4 October 2013

The Park Road palaver

Rain palaver

Park Road, Hendon, is quite long and has 2 different Controlled Parking Zones

HC1 (Hendon Central) covers numbers 54-164 and 57-171
WH3 (West Hendon) covers numbers 13-39 and 6-38

So what happens if you live in the HC1 zone and renew your CPZ permit and receive your permit for the year ahead in the post? Well you simply place it in the car windscreen, you probably don't look at it all that closely.

A few months later, a more diligent traffic warden than usual, spots your car outside your house, where it has been for 17 months, sporting a permit with the wrong zone identifier. Result: a PCN for £110 for not displaying a valid permit. Strange you think, I have one. Then you check the other local cars and find the error.

So you log onto the council website and find that they have recorded your house as belonging to the wrong CPZ and they issued you with the wrong permit so this will easily be corrected won't it? Oh come on this is Barnet Council we are talking about; where you will have to deal with 3 different departments to resolve one simple query.

So you write in on the same day that the PCN was issued and explain what has gone wrong and 10 days later your appeal is rejected. You decide not to waste further time and arrange to meet Mr Mustard in the Bohemia (when it was serving drinks). You give him a signed letter of authority and a few days later you receive the Notice to Owner. This is the second stage at which an appeal can be made. Mr Mustard writes the second stage appeal, as follows:

I represent Redacted of 1** Park Rd, London, NW4 as attached authority letter.
This is a somewhat unusual case in that Redacted has been issued a permit for zone WH3 whilst living in zone HC1. It is the case that Park Road is long and is divided into two sections for CPZ purposes and somehow the council chose the wrong identifier when printing my client's permit.
Please cancel the PCN and issue a new permit with the correct zone identifier. This PCN is the result of a clerical error on the part of the council itself. Please cancel it.
Simples? Er, no.
Mr Mustard received the standard auto-acknowledgement to his email so he knows the council have received it. He does hear that NSL Ltd somehow can't manage the simple task of printing an email out and scanning it into the correct file on every occasion and that then things do go wrong.

They did go wrong. Mr Mustard didn't get a letter but the client did. It told them that as a Charge Certificate had been issued it was now impossible to appeal. They also tell the client, and they are writing on Barnet Council notepaper, to phone the permits section of Barnet Council to sort out a new permit. This is unhelpful in the extreme when it is the council who have made the error. They also tell the client that they didn't make any representations in response to the Notice to Owner; oh yes they did. They also tell the client he didn't provide any evidence to support their claim. Their evidence is on the council website. How can you prove which zone your house is in?

It is sort of true that there is no right of appeal to a Charge Certificate but the council can cancel a PCN at any stage, especially if they are wrong, so they should look at any letter received with an open mind. They tend to look at them with an open wallet instead.

Yesterday Mr Mustard wrote again, and copied in his contact in the parking client side of the council who he only bothers when things are going wrong, not for routine cases:

Something has gone wrong in your system.

On 22 August 13 you issued the Notice to Owner.
You gave it a Date of Service of 26 August 13.
28 days are allowed for formal representations.
They were submitted in time on 17 September 13 by email.
They were auto acknowledged by your system (see attached)
I have not seen a Notice of Rejection of Representations but it would allow 28 days for payment or to appeal to PATAS.
That time is not up so a Charge Certificate should not have been issued.
That issue is a procedural impropriety.
Please cancel the PCN.
Having checked the  council website today Mr Mustard sees the balance is now £0.00 and so that it seems that after a huge waste of everyone's time, the matter has been resolved.

Now mistakes will happen occasionally. If you fix errors promptly and apologise and maybe send a bunch of flowers to say sorry for all the inconvenience, you will be better thought of than if you hadn't made the mistake in the first place. Mr Mustard's suggestions that parking should send boxes of chocolates or bunches of flowers, or even a few visitor vouchers, to residents who they have wronged, have so far fallen on deaf ears. Now that he has the ear of a very senior officer, he will have a word about good manners and reputation. Funny though. If you go wrong that is £110 and no mercy. If the council go wrong, it isn't even sorry. It is not a just situation.
This is the trouble with organising yourselves the way that the council has done.

Permits are issued by customer service parking permit team.
PCN are issued by NSL who also deal with enforcement.
Formal appeals are meant to be dealt with by the council themselves.
Some other department must have set the house up in the wrong zone.

Too many cooks.

So, wherever you live inside a CPZ, go outside now and check the zone identifier and expiry date of your permit (there is a permit printing problem at the council since last Friday so if your replacement permit is late arriving the council should not give you a PCN. You bet they will).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Footnote: After the Charge Certificate the next document is the Order for Recovery. It sets out 4 grounds on which you can get the process put back to the start. Use form TE9 and tick only one reason. Starting again won't mean that NSL will read your appeals properly though, although in this case it means that the papers would have been referred to PATAS and they would have done so.

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