guide which is on the left of the blog and then once you know how the three steps work you can have a go at defending yourself from unjust tickets. If you pay up within 14 days you are on a 50% success rate. If you appeal every ticket to PATAS you will commence at 100% or 0% after your first ticket but after that you will, unless you are a hopelessly incompetent parker or chancer who never follows the rules, slowly move towards the 72% won average. Those are odds worth taking. By fighting you also give yourself time to save up if you need to. Once you have the PATAS result though and if you lose you must pay within 28 days if you want to avoid the serious aggravation and expense of the PCN going any further when costs start to rise.

The process of going to PATAS will be written about soon in a guest blog by someone who went there and won with the guidance of Mr Mustard.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

21 August 2013

Not so fast Haringey Council

Mr Mustard hadn't had time to research other London Boroughs' CPZ charges in any great detail although it was in his mind and then he was prompted to do so by an envelope that plopped onto the mat at Mustard Mansions which contained a briefing note prepared by an (presumably legal, use of word impugned is the clue) officer (member of staff) for councillors at Haringey which tells them, in non-legal parlance, that everything is cushty in Haringey.

Mr Mustard begs to differ.

The document is above but the main points are that you can't use CPZ charges to raise revenue (this gets stretched by the officer to PCN income which was a revenue stream that was not tested in court. PCNs are issued under entirely different laws and the overuse of PCNs is a question for another day)

The officer then says that reports to Cabinet from 2010 to 2011 (both entire years? that isn't clear) have been scrutinised and show "supporting evidence" of an intention to stay within the law. That isn't the same as saying that the decisions were 100% within the law.

There is an irrelevant remark that the parking surplus only accounts for 25% of what it could be spent on. This is to follow the same failed argument as Mr Mustard heard in Court that residents in CPZs could be charged the entire spend for transport of the whole borough. Perhaps a lawyer for London Councils should have been in Court?

The council adopted an emissions based charging policy in 2007 and in 2011/12 (probably 1 April 2011 - Mr M has not checked) increased prices by between 25% and 66% (can you hear the klaxon sounding in Mr Mustard's head - it should be the same in the head of every Haringey councillor reading this report) which brought prices into line with other London boroughs (now given that London boroughs are so varied their prices should not be in line, those in Havering should be vastly different to those of Kensington & Chelsea). This was what Barnet inaccurately said about their own charges and they were found to be unlawful so that is rather a silly argument to use.

Mr Mustard will now impugn the charging decisions of Haringey Council using their own document.

A meeting of Cabinet on 16 November 2010 was asked to approve increases in parking charges. The introduction said:

Given the unique range of challenges faced by Local Government it is important to continually review service provision to ensure that service costs and charges are appropriate and will remain so.

The 2010 Parking Services charges' review (the first since important changes were introduced in 2007 and 2008) has been undertaken to assess whether Haringey's range of charges are appropriate and whether they are in line with neighbouring and other London boroughs.

The proposed changes included in this report aim to ensure that Haringey's charges remain in line with the London average.

So "the unique range of challenges" looks like an oblique way of saying Haringey are strapped for cash and need to put up prices. That has been the most challenging factor in the recent past for a local authority.

Making charges appropriate to Haringey and in-line with neighbouring boroughs (Camden and Enfield are somewhat dissimilar) and other (unspecified) London Boroughs is completely impossible. The only thing the Cabinet should have been doing was to make the charges appropriate to Haringey.

There is no valid traffic management reason to match the charges of Haringey to any other borough. Here are the charges for other boroughs. Barnet went up from 24th place to 6th and have now dropped back there.

In 2007 the council also introduced incrementally higher charges for second and subsequent permits. This policy, followed by other councils, also doesn't have a traffic management purpose. In Barnet the judicial review judgment says that 25% of the permits were for second and third vehicles (the maximum allowed in one household) and so the policy of increased charges for second and third vehicles at one address does not look like it has reduced the numbers of vehicles, it has simply led to increased income. Let us suppose that a household contains 3 adults (a couple and their adult offspring) who are all environmental health officers and they are all designated as essential car users for work purposes. They all need a car and so as they all share one address they have to pay extra which discriminates against them. This is because they have a valid business need for the 3 vehicles. If the policy was to charge extra for the second or third vehicle of one person, then the objective might be said to be achieved of managing demand for road space. There are also some roads where there is ample parking space, large detached houses with a park on the opposite side of the road for example and others, streets with small Victorian terraces on both sides with huge demand for space and the current charging policy makes no allowance for the actual demand which is supposedly being managed.

