25 April 2015

and "we" trust Capita with Barnet Council's accounts?

they can't even get their own in on time.

It is a truism that late accounts are often bad accounts.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

24 April 2015

Let's help Barry Beavis fight for us

That's Barry Beavis in the foreground against Crapita (Parking Eye) in front of the crowd

This is all about private parking tickets (parking charge notices) that you might pick up at Asda, motorway services, Barnet Hospital etc etc.
As reported yesterday by Mr Mustard's friends at Parking Cowboys (who are far from cowboys), Barry Beavis’s appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal. However, the court did grant him the option of appealing to the Supreme Court. Following that, Barry has decided to go all the way but he needs to raise around £6,000 to fund it. That comprises £1,600 to lodge the Notice of Appeal, and £4,500 for lodging the appeal bundle itself.

As of 18:00 on 24th, £1,770 has already been donated (Mr Mustard has put £100 in the pot)

If you want to contribute, you can do so here.
Whatever you can spare, please spare it as if Barry can beat Parking Eye then he will have done the whole country a great service.

Mr Mustard is grateful to you all.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

22 April 2015

Another rubbish council decision in progress

Something is cooking in RAAD!

(The Residents Against Abbots Depot is a committee set up by the residents of Brunswick Ward to protest against the relocation of the Mill Hill waste depot in our heavily populated area.)

We are baking cakes and offering coffee to talk about what we can do to stop the

NO is the word.

Lets keep the waste out of our lovely neighbourhood and away from the New
Southgate Recreation Park and our lives.

Donating cakes to sell in our stand are also welcome, so please contact us prior to

What: Fundraising event where everyone is invited for coffee and cake and talk
about the waste coming to Oakleigh Rd.

When: Saturday 25th April from 11.00am-13.00pm

Where: New Southgate Recreation Park.

13 April 2015

Camden Council FOI response sinks Camden Council PCN

So here we have it. A car, sporting a blue badge & clock, on Sunday 25 January in a pay-and-display (actually bound to also be pay-by-phone) bay that has been suspended as follows

Given that there isn't a workman in sight, on day four of the supposed works, the driver could have phoned up Camden Council on the given number (but they only answer it from 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday so what use is that?) and asked if it was safe to park. Instead, the common sense decision was made that no harm was being done by parking there (Mr boring Mustard wouldn't have without being sure). Naturally along came a traffic warden who isn't paid to look at the situation and wonder if a PCN had any purpose other than revenue raising and after an observation period of just one minute, dished out a PCN.

Mr Mustard looked at the sign, which is in an authorised format and saw that he could argue that P&D Ref S07 was arguable as to location as he couldn't see SO7 anywhere. However he thought he would probably lose on that basis as the bay was signed along its length.

Mr Mustard first saw the PCN on Saturday 31 January 15.

On 2 February 15 he submitted a Freedom of Information request for job sheets, time sheets & invoices relating to the footway works which had supposedly been carried out.

On 5 February 15 he submitted an informal challenge to the PCN asking Camden Council to use their discretionary power to cancel the PCN as no works were apparent and so there was no traffic management purpose to the PCN.

The council's response was that a contravention had occurred so the PCN would stand. Here is part of the letter received, which often seem to Mr Mustard to have a holier than thou tone to them.

Mr Mustard suggested to his client that his magic powers were being stretched to breaking point in this case and that paying the 50% might be the best option. His client didn't have the money so opted to carry on.

On 3 March 15 the slightly late response to the FOI request arrived and the answer was

"There were no footway works carried out between 22 & 25 January in Kiddepore Avenue, NW3". Mr Mustard smiled to himself.

On 13 March the Notice to Owner was issued.

On 20 March Mr Mustard made the formal representations. They were the same as the informal challenge with the addition of the council's own FOI response to prove the absence of footway works.

On 8 April Camden Council accepted them and cancelled the PCN. The council couldn't resist though telling Mr Mustard, as if it was his car and not his client's, how wrong he had been. This sort of sanctimonious letter (who is responsible for ensuring that councils works are in progress if not the council?) does not endear motorists to councils.

The council had made a very sensible use of their discretion. Mr Mustard isn't sure that a PATAS adjudicator would have been able to cancel as legally the PCN was correct, they would have had to recommend cancellation to the council, he thinks.

The joke though is that his client could have moved the car forward by 5 metres and parked quite happily on double yellow lines for 3 hours.

Wasn't it a waste of parking bays though for Camden Council to suspend a long bay for 4 days whilst absolutely nothing was going on? Someone must have known that the works were not going ahead as planned. Not a good example of joined up government and not helpful to the residents of Camden where parking space must be at a premium.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

6 April 2015

Can you keep a secret? Mr Mustard can (if he wants to)

So here we go again. The second secret meeting of a wholly owned subsidiary of the "Open & Transparent" Barnet Council.

Mr Mustard asked to see the papers for the meeting of 18/12/13 because he thought they must be interesting. Barnet Homes refused. Mr Mustard involved the ICO. Barnet Homes had its mind changed. In an email from Barnet Homes, a tacit admission of intending to be secretive.

There was no notice given to the public.

Eventually Mr Mustard got a copy of the email which invited directors to attend. The redactions have been done by Mr Mustard as he didn't think that even board directors should have their email addresses posted to the internet for public consumption.

"Tezza"? - ffs

Who is Gerard Naughton?; not a board member. (Ah thank you LinkedIn, the interim head of business support. There were other invited & attending interim staff: Karen Patten - interim Director of Care & Support: Helen Astle - interim Director of Corporate Services)

A very odd meeting. Not taking the minutes of the previous meeting for approval and not going to take any minutes at this one.

Next, the agenda:

If you know what the item of business is why list it as "Any Other Business" and not under its own item?

Then finally Mr Mustard was provided with the minutes, the ones that were not taken.

Robert Heath used to supply the gas service for Paragon so perhaps that is why an interest was declared?

What was so controversial in these minutes that the meeting was decided upon as being completely secret? One would expect that a HSE investigation would be discussed at board level. Maybe it was this one?

Mr Mustard can't see anything controversial about a relationship with the BEBP.

If you know what the Directors of Barnet Homes were so petrified of becoming public knowledge, and any other items could have been discussed and not minuted, do feel free to create an email address in a false name and send an email to mrmustard@zoho.com

Having had to look at the directorships of the various

Barnet Homes Ltd (BH)
Your Choice (Barnet) Ltd (YC) &
TheBarnetGroup Ltd (TBG)

companies Mr Mustard thought you might like a table as the websites of the three companies muddle all the Directors up together as one Board.

Name - per website BH YC TBG
Terry Rodgers Y Y Y
Tracey Lees Y Y Y
John Marshall

Ross Houston

Nigel Turner
Rebecca Toloui
David Atta Y

Angela Purcell Y

Washington Ainabe Y

Bob Colquhoun

Troy Henshall Y Y Y
Jeffrey Baker Y

Tracey Lees has just left so she will probably be replaced as a Director shortly by the incoming Chief Exec.

John Marshall & Ross Houston are councillors.

Bob Colquhoun is listed on the website as a member of the board (of Directors for that is what the board is) but isn't listed as a Director at Companies House (having resigned from Barnet Homes on 1/2/2012) and LinkedIn locates him in Aberdeen which isn't exactly local. No wonder he didn't attend.

Troy Hensall is listed under "Officers" (staff) but he is a Director at Companies House; all very odd.

A Krishnaswamy Murali was appointed as director on 3/11/14 subject to references and then resigned on 19/1/15 so perhaps they weren't up to snuff. If anyone knows any other reason do email mrmustard@zoho.com

Mr Mustard somehow thinks that no further confidential Board Meetings will he held.

A blogger to concentrate on Barnet Homes & Your Choice is still needed as the existing ones can only be spread so thinly.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

5 April 2015

Happy Iranian New Year - your surprise present is a PCN

On Friday morning at about 8.30am Mr Mustard was wending his way  to Cafe Buzz, driving down Barnet Lane, alongside Barnet FC's former home at Underhill, when he observed a council employee putting up signs like this one (which Mr Mustard stopped after breakfast to photograph):

Mr Mustard wondered what the event might be. He noted the long hours, so clearly not a single football match, and the spelling error. He also noted to himself that this form of sign does not comply with any parking regulations.

