10 October 2013

Councillor left in the dark

How transparent is Barnet Council? This much last Monday
Mrs Angry of Broken Barnet fame has written up her blog about Monday's goings on at Business Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Mr Mustard was also there and we stayed for 99% of the meeting. The last boring bit about scheduling work was an excuse to go to the pub.

Mr Mustard would also like to add some observations to the goings-on at the meeting, a meeting he had more or less given up on as he wasn't seeing much overview or scrutiny and Cllr. Rayner's clock watching annoyed him. This particular week the meeting also got away from him and he never really had the show on the right track.

Cllr Braun has never impressed Mr Mustard in meetings, she is far too quiet and reserved and simply doesn't get her point across very well and also doesn't say much. She decided she was being agitated by her residents, rather than nagged, who couldn't park in their traditional spots on match dates and if they were not interested in rugby (and it isn't that popular a sport per Sport England so why should a housewife or pensioner know the date of the next game) and that a resident had applied for and not received the necessary vouchers. Perhaps she is better suited to her casework which it seems she does diligently.

The officer who spoke about the Event day Zone may well know about highways but he doesn't know much about the rest of the council and neither do Councillors as they didn't correct him. He spoke about back office staff who issue the permits and handle appeals as if they were one and the same. These people are 30 miles about as there is a permit team within the council except that Civica have been retained to issue the ones for the Event Day zone. Appeals are dealt with by NSL staff in Croydon.

He also seemed to suggest that people within the zone caught out by the process would have their PCN cancelled (presumably he meant the first PCN as after that they would get a permit). That is not what Mr Mustard PCN clients have experienced. He has mostly seen refused appeals.

Cllr Khatri spoke to the meeting. He was disappointed that all the points he had made before the meeting, and those of Cllr Sharma, had been ignored. He had been so ignored that he didn't even know the review was on the agenda for this meeting. Mr Mustard has previously noted that all officer reports make a note of the affected wards. Mr Mustard assumed that meant that Officers automatically send the reports to relevant councillors but it can't be so. It seems that the status of councillor is no higher than that of blogger in this regard; councillors have to look up what is coming on the agenda like the rest of us.

There was then further talk of dot matrix signs. They would be useful in warning people of the Event Day zone as movement catches the eye. Many of the Event Day signs are near to junctions when your concentration is on negotiating the traffic not on reading a sign which you are passing at anything up to 30mph.

Officers were happy with the results of the survey with 559 forms returned out of 9,000. That is a better rate of return than is often the case but what matters is the questions that were asked.

The questions asked, see this link, didn't ask the two really important questions, which are

Do you think the zone is too small, too large, the correct size?

a sub-question to that would be

Do you think your road should be inside or outside the zone?


Do you think the hours of restrictions are too long, too short or about right.

Interestingly, Arsenal manage with a restriction which is half an hour shorter.

The reason there is a 5 hour restriction is to cover as many start times as possible i.e for administrative convenience so that different restrictions are not needed for different days, rather than for the convenience of residents.

So given that the obvious questions were not asked the zone was never likely to change much and the officers don't want it to as 400 PCN a day is a nice little earner.

Cllr Khatri had been tracking the issue of PCN and watching the numbers going up and up. Mr Mustard is not inclined to the view of the Director of Place that rugby fans come 4 to a car, park outside the stadium and pay the 50% off PCN rate of £55 between them as being cheap parking. Mr Mustard thinks it unlikely that 50% of the PCN issued in the zone are to non-residents. He thinks it will be to residents who haven't yet realised that although, to mix up two sports for the moment, Tiger Woods would need to hit his longest drive of 425 years at least 3 times to reach the stadium form their house, they are in fact within the Event Day zone.

There was talk of a couple who had moved into the area and a week later got a PCN as they didn't realise. Cllr Brian Salinger was unsympathetic. Their conveyancing solicitor will have known. Well Brian;

a. they might be renting and

b. it isn't a solicitor's job to make residents aware when an Event Day match is on, it is the council's by the use of adequate signage.

If 403 people are getting it wrong in a day you ought be conducting research to find out why and stopping it from happening again. Compare the number of ED permits to the number of residents and you will see where the problem lies.

There is some spectacular nonsense at para 8.10 of the update report. Here it is:

A response was received by email from Sacred Heart Church in Flower Lane, Mill Hill noting concerns about the effects that the Event Day CPZ parking restrictions may have on its Saturday and Sunday evening Masses, which commence at 6.00pm and are well-attended. The Parish Council stated that it would be preferable if the event day parking restrictions ceased at 5pm at least at the end of Flower Lane near to the church, to facilitate parking for those attending mass. Officers note that prior to the introduction of the Event Day CPZ, parking on Flower Lane and adjacent roads was unrestricted at weekends, so those attending services may have become accustomed to parking in these roads. It is also noted that the Sacred Heart Church is eligible to apply for permits and visitor vouchers, and that these could be distributed to their congregation, although records show that they have not obtained any vouchers to date. (Roger, if you are reading this, get them to put in a shipping order, Saracens will pay for it) The Council is keen to ensure that the local community continue to have access to places of worship and have advised the Parking Enforcement Team of the church’s concerns and have asked if the CEOs can be mindful of churchgoers at this end of Flower Lane, especially towards the end of the operational period of the CPZ.

Mr Mustard predicts that the traffic wardens (CEO) will be mindful of churchgoers. 
They will hide around the corner until 5.05pm and then ticket every car in sight.

It is inequitable that agnostics, atheists and humanists should be discriminated against. If tolerance is to be shown after 5pm to Catholics then it should under the terms of the Equalities Act, be shown to one and all. The council simply cannot ignore part of a Traffic Management Order it has itself established.

If you find yourself living inside the Event Day zone and don't want to be, it might be a good idea to get together with your neighbours, compile and distribute your own survey with better questions, issue 8,000 copies and see what responses you get. Perhaps the Mill Hill Preservation Society could coordinate this?

If you get a PCN, appeal it one the grounds that the date was not communicated to you. It has been a winner so far.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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