At para 4.6 this cabinet report said "the review has concluded that charges should be increased to a level which stays in line with increases (on average) which have been and will be introduced by neighbouring Boroughs and other Boroughs across London" which looks to Mr Mustard like charges set for reasons other than traffic management.

At para 6.1 regarding Resident Permit Holders. Since 2002 they received a financial subsidy from PCN income and the 2010 review has concluded this is a balance which cannot be maintained because PCN issues are declining and the consequent financial pressure that this decline creates in Haringey's parking accounts needs to be addressed. Oh dear, where to start. CPZs mean more PCNs get issued so the PCN income should be looked at together with permit income for each zone. How costs are allocated is not stated and Mr Mustard finds it hard to believe that a council cannot check a permit application and issue it for less than the current amount charged, being £21 / £53 / £106 or £159 according to vehicle emissions or engine size. Why isn't there a £21 permit for people with old tiny engined cars? (tariff here). PCN issue for parking goes up and down due to various factors. For the years ending 31 March they were as follows, to the nearest thousand:

2008   171,000
2009   170,000
2010   162,000
2011   151,000
2012   169,000

so they were down by 3% on previous years in November 10 when this report was issued but they soon shot back up again and so the justification for a permit price increase has gone.

Then the Chief Financial Officer comments at para 7.1

"The exact level of additional income generated will depend on usage levels but it is expected that the revised charges will address the base issues within the parking account and contribute towards the savings the Council will be required to deliver in future years". The bold emphasis by Mr Mustard could be regarded as the smoking gun in this report although it looks more like an arsenal of them (sorry, can't get a THFC reference in). Why the finance chief is commenting on a report about traffic management is an interesting question to which there is only one answer. It is all about the money. The base issue of the parking account for 2010-11 is that it had a surplus of £3,324,000 - isn't that sufficient?

So what should Haringey councillors be doing? Scrapping all existing charges and starting again. They should revisit the whole charging regime and make it cost neutral. They shouldn't discriminate on grounds of address or engine size or the amount of money they would like to make from the special parking account. A charge based upon length of car would probably be reasonable from a rationing viewpoint as kerb space is limited.

Haringey Council is not as Snow White as the officer's advice would have you believe. Ask probing questions councillors, earn your allowances.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

20 August 2013

Stop screaming in pain will you - I can't hear myself on PayByPhone

part of the photo taken by an NSL traffic warden

You don't believe Mr Mustard do you, that a Doctor on call, in an urgent response to a person in distress would lead to an NSL traffic warden ignoring a flipping great "Doctor on call" sign in a car windscreen and issuing a parking ticket? What could a traffic warden do in this situation? They could hang around and see if an ambulance turns up to see if someone gets taken to hospital or to see if a man or woman comes out of a nearby house carrying a defibrillator or a Gladstone bag and rushes off to the next person in dire medical need. No, an NSL traffic warden won't do that as if they don't issue 2 parking tickets per hour their life won't be worth living (ironically) when the supervisor gets hold of them at the end of the shift. Traffic wardens have not got time to waste seeking out the truth and using commonsense, they have to hit the motorist quickly with a penalty charge and move on to the next victim.

If you are a Doctor and you see a traffic warden has an urgent medical need what would you do? Well Mr Mustard thinks you should tell them to hold on to that heart attack they are having whilst you find the nearest PayByPhone bay and then register your vehicles (you might as well register them all whilst you are about it, Mr Mustard has three of them) and then your credit cards (Mr Mustard has two) and your debit card (only one of those) and then make a payment and after that you'll attend to the medical emergency (ooh 20 minutes later, are they still alive?) as you don't want to run the risk of getting a parking ticket whilst you give life saving emergency treatment as adhering to rigid council parking rules is much more important than the busy life of a Doctor, isn't that right?

Luckily Mr Mustard isn't a Doctor and most, if not all, Doctors would stop and give first aid and worry about a parking ticket later.

Of course, presented with a letter from a Doctor those lovely cheap back office NSL staff in Croydon, the ones everyone thinks are in Worthing, will google the name of the person writing, find they really are a doctor (who would lie about this?) and cancel the parking ticket. Sadly they aren't that pro-active in NSL and they have rejected the informal appeal. Mr Mustard will now deal with the next 2 appeal steps and will present the argument at PATAS, if commonsense does not miraculously make an appearance before then, that the council has been wholly unreasonable in failing to cancel this parking ticket for a Doctor who has been providing an on call service for 20 years.

What has brought us to this pretty pass where doctors, trusted individuals who have been able to sign passports for decades, are not trusted to tell the truth about a medical emergency because of the less than 1% chance that they might be a liar trying to weasel out of a parking ticket? They shouldn't have to tell NSL that Mr M Mustard of 22 Blogger Mansions had an allergic reaction to a cheese flan which inadvertently contained peanuts as these are all personal details which a doctor should not disclose because of data protections reasons and because of the Hippocratic oath, which translated by Wikipedia in part says

"All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal."

Mr Mustard couldn't see the bit of the oath which said the Doctor had to tell NSL anything about the patient to justify cancelling a miserable parking ticket.

The world has become a topsy turvey place when lowly traffic wardens can hold Doctors to account. Mr Mustard is with the Doctors. Doubtless he will now receive an email from the council saying that a clerical error has taken place at NSL and if he provides the car registration and PCN number all will be neatly tidied away. Why does it have to come to pass that a parking ticket has to be featured on a blog to be cancelled when it is manifestly unjust? Given the 165,000 parking tickets a year that are issued in Barnet, Mr Mustard can't deal with them all and will need the doctor himself for stress brought about by overwork.

If you have received an unjust parking ticket do please tell Mr Mustard as, for now, he can cope and he might just write about it on this blog.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

19 August 2013

Dry cleaner taken to the cleaners by Barnet Council

Go on, give us a parking ticket.

Now it is agreed that you shouldn't park on the pavement anywhere in London but, and it is a big but, there is an exemption for "loading and unloading where there is no other way the delivery or collection could be made" (see the bottom of this London Councils website page).

In the case of this particular dry cleaners the front of the shop is next to a bus stop and zig zags etc and you can't get anywhere near it so using the rear service road (a clue in the name there) is the only answer. The service road is too narrow for a vehicle to park without obstructing the road and so the delivery driver popped the vehicle on the pavement for a few minutes whilst the unloading took place. What can you see in the boot? yes clothes for dry cleaning. This vehicle received a parking ticket for pavement parking. The traffic wardens have their favourite places to go to dish out tickets and this is one of them, a quiet backwater where no-one is causing any traffic flow troubles. Hardly anyone will walk down this service road except for the staff of the shops as it is a cul-de-sac so it is unlikely that parents with prams or others pushing or auto-propelling wheelchairs will be trying to get along the pavement.

Given that we are looking at the tradesman's entrance of a shop and that is a place where loading and unloading goes on we have to ask ourselves why a parking ticket was issued. Could it be for the money or one of those non-existent targets?

How does Mr Mustard know that the traffic warden knew that unloading was likely to be taking place? Easy, the photograph above was taken by NSL's traffic warden.

Oh but I hear you say, wait, there is no proof that loading or unloading was ongoing and this is what the council will say. Well it is a risk in 2013 to leave your vehicle with the boot open because thieves seem to abound and make off with your goods in an instant (you only have to follow @MPSBarnet on twitter to know that, sadly @MPSBarnet seem to have had their mobile phone stolen as they have not tweeted for a week) so loading is not always obvious.

Well here is another photo:

That looks like a hand at the left holding clothes in plastic covers. How much more evidence of unloading could you possibly want? Whose evidence is this? yes the traffic warden's.

An appeal is being sent in for the unloading exemption. What are the chances that it will be rejected?

Why did the traffic warden issue the PCN in the first place? Does he/she not know the law? Perhaps they are being sent out on the streets in breach of contract before they have passed their NVQ level 2 in parking. They would be even less qualified than the Not Very Qualified that a level 2 NVQ represents.

The sooner the contract with NSL is cancelled the better so that our own local people can be employed as traffic wardens and report in to a parking manager with some commonsense and some accountability to the public, the parking manager is a person who should be at every residents forum.

If you wondered why the High Street is dying? it isn't only because of the internet (you can't send your dry cleaning off this way), upward only rent reviews, the recession, the lack of parking meters that take cash, and the high parking charges (amongst other reasons) it is traffic wardens who are sent on duty with the express intention of issuing tickets and applying zero tolerance which puts off shoppers and makes the long hours of a shopkeeper not worth the trouble. 

If Barnet Council want their High Streets to survive, they need to call off the dogs.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

16 August 2013

Bolt out of the blue or Justice delayed is justice denied

an old bolt to match an old PCN
Mr Mustard thinks that there are possibly 8,000 rip van winkle PCNs which have been pulled out of their state of sleep and subjected to new processing. Someone, and who that is Mr Mustard does not yet know, at Barnet Council doesn't think they have to abide by the Code of Practice issued by London Councils which says that if there is a delay in processing at any stage of the process of more than 6 months the PCN should (emphasis by Mr M) be cancelled. Rules are of course only for little people. Some parking rules are in the Highway Code and we are expected to abide by those but apparently the council can treat other Codes as optional.

How might you hear about your PCN lurching back into life after a year of gathering digital dust on a hard disk? 

You might get a letter giving you 7 days to pay before the debt is registered with the Traffic Enforcement Centre at Northampton County Court (which acts as a clearing house for PCN across the land - no actual hearings take place there). The next document you receive would be the Order for Recovery.

You might get the Order for Recovery.

You might get the Charge Certificate (and you can do nothing much at this stage in the standard procedure except wait for the Order for Recovery or pay, as if)

You might get a Notice to Owner (if that is the case and it is more than 6 months since the Penalty Charge Notice simply write to Barnet Council and tell them they are out of time, full stop).

You might get a letter or a visit from a Bailiff which is the least palatable option.

What can you do?

The first step is to send an email to mrmustard@zoho.com with copies of every document.

If you have the Order for Recovery (form TE3) it will have with it a form TE9 which you can complete with one, and only one, of the four possible grounds. The 4 grounds are

1. I did not receive the Notice to Owner
2. I appealed against the Notice to Owner within 28 days and heard nothing back
3. I appealed to PATAS on time but heard nothing back (not very likely)
4. I have paid.

If you do this on time, and you can do it by email to the TEC, then, for option 1,  the PCN will go back to the beginning and you will be able to appeal or, for options 2 & 3 it will be listed for consideration by PATAS and presumably for option 4 the money will be chased down as a clerical error has probably occurred, be ready to prove payment. Mr Mustard doubts there will be many option 4 cases.

If the PCN has already reached the Bailiff in the form of a warrant of execution then as well as filing the form TE9 you will also have to file a form TE7 which is an application to file form TE9 outside of the time limit and you will need a good reason for being late which might be that you didn't receive earlier documents about the PCN. Mr Mustard can help you with these.

When a bailiff is sniffing around you need to move fast (the same day) to make sure he doesn't get your car removed before you have filed the forms with the TEC.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Missing any forms, get them here.

14 August 2013

from (untidy) innocence to guilt

untidy but not unlawful
Now Mr Mustard, as an advanced motorcyclist who has been trained in the "system" of riding, just wouldn't park the blogger bus like this because it is not best practice. We should all aim to be parallel to the kerb if we can (if you have reduced mobility you get extra space in a disabled bay to make it easier for you to manoeuvre). However, this sort of parking is only wrong, and deserving of a Penalty Charge Notice (parking ticket), if the entire vehicle is more than 50cm from the kerb (and that rule was brought in as a way of defining & dealing with double parking). In this case the front wheel, and the passenger side mirror are well within the 50cm limit. One would have thought that a traffic warden would go equipped with a tape measure or 50cm ruler to prove this contravention.

The trouble comes though when you say "pah" and don't bother responding to the council paperwork.

You start with a PCN, you do nothing
within 6 months along comes a Notice to Owner, you do nothing again
just over a month later you receive a Charge Certificate, there is nothing you can do in response to that except pay or wait for the next document
then you receive the Order for Recovery which gives you 28 days to set it aside on certain grounds but you don't meet them as you have done nothing

so now you have gone from being innocent of a parking contravention to guilty by default.

The next person you will hear from is the bailiff and your car may get clamped and removed and you will get a bill for several hundred pounds all because you didn't deal with some simple paperwork.

So what should you do?

when you get a PCN, send in an informal appeal within 28 days
when you get a Notice to Owner, send in a formal appeal within 28 days
formal and informal appeals look the same, simply a letter or an email saying why you shouldn't have to pay.

If the council don't accept your formal appeal they will send you a Notice of Rejection of Representations (Mr Mustard eats these for breakfast) and an appeal form to send to PATAS. Mr Mustard can help you with these forms but you must be on time i.e. within 28 days of the Notice of Rejection.

At this point you have lost any chance of paying £55 instead of the full amount of £110 so you may as well appeal to PATAS as:

- it costs the council £40 and you nothing at all
- it gives you an extra 2 or 3 months to save up in
- if you lose you get 28 days to pay the £110, it does not increase for 28 days
- you have a 72% chance of winning
- it is a user friendly independent forum
- you can do the whole thing by post

Many people find paperwork boring (Mr Mustard loves it) but it is worth your time to fight if you don't want to be pulling the drawbridge up at home to keep the bailiffs out.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

13 August 2013

A wild Koos chase

The sniff test is handy, the 99% stat fails it

MOTORISTS who appeal against parking fines have a 72 per cent chance of getting their money back in Barnet, research has shown. This statistic relates only to final stage appeals to PATAS.

Figures released on Tuesday by London Councils, the lobbying organisation that promotes the interests of the capital’s local authorities, showed that 1,424 out of 1,965 appeals against parking tickets were successful, giving Barnet the second highest appeal success rate in London after the City, where the figure was 80 per cent. Correct. It is well known that the City of London don't bother contesting a PATAS appeal 50% of the time. They also only generated 702 PATAS appeals and issued 100,000 fewer PCN than Barnet. Not that many roads in a square mile though.

However, fewer than one per cent of parking tickets were challenged. Not the full picture. Only 1% of PCN were challenged at the office of the independent Adjudicator, PATAS. It was actually 1.23% and is rising and is more like 2% nowadays.

Over 2012/13, traffic wardens employed by NSL, the company which enforces on-street parking controls on behalf of the council as part of a £3.4million annual contract, wrote out 165,569 tickets in the borough. Oh dear me, payments declared in 2012/13 on the over £500 lists were £2.94m and £2.99m was in a report presented to the Contract Management Scrutiny Committee in June 13 so nowhere near £3.4m. No traffic warden (CEO) wrote out a single ticket, they were all printed and the 165,569 includes 15,358 for bus lane contraventions (which aren't parking) and a goodly number in car parks which are off-street not on-street.

The authority’s income from parking charge notices was £6.6m. Why then does the Special Parking Account say that PCN parking income was £5,003,385?  (+ £831,492 for Bus Lanes)?

The total number of penalty charge notices issued in London for illegal parking fell by more than 90,000 over the same period, from 4,131,738 in 2011/12 to 4,041,423. Hardly statistically significant and what is relevant for the local paper is Barnet's numbers which went up from 134,801 i.e a massive increase of 25% which happens to roughly coincide with the arrival of NSL traffic wardens on our streets.

Dean Cohen, cabinet member for environment, said: “The number of PCNs we issue in Barnet fluctuates year on year. An uninformative  statement of the bleeding obvious.

While the number of people appealing against their tickets has gone up, nearly 99 per cent of motorists receiving tickets accepted they were in the wrong and paid their fine. There are no fines. These are penalty charges. A fine is what you get from a Court for, say, assaulting a woman in the street.This little table tells you what Mr Mustard thinks the paid rate is (and many people pay not because they are in the wrong but because they have better things to do with their time - unlike Mr Mustard!)

PCN # £ Total 50%
105,819 110 11,640,090 5,820,045
44,392 60 2,663,520 1,331,760
15,358 130 1,996,540 998,270
165,569 98 16,300,150 8,150,075

99% 8,068,574

So this table shows the number of PCN issued at the lower rate, higher rate and for bus lanes. The £penalty per PCN type is shown and then in the third column the revenue if no-one took advantage of the discount. If people are paying they usually do so pretty quickly and thus get the 50% discount and if everyone did that, being so compliant, the income would be as shown in the 50% column and then 99% of that would be the £8,068,574 figure shown. The actual revenue was either the £6m figure given to Mr Mustard when he did the Inspection of Barnet Council's accounts in June or the £6.6m which he has now seen in the report to committee the same month. Taking the larger revenue figure and the lower theoretical income figure would only give a 82% recovery and if no-one took advantage of the discount the recovery rate would be only 40%

Industry average income per issued PCN is £45 and in Barnet that would equate to 45/98 or a 46% recovery rate. Mr Mustard thinks that the actual recovery rate will be about 70% but what matters is that Cllr Dean Cohen's name appears next to a statement that 99% has been recovered which is, to put it mildly, codswallop. Mr Mustard emailed Dean a few days ago to see if he really said that, or if his name was added to a statement by a council mouthpiece, and has not yet had a response. If one doesn't arrive within a day it doesn't usually arrive at all. It would be worrying if the Cabinet Member in charge of parking knew so little about it.

Of course the reason the council want to say that 99% of PCN are paid is to nudge people into paying up without appealing. Mr Mustard thinks everyone should appeal through all 3 stages for the very reason that once an independent person looks at your parking ticket they agree with you that it is wrong 72% of the time (and 90%+ of the time if Mr Mustard's beady eye has looked at the PCN).

Key performance Indicator 11 includes that NSL must at least match the industry average PCN collection at £45 and then increase that value throughout the 5 year contract. In 2012/13 (which includes 1 month before the contract commenced) income was £6.6m and 165,569 PCN were issued, giving an average per PCN of £40 and yet the KPI was shown as Green i.e. met. Mr Mustard is never going to understand reports to committee, despite reading hundreds of them, anyone would think the answers were fudged.

I am keen to look into why we are seeing increasing numbers of appeals allowed. Mr Mustard hereby cordially invites Cllr Cohen to pop round to Mustard Mansions and he will politely show him 50 PCN that are wrong and this explains why appeals are increasing. He will also make him a nice cup of tea and fill up the biscuit barrel. In the alternative Dean could simply read the blog or respond to the emails that Mr Mustard has been copying him in on about parking tickets from 2011 that should have been cancelled because the council left them to rot for over a year.
I know I’ve inherited an issue with road markings in the borough and I am keen to do something about it. Dean became the Cabinet Member for Environment (shouldn't that be Place?) with responsibility for parking in May 2012. Mr Mustard has rewritten this response. 

"I have known for 15 months that I inherited a problem with road markings in the borough and I have yet to do anything concrete about it"

Barnet Council’s contract with NSL is not based on the number of penalties issued. True, but it is based upon achieving a certain level of income. If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck...

So, if you dear reader get a parking ticket (PCN) don't become one of the 99% that doesn't exist, or even the estimated 70% who meekly cough up, set your mind to having a 3 round argument and you can save most of your punching power for round 3 when there is an independent referee who won't let the council use their weighted gloves. There is a guide to the process on the left of this blog. Download yourself a copy, read it and ask Mr Mustard about anything you don't understand. He hosts a small social club on a Monday evening once a month so you are always welcome to pop to that with your paperwork or you can have a private consultation at Mustard Mansions in EN5 if yours is a difficult problem.

A parking ticket isn't personal so stay calm if you get one, Barnet Council simply want your money for revenue raising. You can stop them.

Mr Mustard has just suggested the following to Richard Cornelius and Dean Cohen:

That leads me onto the whole question of education. Isn't it something that the council ought to offer for new drivers, old drivers, blue badge holders and regular offenders? Offer them the carrot of free education rather than the stick of a PCN. Wouldn't that make Barnet a better place to live?

Let's see what they say. If they really want to improve the compliance with parking rules then the best thing they can do is to educate the public.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

p.s. Sorry Koos to have to trash your article but it looks like a regurgitation of something the council press office will have given out and that should always make you slightly uneasy to print it unverified as there will have been a slant put on the information. Mr M.