This sign has been redundant for 2 years but is still in situ:

and he noted how much later the proposed restriction was.

He also noted that these signs were erected on this stretch of road

and white lines do not convey any form of restriction; these ones have been painted over the top of yellow ones.

Ambiguous signage doesn't help. Mr Mustard safely parked under these two contradictory signs whilst he took a photograph. The grey sign hanging down is the red match day sign.

When is the match day?

What a mess.

The only people caught out at this location will be residents who have gone away for the weekend and had no idea of the upcoming event.

The location is badly signed, both with a 2013 plate and then sometimes with signs which can't make their mind up between 11am and 11pm (the event finishes at 6pm).

The warning signs were posted very late in the day, being only 2 days before the event when the absolute minimum is 5 days. New Year can hardly have come as a surprise.

Mr Mustard hasn't seen the Traffic Management Order but if it refers to football matches then it can't be used for regulating the traffic when the field below the stadium is open for some other purpose.

Mr Mustard took a walk around the area and put his business card on a number of cars with PCN - he distributed so many that he ran out. If you know anyone who lives near the Underhill Stadium who might have been affected do please call them and if they were unlucky enough to get a PCN suggest they contact Mr Mustard by email on mrmustard@zoho.com as these PCN are eminently contestable.

NSL and the sign shop still need improvement work.

This is partly why Mr Mustard beats so many PCN, so many of them are duff.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Lovely to hear from you DCMD

DCMD (Don't call me Dave) used to write a blog in Barnet before he moved to sunny Essex but he still keeps his beady eye on us.

In response to a recent blog in which Mr Mustard was inciting everyone to rise up and challenge their PCN, DCMD was moved to make a comment which is deserving of some explanation in its own blog. Here is the comment:

The first question to answer is why 150,000+ PCN are issued each year in Barnet. Is it because no-one can get along the roads, pavements, out of their drives or across the road because of badly parked cars? No, it is because the net income from parking is estimated at the beginning of the year and to achieve it that is the number of PCN that need to be issued. It is a classic tail wagging the dog situation.

Mr Mustard's view is that this year's parking surplus should be spent on next year's transport infrastructure projects (like cycle lanes & trams) so that if the number of PCN falls it isn't necessary to have a Parking Recovery Project to make up the lost ground.

What the council should also be doing, in order to achieve their supposed objective of issuing fewer PCN is educating drivers to get it right. The council spend zero on educating people in what is a highly technical area.

It isn't anarchy to suggest that everyone challenges their PCN. It might be a slight over-statement as Mr Mustard finds errors in only 90% of PCN and he does tell 1 in 10 people to pay up at the start. It is the legal right of motorists to make up to 3 challenges against parking PCN; Mr Mustard thinks that the system is designed to take maximum advantage of the apathetic and/or the very busy and he intends to try and encourage them to be less so by explaining the little known process and supplying them with the knowledge they need.

If councils found that issuing 75,000 PCN was more profitable than issuing 150,000 they would issue 75,000.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

4 April 2015

Morally wrong

Enfield Council say that the above vehicle has an exemption which allows it to park on a double yellow line whilst sneakily parking around the corner (they didn't say that last bit) from yellow zig-zags that you can't stop on. It would be more honest if they were to park themselves right opposite the school where there are no lines in order to be a deterrent rather than a revenue raising vehicle. If Enfield Council have done their paperwork correctly then an enforcement vehicle will have such a parking exemption. Mr Mustard has requested sight of the exemption.

Even if legally correct is it morally right to park in a way that would be a contravention for a resident. Mr Mustard thinks not.

In Barnet they do things differently.

The above photo, kindly provided by a Finchley resident, was taken in Regents Park Rd opposite the Sainsburys shared use loading bay which catches out so many people. This car has been seen there before with one traffic warden doing a bit of shopping whilst the other one nicks anyone in the loading bay at the wrong time. In this case I think the passenger has stayed in the car. Why it didn't, for safety's sake, reverse into the empty marked bay is anyone's guess but arrogance might be an answer. 

That car is regularly used by the traffic wardens employed by NSL so is probably part of their fleet. If it is an Enforcement Vehicle then it qualifies for an exemption but given that traffic wardens simply roam the borough in it, and it hasn't got one of those pole mounted cameras, then in Mr Mustard's view it isn't an Enforcement Vehicle as such, simply a means of transport.

Mr Mustard doesn't think the scooters the traffic wardens use, until 11pm, are Enforcement Vehicles either, simply transport, but as he doesn't believe in giving PCN to powered two wheelers and they don't cause anything like the same amount of obstruction and can park for free in most bays, he won't throw his toys out of the pram about those.

Photographs of contravening NSL vehicles are most welcome by email to mrmustard@zoho.com and/or to the local paper.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

3 April 2015

Meeting, what meeting?

As per usual for Barnet, the council, in this case in the form of the Chief Executive, Andrew "Black Hole" Travers, are quick to trumpet what they see as good news but don't seem prepared to engage on twitter when challenged and thus do themselves more harm than good. Ignoring bad news doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Mr Mustard looked at the link from the cabinet office, here, and couldn't find what the requirements were to be crowned as an open data champion, so he has concluded that there weren't any, except possibly a council telling Francis Maude how fabulously open they were. It rather sticks in the craw when it is discovered that Your Choice (Barnet) Ltd, the ultimate ownership of which is with Barnet Council, held a secret board meeting, on 16 January 2014.

On 1 July 14, Mr Mustard made the following request:

Dear Sirs

Please provide the following details for the Board Meetings of 18 December 13 (Barnet Homes)^ and 16 January 14 (Your Choice)

- the email or other notice in which notice invited persons were notified of the meetings
- names of persons invited
- any notice given to the public
- the agendas
- the minutes

Yours faithfully

(^ this will be blogged about at a later date)

and the response he received on 24 July 2014 was as follows:

The meetings held on 18 December 2013 and 16 January 2014 were both confidential meetings and therefore only the Board Members and appropriate officers were invited. In view of the fact that they were confidential meetings we did not issue any notices and there are no agendas or minutes available for public release.

The items discussed are exempt from publication under categories 2 and 3 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972. This is because the report refers to information that is likely to reveal the identity of an individual and/or Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person.

In addition, the information about this meeting is withheld because it is considered that the absolute exemption under Section 40 (2) of the FOI Act applies to it.

In doing so, Barnet Homes is relying on the absolute exemption set out in section 40 (2) of the Act in regards to information that constitute personal data. We have applied the exemption because of the condition set out in Section 40 (3) (a) (i) of the Act concerning data protection principles as stated  in the Data Protection Act 1998.

I hope you find the information above useful.

How on earth being told nothing at all could be considered to be useful, Mr Mustard has no idea.

Mr Mustard asked Barnet Group for a review on 14 August, viz:

Please carry out a review as I do not accept that wholly council owned companies can have meetings that are so secret.

The result of the review, received on 3 September 14 was as follows:

Mr Mustard duly filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner on 1 October.

It took until 6 March 15 to get a decision and here is the relevant section:

Mr Mustard thought that with the passage of time these negotiations would be over. The ICO didn't know as they only consider the matter as at the date of the original request which was, by then 9 months old. He enquired of the Barnet Group if the information could now be released as presumably the negotiations, with Unison, had concluded some 15 months after the board meeting.

This is what they said, as of yesterday.

I would like to advise that the issue is still ongoing and therefore we are unable to release the information.

Bluntly, Mr Mustard does not believe that Unison representatives are dilly-dallying or shilly-shallying in negotiations with Your Choice and/or the Barnet Group as his experience has been they strive to be heard at every opportunity and often seem to meet a wall of silence.

What Mr Mustard does know is that their members have recently been on strike because of a 9.5% pay cut imposed on Your Choice workers. No delicate negotiations ongoing there, just a brutal pay cut.

If Barnet Council are to wear an Open Data crown, it should be this one.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard