30 November 2013

Human Rights Act - Article 6

When it comes to Penalty Charge Notices the council are required to get on with the processing in a businesslike manner (a vulgar person might call it the piss or get off the pot principle).

Barnet Council have not done so.

There isn't a strict time limit laid down in the Human Rights Act but PCN sent by post have to be issued within, usually, 28 days.

Notices to Owner have to be issued within 6 months with 56 days being best practice.

Replies to formal representations have to be within 56 days.

The Code of Practice of London Councils states that there shouldn't be a delay at any stage of more than 6 months and if there is a council should cancel a PCN. Barnet Council don't like doing that as it costs them money (is the way they see it).

So if we follow the Code of Practice there should be no more than 168 days between the Notice to Owner and the Charge Certificate or more than 365 days between the PCN and the Charge Certificate.

Here are 30 or so cases which ended up in front of the Adjudicator at PATAS. As soon as a motorist mentions delay and Human Rights the PCN gets binned. Do make sure you mention it.

PATAS Hearing PCN NtO C.C. Delay - days
2130290209 03/08/13 23/04/11 28/07/11 09/01/13 531
2120323727 05/08/13 07/07/11 08/09/11 26/03/13 565
213026715A 06/08/13 15/04/11 21/07/11 29/01/13 558
2130267138 06/08/13 18/04/11 18/08/11 05/02/13 537
2130332444 06/08/13 25/06/11 23/08/11 05/02/13 532
2130314737 06/08/13 11/05/11 25/07/11 30/01/13 555
2130299597 06/08/13 24/04/11 03/08/11 09/01/13 525
2130296850 06/08/13 08/07/11 06/09/11 06/02/13 519
2130290934 06/08/13 03/06/11 16/08/11 05/02/13 539
2130267841 06/08/13 06/07/11 06/09/11 06/02/13 519
2130267386 06/08/13 24/06/11 23/08/11 05/02/13 532
213038799A 20/09/13 31/05/11 11/08/11 19/03/13 586
2130408943 24/09/13 22/09/11
05/04/13 561
2304453008 08/10/13 24/06/11 24/08/11 22/03/13 576
2130422172 13/10/13 15/09/11 25/10/11 04/04/13 527
2130443525 14/10/13 21/05/11
16/01/13 606
2130433667 16/10/13 03/06/11 16/08/11 05/02/13 539
2130504517 21/10/13 10/08/11 26/10/11 05/04/13 527
2130465073 24/10/13 26/09/11 03/11/11 08/04/13 522
2130473468 28/10/13 13/09/11 24/10/11 04/04/13 528
213044810A 28/10/13 02/06/11 16/08/11 20/03/13 582
2130473468 28/10/13 13/09/11
04/04/13 569
213044810A 28/10/13 02/06/11 16/08/11 20/03/13 582
2130473821 29/10/13 09/07/11
27/03/13 627
2130478310 29/10/13 13/07/11
27/03/13 623
2130512548 30/10/13 25/07/11 04/10/11 28/03/13 541
2130450837 30/10/13 12/05/11 26/07/11 12/03/13 595
2130522530 04/11/13 20/07/11
28/03/13 617
2130517621 04/11/13 26/07/11
28/03/13 611
2130491867 04/11/13 19/07/11
27/03/13 617
2130433496 04/11/13 13/07/11
27/03/13 623
2130450939 05/11/13 03/06/11
20/03/13 656
2130487870 08/11/13 19/04/11 11/07/11 09/01/13 548
2130434626 08/11/13 21/06/11 22/08/11 21/03/13 577
2130435844 19/11/13 06/06/11
15/03/13 648
2130504528 20/11/13 18/10/11 18/10/11 02/04/13 532
2130517177 26/11/13 24/09/11 01/11/11 08/04/13 524

So the number of days from PCN to Charge Certificate should not exceed 365 and the number of days from Notice to Owner to charge Certificate should not exceed 183. You will see that it frequently does. 656 days is the winner so far although Mr Mustard did have a case heading for 1,000 days but he fixed it without recourse to the Adjudicator.

Mr Mustard remains hopeful that if he continues to highlight the ways in which parking goes wrong, they will start to do it right.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

29 November 2013

Free parking in Chipping (High) Barnet

Lights to follow shortly
At last some good news on the parking front in Chipping Barnet. Some free parking bays, which have been carefully placed in the areas which are currently hardly used so the council isn't actually giving anything away and this won't hurt their projected income much at all.

The letter was 3 pages long so Mr Mustard took the scissors to it (old style cut and paste) and brings you the relevant parts:

click to enlarge
Note the crafty clawing back of funds by making over 2 hours on Hadley Green £4.55 whereas before it might have been £2.60 (for up to 3 hours). If you are staying longer Mr Mustard recommends parking on the edge of the CPZ and walking in (not the St Albans Rd please as that is becoming dangerous). Better maps are coming of the CPZ areas, Mr Mustard will be road testing them during the development stage and will report back at the time.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 November 2013

Mr Mustard was sad (but is OK now)

At the end of September Mr Mustard was sad. A lady phoned, early one evening, whose car had been taken by the bailiff on behalf of Barnet Council when she was outside the health centre with her toddler (not yet 2) and her disabled grandmother as, having just moved flat, she didn't have the £450 that the bailiff demanded otherwise he would remove her car. When dealing with bailiffs time is of the essence and Mr Mustard was on his way out to a meeting and was also at the hospital the next morning for a procedure and so he just couldn't help. Instead he passed the caller on to a bailiff advice line.

The lady, we'll call her Miss Ford, had 3 parking tickets from 2012 that she didn't know about for two reasons. The first was that she wasn't driving the car at the relevant times; her sister, now living abroad, was the driver and hadn't given her the parking tickets (always assuming she did get them as a lot do go missing). The second reason was that she lived in a block of flats each of which had its own letterbox but the postman used to leave the post in the communal hall. Sadly, the main street door was not locked and so anyone could steal the post which also happens a lot to facilitate identity theft.

So just like my other recent bailiff case, of Mr Toyota, the first that Miss Ford knew was when she had the shock of coming out of the health centre and seeing her car with a clamp on it. She had to call a minicab to get home.

Now there is a procedure within the legislation which is meant to provide justice in situations like this one. The motorist files a witness statement within 28 days of receiving the Order for Recovery. If you don't get the Order for Recovery then you file a witness statement out of time and explain why you are late in applying which must be the reason why you didn't get the various council documents. The flaw in this procedure is that the council can oppose it and they appear to routinely oppose such applications pretending that all is right with the world when it obviously wasn't (the use of bailiffs for PCN is a subject on which Mr Mustard plans to write in detail with his recommendations to the Chief Operating Officer). The application is considered by Court staff at the Traffic Enforcement Centre (TEC) attached to Northampton County Court. It is a sausage machine for churning out PCN related matters which otherwise all the local county courts would have to deal with. It would be better if each local county court did handle applications for its area as then local knowledge would build up and a more considered approach could be taken.

If the Out of Time witness statement is rejected, and this takes 4 to 6 weeks to process, during which time your car is stuck in the car pound, then you can ask for the matter to be considered by your local County Court. You can have a paper based decision (a bad idea as you can't influence an undecided judge) but a far better idea is to pay £80 and have an audience with a District Judge. The previous case, of Mr Toyota, took 3 months to get in front of the judge and during this time your car remains stuck in the car pound. If you convince the judge to allow your witness statement out of time the PCN is rolled back to the start so that you can make representations, or the case is referred to PATAS, and your car is released. If you don't convince the judge then you need to settle the £1,000+ bailiff bill or your vehicle will be sold and probably for less than it is worth on the open market.

In the case of Miss Ford the council (NSL) opposed the Out of Time witness statement on the grounds that they had sent everything to the address shown on the vehicle log book even though they knew of the postal delivery difficulties. They simply wanted to keep the enormous advantage they had over a by then 7 months pregnant lady. There was no compassion, sympathy or empathy in the internal emails Mr Mustard has seen; it was, per the council / NSL, all her own fault that she didn't get her post, post which she wasn't expecting to receive and she received all her bills by email so a letter was a rare event. The TEC duly refused the application. That was when Mr Mustard became involved as he had finished with his hospital visits.

He studied the 3 PCN. Let us call them 1, 2 & 3. He had 14 days in which to file the application to be heard in the local county court although he was minded to do a deal to have certainty and to save time and court fees.

PCN 1:

Pre dated December 12 so had invalid wording.
The locus of High Rd (FN) was too vague a description as Miss Ford wouldn't know where in the High Rd due to her not being present when the PCN was handed to the driver.

PCN 2:

Pre dated December 12 so had invalid wording.
The Charge Certificate was issued 26 days after the Notice to Owner whereas 28 days is the minimum clear period.

PCN 3:

Pre dated December 12 so had invalid wording.
There was a delay of 9 months between the Charge Certificate and the Order for recovery whereas there should not be more than 6 months.

Mr Mustard's main concern was to get the car back so despite Barnet Council being procedurally incorrect on all cases a settlement deal was offered of £110 (the value of one PCN) in return for the return of the car and the closure of all 3 files.

The counter-offer received was that the council agreed to unequivocally cancel PCN1 & PCN2 if a reduced fee of £450 was paid for PCN3 which they felt was OK. Now Mr Mustard had written 3 pages of detailed argument about:
  • the PCN
  • about service of documents
  • about statements of truth
  • about the bailiff himself
  • about the attitude of staff, and
  • about how vulnerable individuals should be treated
and got a page and a half in response.

One vital piece of information received in the reply was about the service of the Charge Certificate and Mr Mustard was told (full marks for honesty to the parking client side person involved) that it had been returned undelivered by the Royal Mail.

That was the smoking gun. That document being returned meant that the council (acting by their agents NSL) were not entitled to issue the Order for Recovery and weren't entitled to instruct a bailiff to seize the car. Oh dear.

Why did Mr Mustard ask this question? It was because he had put the 3 council witness statements (actually signed by an NSL employee whose identity Mr Mustard has chosen to redact as he must be junior and that is the deal Mr Mustard has with the Chief Operating Officer) side by side and noticed a sentence that wasn't there. Here they are:

to mislead by omission (bit obvious though)

So Mr Mustard wrote again to the parking client side of Barnet Council and copied in the Chief Operating Officer in the undoubted belief that he wouldn't be impressed with the council (NSL) cheating and pointed out that the Notice Processing Officer would have a hard time in front of the District Judge and that regulation 22 of the General Regulations 2007 had been breached. Although Mr Mustard could now demand the return of the car for nothing he would stick with his £110 without prejudice offer. It only took a little over 24 hours for this to be accepted and it has been paid so the pregnant lady (now 8 months) can collect her car and once again start taking her disabled grandmother to weekly medical appointments. Mr Mustard's sadness receded.

What does it show us though?

There is a Notice Processing Officer at NSL who is not doing the right thing.
The parking client side at the council can't properly monitor NSL's behaviour at a distance.
The parking client side are honest.
Misdemeanours like this have the potential to ruin the reputation of the council and they would have been a long time recovering if they had sold this car off.
The NSL contract needs a through auditing as to whether they follow the PCN process properly.
If NSL own the bailiff involved, TASK in this case, which they do, then the temptation to say no to everything to make more money for NSL must be enormous.
Once the council / NSL have you backed into a corner they don't want to let you out even if right is on your side (this episode has taken Mr Mustard two months to the day to resolve during which time a pregnant innocent lady has suffered without the use of her car).
It's all about the money.
The use of bailiffs to collect PCN is a big stick for a little problem.
Outsourcing carries huge risks and parking is the last service that should have been outsourced.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

27 November 2013

Hopscotch - hopping mad


One of the joys of having started this blog is that Mr Mustard has met so many lovely people in the London Borough of Barnet (and he doesn't mean councillors who are a bunch of ......save that blog for another day Mr Mustard and besides there has already been a hatchet job from the inside by you know who). Two of those people are the owners of Hopscotch Sweets which is conveniently situated to the east of Barnet Church on the walking route of the many residents who use High Barnet tube. Having flogged up the steep hill the temptation to pop in for 100g of liquorice allsorts or dark chocolate brazils is high (Mr Mustard can recount this from personal experience) and Michael and Alice are excellent shopkeepers and lovely people (they even survived a visit from you know who demanding that they remove a poster about a certain councillor who was killing the High St. It looks like we might need a new one about an actor who doesn't act much?).

When Michael got David Longstaff's misguided missive (he must have grabbed the wrong script in haste; they certainly weren't golden words from goldenarse) he told Mr Mustard this:

What I was looking for was a commitment from the council to provide support for the High St in general, pointing out some specifics. David’s reply completely missed the point, was completely inaccurate and was personally insulting – I don’t have the time to dignify it with a reply.

but evidently he was more annoyed than he realised as he has now commented upon the "more direct" email in some detail as follows:


I’m afraid I found your reply has completely missed the point I was making and that I found your response somewhat insulting.

Whilst I greatly value your support as an engaged community representative, unlike your fellow ward councillors, and have always held you in friendly respect, I think that some considerable inaccuracies need to be addressed.

Comments in Christmas red below.

Yours sincerely

Michael Kentish

Dear Michael Kentish,

East Barnet doesn't have a tube station. High Barnet does have a tube station. If you want free parking I can assure you the car parks will be full of commuters.
Not if there is a restriction, such as one hour, as in the CPZs.

The High Barnet Town Team agreed to maintain the baskets if the Council bought and installed them, but did not. The HBTT is now defunct.
I thought the Town Team had been resurrected – and that you are a leading member of it!

High Barnet had a publicly funded Christmas Tree in 2011. East Barnet did not.
Funded by the GLA – NOT Barnet council.

High Barnet had OLF money in 2011. East Barnet did not.
Yes, HB is a larger shopping area. This was GLA money, not Barnet council money. East Barnet were not in a position to apply for funding

Several shops had makeovers with that money... and even then Pacino could only be motivated to put up one half of their shutters. Did you email them to complain about their lack of pride?
The shops that had makeovers were chosen because they were central to the vistas that a motorist sees on approaching the town. They did not ask for the makeovers – and those that did went without. Pacino’s had problems with their landlord who wanted them out and he succeeded by not maintaining the structure – and hence the new development that is going on, in contravention of planning and Conservation Area rules.

As 'Barnet Traders' did you constantly write to the previous owner of the market as she ran it into the ground and destroyed footfall?
Yes we did, and joined with the Friends of Barnet Market in their fantastic campaign.

What about the owners of the former 'Greggs' shop? Have you contacted them about their pride? I did speak with the owners this week and told them it was in a dilapidated state. There are 'legal' issues that need to resolved first, but I have implored them to get on with it.
Well done, much appreciated!

This year High Barnet had the Freedom Parade by the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. East Barnet did not. That parade brought a lot of people to the High Street, but that parade could have been done anywhere in the borough.
We supported this very actively. If you remember, I copied you in the chain of emails I sent to officers and the mayor’s office in an attempt to get some publicity going. We flooded social media to generate interest. We printed and put up posters at our own cost because of the lack of material. Yes, it brought out a lot of locals, who then simply melted away the moment it was over. The council had the bright idea of bussing the troops out asap to the other side of the borough for lunch instead of giving them the freedom to roam the town and enjoy the personal greetings and thanks of residents before being fed at the town barracks! The result – business takings were drastically down, but that was not the point was it?

There is free parking on the High Street. There hasn't been free parking on the High Street for many years.
I do not think that two shared loading bays are going to turn the town around, do you?

The local Barnet Resident Association (redacted) and Barnet Traders (redacted) had a recent meeting with Cllr. Cohen regarding the parking changes. It was agreed that parking was greatly improved (figures confirm that), but that Moxon Street Car Park needed changes and they will be announced very soon, along with another parking change.
Excellent – I await more news. I trust it will be that a second meter will be installed for redundancy, as we had before you ripped them out, and that they will be cash enabled.

There is free parking after 2.30pm at the north of the High Street. There are no restrictions on Meadway, there are one hour restrictions on the streets west side of Barnet Hill/Wood Street. You frequently complain that this is not close enough for your shop, but if you needed vehicular access then why set up shop on a narrow bend with double yellows on both sides of the street?
This is so insulting and unbelievable! It also betrays your complete ignorance of business and local economics. And it is not what I would expect of a locally elected representative of the council. Is Waitrose operating on Hadley Green? Is Iceland moving down to new premises on the Meadway? Where we are is at the heart of Barnet, by the church and the new garden, in the Wood Street Conservation Area. Where the historic Squeeze is and on the site of the original Barnet Market! I really don’t need to go on!

There is free parking on the weekends up to Christmas in December.
That’s a good start. But Saturdays (Sunday is free) are more for big shopping trips to Brent X and London Colney. We need Free after Three in the week, cash meters and more.

High Barnet has had substantial amount of money put into transforming the Churchyard Gardens; and nearly £20,000 this year on further works. East Barnet hasn't, to my knowledge.
Again, not Barnet council money. There could have been £2,000,000 from the GLA but the council declined to engage with Round 2 of our application for OLF funding!

The High Road has been resurfaced. East Barnet's, to my knowledge, has not.
Again, not Barnet council money. This was a Tfl obligation. I understand that additional funding of up to £2,000,000 was offered by Tfl to enhance the High Street streetscape but the cash was left on the table by the council – it was just too much trouble.

High Barnet has a tremendous Remembrance Parade - over 500 residents involved or watching this year. The best attended in the borough. The High Street was looking excellent. Was your shop open to serve the visitors?
How distasteful can you get? When we used to trade on that day we shut the shop for the duration in respect. No, we do not open on Sundays at present as the takings no longer cover our costs.

The Council is a major stakeholder in the Chipping Barnet Town Team. The Barnet Traders should have a major part to play as a stakeholder in the Town Team. For reasons I don't understand, the most successful trader in High Barnet was once part of the Barnet Traders, but hasn't been for three years. His presence would surely have a galvanising effect on the Barnet Traders. Why is he not part of Barnet Traders?
I think you are referring to a local landlord and property developer. With the latter hat on his recent work has been respected, but there was a major conflict of interest where he used the BTA to his advantage and was unaccountably and secretly engaged with the council over property, land banking and planning matters. His portfolio of tenants represent EVERYTHING that is symptomatic in the decline of the high street and includes at least one each of the following (from what we know): a money shop, a charity shop, an optician and an estate agent and not a single independent business. Many believe his aim was to drive down freehold prices to acquire an extensive portfolio. It was a ridiculous situation for him to be chair of a traders group! Again, it betrays your business knowledge – landlords are the scourge of the high street and have been instrumental in their decline.

If you want the Christmas Tree lights switched on by the Mayor, then you could have requested it through the Mayor's office, or asked a local Councillor for advice on contacting the Mayor.
We do not want the mayor to switch the lights on thank you. My point was that the council seems to be very busy supporting other high streets.

The Mayor does open the Barnet Christmas Fayre each year - because the organisers request it.

I believe redacted has been in discussion with Council officers and arranged Christmas lights - 'simple design but elegant' her email said.
But WHERE ARE THEY? Eleventh hour or what, when every other high streets had them glowing, in some instances for weeks. (Will be here by the weekend - Mr Mustard)

I will speak with Cllr. Cohen, but money and resources are tight. High Barnet is a large area with a large number of demands. The area does get a reasonable share. One always wants more and that's what I'm constantly trying to deliver.
Thank you, much appreciated.


Cllr. David Longstaff
Cabinet Member for Safety and Resident Engagement

In May 2014 you get the chance to vote for new councillors. Have a look through the candidates and see if you find any who promise to take more positive steps to save the High Streets, which are under siege from all quarters, and in which councillors should be heavily investing our money, of which they are mere custodians, for the good of society.

Let Mr Mustard anticipate that Goldenarse will now send him an email trying to rescue the situation as despite the recent backing on twitter of you know who (the backing of a person who said this about him "promoted too soon and a lightweight" may not be worth having) he is up the creek without a paddle and losing electoral sympathy at a bad time, demanding that Mr Mustard set out his priorities for the High Street and saying which budgets he would cut to fund investment in the High Street. Well it isn't Mr Mustard's job to do such a thing but if Goldenarse cares to send him a list of all the financial support that Barnet Council gave to business in his ward of High Barnet in the year ended 31 March 2013 then he will try and find some space in his diary (Mr Mustard has 2 jobs, the blog, 50 PCN to appeal and his role as an unpaid SPAD for the parking department so is somewhat busy, busier than an actor who isn't seen in many roles that is for sure) to give a detailed reply. Mr Mustard doesn't hold out much hope after that though; remember the Longstaff Letters after which silence was golden.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update 11:38 on 27 November 13.

The Cabinet member for Engagement has now decided to engage. Marvellous.

He has been in touch with Hopscotch and the following will happen:

The outcome is that the council will contribute an amount equal to the total cost of the tree and decorations, thus freeing up an extra amount for further initiatives such as hanging baskets.

He will also look into whether the council’s water bowser could be deployed in maintaining troughs and baskets over the spring and summer.

Hurrah. What a pity that Mr Mustard has to pillory councillors into action but at least they are starting to see sense.

A much larger conversation needs to take place about the role of the High Street in modern day society and what positive steps the council should be taking to make barnet a place where High Streets thrive. Cash parking meters or free time-limited parking would be a very good start. After that how about closing the offices in the North London Business Park and spreading all council officers across the borough in and around the various High Streets to generate trade for shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants after having brought all jobs back in-house of course.