25 March 2015

Barnet Council not weaned themselves off PCN yet

Here is an FOI response (not Mr Mustard's question) which it isn't clear has been reported after removing the about 3,000 PCN a year issued to foreign registered vehicles (hardly a huge problem in which case).

What Mr Mustard finds interesting is that he was told that the annual PCN count had dropped from about 165,000 to 130,000 which clearly it hasn't.

Revenue raising is still alive and well in Barnet.

The number of PCN challenged at 46,324 is shockingly low as it is only 30% of the total and it needs to be double or treble that in order to bring the system grinding to a halt. Remember that you shouldn't give in at the first rebuff, you get 3 chances to challenge (for a PCN placed on your vehicle; 2 otherwise)

Mr Mustard will just have to give more talks. If you have a group that wants to know more about PCN please do invite Mr Mustard along for a free talk which could save you £110 each.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

24 March 2015

No allowance for age at Barnet Council

Here is another recommendation by a PATAS Adjudicator that the council declined to accept.

Mrs K appeals as she states that her disabled badge was displayed at the time that the Penalty Charge Notice was issued. The appellant provides a copy of her disabled badge.

The civil enforcement officer's photographs show the appellant's car parked on a double yellow line. There was a disabled badge in the car but the badge was covered by the clock that is issued with a blue badge.

I find that the contravention occurred. The disabled badge exemption only applies if the badge is properly displayed.

I have no jurisdiction to take into account the mitigating circumstances raised. However I accept the appellant's evidence that she made a genuine error. I note that Mrs K is 85 years old and I am satisfied that she did not intend to misuse the badge or to mislead the civil enforcement officer. I am satisfied that her badge was in the car when the Penalty Charge Notice was issued. In those circumstances I find that there is compelling mitigation and I recommend that the local authority cancels the Penalty Charge Notice.

Best not to get old in Barnet as you'll find the council dipping into your purse if you make a small error.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

23 March 2015

Does the Chief Executive decide & if not, who does?

When a PATAS adjudicator makes a recommendation to a council to cancel a PCN for a reason not to do with the application of the law (as other the adjudicator could cancel) the suggestion is meant to go to the office of the Chief Executive. Mr Mustard wonders if, given the love of outsourcing currently on display, the paperwork gets anywhere near the building, let alone to his desk.

Here is one recent such case;

1)      Mr. H attended the Tribunal to present his appeal. 
2)    The evidence clearly established that Mr. H had parked in a bay reserved for the loading of goods from goods vehicles. Mr. H was driving a car that was plainly not a goods vehicle.
3)    Despite the fact that the contravention is made out, I find that there are compelling reasons to recommend that the enforcement authority cancels the PCN.
4)    I was satisfied that although Mr. H was not using a goods vehicle, he was loading and unloading goods from a Hospice Shop. He had misunderstood the signage. The contravention was unintentional.
5)    Mr. H is in his late 70's and is proud of his previously unblemished driving record, never previously having had a parking contravention. He is unwell, and of limited means. He is in receipt of income support. He would find the penalty a very significant commitment.
6)    Given his personal mitigation and the unintentional contravention, I recommend that Barnet Council cancel this PCN. I also remind the enforcement authority that they also have power to pursue the mitigated penalty, even at this late stage of enforcement. (The adjudicator means the 50%)

What was the council's decision. To reject the recommendation. Not the way to treat charitable folk, now is it?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

21 March 2015

A Brent blunder

A lady has just received a Notice to Owner for a PCN she was supposedly issued with at 09:26 on 12 February 2015. The PCN was not found on the car. Mr Mustard wonders if this is because the traffic warden realised his/her error and hot footed it but didn't cancel the PCN due to operator error as there is a Key Performance Indicator for this?

The restrictions in this zone in Lydford Rd are really odd as MA is a cpz from 10am to 3pm and MW from 8am to 6.30pm but of course a marked out bay can be completely different to cpz hours which set the rules purely for otherwise unsigned single yellow lines (although usually the bays will be for the same hours).

Brent accept Ringo payments - why isn't that showing on the sign? The traffic warden checked location 5074 (not on the sign, the number must be on the meter). Is is a data protection breach for the council to exhibit a photograph of the screen shot of registration numbers of five vehicles which had paid for parking at that location? (four of them probably for the previous day as all their sessions ended at 10am).

Interestingly, if you put 5074 into Ringo it comes up as Mapesbury Rd which is the name of the cpz zone. You would need to know that fact as a visitor or you might thing Ringo had got it wrong. Mr Mustard has just tried, at 22:25 on Saturday to pay for 15 minutes parking. Ringo has asked him for 20p and said his session will end at 10:15 on 23 March so it automatically assumes the 15 minutes that you want are the next payable 15 minutes rather than the current 15 minutes. At the bottom of the screen it says "Pay for parking to start now" which clearly it doesn't. Mr Mustard is about to hit the "back" key especially as the default vehicle is an old one.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Tower Hamlets - 7/10

Tower Hamlets would have got 9/10 if the website said that the council was going through the payment records and refunding everyone of its own volition but they must be applauded for publicising this on their website. Hopefully there are also some publicity signs at the locations concerned (if not I expect a local resident will read this blog and erect some; a copy of this blog post would be the quickest to print out and tie to a lamp post). This will only affect a small number of PCN hence the official willingness to refund. If it was 100,000 PCN that were wrongly issued one would anticipate rather more resistance.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

20 March 2015

a Residents' Forum or three

The above poster contained less information than the previous ones, Mr Mustard noticed.

and the answer was that there is no mention of area forums on the current poster. Mr Mustard checked the council website to find this schedule for Wednesday evening:

Hopefully someone in the know will be able to add a comment as to what is not going on in our area committees. Why are there no decisions to take locally?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

18 March 2015

Haringey Council - grasping to the end

Eric Pickles has pushed for motorists to be given 10 minutes grace when their parking ticket expires as reported by the BBC on 6 March 15.

Have they listened in Haringey or are they determined to extract the last pound (actually £80 in this case) from a motorist who paid for 84 minutes of parking and was back at his car ready to leave 5 minutes after the paid for parking expired? The motorist's guess about the time he needed wasn't wildly out and Mr Mustard agrees with the 10 minutes grace period.

Here is the answer, in a letter dated 12 March 15.

This is a prime example of how nit picky council's are in order to revenue raise. Given the imminent change in the law local council's should adjust their policies now to cancel any PCNs that are challenged on the 10 minutes of grace basis.

Clearly as the PCN was issued at 15:51 the PCN was all pre-prepared in the handheld equipment of the traffic warden in order to spit out a PCN when the second hand ticked round to 5 minutes and 0 seconds.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

14 March 2015

Crapita - Dispensing with dispensations

How many Crapita employees does the system require

An email received by Mr Mustard this week is below. He has redacted the staff names as they are only implementing the stupid call centre system that they are forced to follow or be sacked, so the junior staff are not to blame.

Dear Mr Mustard

I hope that you are very well.

I just want to let you know that today I called the Crapita Call Centre permit section to renew my Housing Permit which expires 14/03/2015 as I could not renew it online as it required a PIN which I do not possess. (PINs are new but no-one seems to have been told what they are. We all have to find out the hard way)

I spoke to the officer by the name Ms Redacted #1, who took my details. I told her that I wanted to renew my permit as it was expiring this week. She informed that she will start my permit on the 15/03/2015. I informed her that she needs to start the permit on the 16/03/2015 as the operational hours of the CPZ is Monday to Friday 10-11. I did not see the point of her starting the permit on Sunday.

She has agreed to start the permit on a Monday 16/03/2015. She then advised me that the permit will be sent today 1st class. (Odd that as Mr Mustard's was sent second class).

From reading your blog I have noted the difficulties other residents have endured. So I asked the officer for temporary dispensation to start on the 16/03/2015, so that if the permit does not arrive I would not be penalised by getting PCN from NSL. The officer refused and Informed me because my permit is still valid, they would not issue the dispensation. She also informed me that I had to call on Monday the 16/03/2015 to get dispensation. I told her that this was not the way when Barnet Council was dealing with the permit and I ask if this is a new policy implemented by Capita. She just kept repeating that they would not issue a dispensation.

I asked to speak to a manager which I was transferred to by the name Mr Redacted #2, and I explained my situation that they have to give dispensation as they cannot guarantee the permit will be received before Monday. In addition it creates hassle to call back the call centre just to get the dispensation on the day of enforcement as Monday is always busy day. (and a dispensation issued on Monday would only apply from Tuesday)

The manager agreed with me and transferred the call to another officer by the name Mr Redacted #3 to issue dispensation from 16/03/2015 to 02/04/2015.

All this could have been avoided if the first officer issued dispensation from when the permit was due to commence. I wonder how many people have been told the same story but later receive a PCN. I never experienced this situation before.

Best Wishes,

If you are unhappy with what the call centre tells you, do as this person did and persist. If Crapita prove to be unresponsive then complain to the council, the only slight snag being that Crapita handle phone calls and you can't know without asking if the person you are speaking to is a Crapita or council employee. If you are unhappy with the level of service received you should complain as that is sometimes the only way to get organisations to improve.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

13 March 2015

How to get things done, or not?

Mr Mustard has long thought that 63 councillors is way too many (he would settle for one good councillor in his own ward and not have a choice of 3 he could approach but where two leave all the heavy lifting to the third) and now having seen a council dataset for the membership of the various committees he thinks there must also be too many of those as well. Surely a committee of 5 people would contain enough brain power to decide upon an issue? Feel free to shoot Mr Mustard down in flames if that is a completely ridiculous suggestion - that is what the comments box is for.

Labour councillors are also the possessor of degrees, one of them has three, and she can sing, but they don't feel the need to tell us and having one doesn't necessarily make you any better at council work.

The council's various datasets are available here.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

10 March 2015

Draft Local Authority Parking Guidance

It was 2008 when the last guidance was issued and the revised draft guidance takes account of forthcoming changes. Here are the main ones which local authorities must "have regard to" i.e. follow unless they have a good reason ready. If the word "must" is in the text then a local authority cannot escape the requirement.

One would have thought that making payment more difficult by removing cash parking meters would fall foul of this.

Mr Mustard hasn't seen any council in London offer education to motorists in order to try and get them moving towards 100% compliance (as that would hurt the council in the pocket).

The ban almost ban on cctv cars won't hurt Barnet Council at all as they haven't been using them. Other councils will now have to employ loads more traffic wardens in order to issue the number of PCN that they are accustomed to living off the proceeds of.

"Chapeau" to Eric Pickles for getting this change through Parliament. The way that a traffic warden could pounce if you were even 30 seconds over a 4 hour period of paid for parking always went against the British sense of fair play.

The problem in Barnet isn't so much out-of-order meters but the almost complete absence of them. Mr Mustard can see an argument coming as to whether if a driver does not have a mobile phone whether or not PayByPhone is "available" to them.

Barnet Council doesn't remove cars either for PCNs but if it were to start to do so it would have to allow an extra 10 minutes in appropriate circumstances.

The process of considering challenges and representations against PCN is being back in-house in Barnet. Just in time.

The above paragraph is about informal challenges, which are the ones made in response to a PCN i.e. before the Notice to Owner.

Clearly, the Saracens Event Day zone is not adequately communicated as hundreds of motorists park wrongly on every match day.
 This was always the case but a case in Gloucestershire has rammed the point home.
Barnet Council are trying to reduce the number of cases going to Adjudication but still need to make more progress.

Barnet Council do lose more than the average.

The whole bailiff guidance section is new. Mr Mustard will be telling the parking manager that he expects Barnet Council to actively manage their contracts (the ones that the council haven't even got copies of!).

Barnet Council have never yet issued an annual report unlike, say, Haringey Council.

That's it.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

4 March 2015

A half marathon on Mother's Day (15 March 15) - Not an Event Day

Some mothers may well run this half marathon in the morning and then tuck into their well earned Mother's Day lunch (extra roast potatoes please) as usual. Other folk won't know that this race is on and will get snarled up in what Mr Mustard suspects, will be traffic jams around the area of the route. Certainly a restaurant on the A5 doesn't look like a good choice for Mother's day this year. Mr Mustard suggests radiating away from the centre and then looking for a restaurant. An even better idea is to celebrate a day early; she's still your mum and you'll probably get a better meal on the Saturday when the restaurant isn't as pressed or doing "special" prices for Mother's Day.

Here is the roads closed information

Here is the re-opening information

Here is some free car parking information

Immediately south of Mill Hill Broadway is the upper edge of the Saracens Event Day CPZ and given that it is a 30 minute walk one wonders why the zone stretches so far?

Finally some misinformation, from the organiser's website:

Take it from Mr Mustard, who has checked with Barnet Council parking management, 15 March 15 is not an Event Day as they run from 1pm to 6 pm and 99% of runners will have finished before 1pm. If you see signs being changed to that date, please let Mr Mustard know.

On the other hand, be warned that Saturday 14 March 15 is an Event Day.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

3 March 2015

Not so smart in the City of London


The City of London must be getting a bit short of cash as they sent a PCN in the post for parking as above, for one minute, whilst the driver went to find someone to open the gates. The entrance is just before the end of Old Fleet Lane as below.

Now this isn't the sort of place you would park on a Thursday afternoon hoping that you wouldn't inconvenience anybody when the entrance is also the exit to this car park.

The £130 PCN is, and this may surprise you, for code 62 "Parked with one or more wheels on or over a footpath or any other part of a road other than a carriageway" and Mr Mustard can't be certain of convincing an adjudicator that the area where the car is to be found is carriageway although it clearly is for vehicles to pass over, rather than pedestrians, for the simple reason that the back of the car might have poked out over the natural line of the pavement. You can be ticketed anywhere between the two building lines for being on the pavement if you aren't clearly on the carriageway.

In this case the PCN has been sent in the post because the vehicle was driven off before the traffic warden had finished preparing the PCN. The City want proof from building security that this was into the car park but as their traffic warden hadn't finished preparing the PCN then presumably he/she knows which way the car went as they were standing next to it.

For postal PCN you get just the one chance to make representations. In response a council should then either accept or reject them. What the City have done is ask my client to provide evidence from building security that he did indeed enter the building on that day:
as if they will be able to remember who visited them by car a month ago
as if the same security guard will be on duty and 
as if my client has nothing better to do with his time than revisit the City from N3. 

Perhaps the City are trying to be helpful in offering my client the chance to provide further evidence or pay 50% in the 14 days since the date of the letter (which customarily should be 14 days from the date of service of the letter) but it is an unusual offer and outside of the legislation. What the rules state are that within 56 days of receipt the council must either accept or reject the representations and that they have not done so Mr Mustard thinks that the City have dropped a clanger.

What they should have done was to send a Notice of Rejection if they did not believe my client or cancel the PCN if either they did believe him or were going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Mr Mustard has to go now and email the City of London.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard