31 May 2015

Resident is Brauned* off about permits

One of the other Barnet bloggers told me that Cllr Braun's surname is pronounced Brown. If it isn't, the title doesn't work. The resident is still entitled to be browned off given that reply came there none. If Braun is pronounced Brawn then it isn't pronounced Brain, or Polite.
Brown not Braun
Taking money for a permit and issuing it should be a walk in the park. Why I keep getting examples of complete ineptitude 2 years after Crapita took the process over is a question you can answer for yourselves.

Dear Ms Braun,

I am a Hendon resident. For the last 4 years I have had a resident’s permit for my car, parking in Sunningfields Road. Prior to that, parking was free in my road. (Due to the giveaway of the Coptall stadium)

Today I came out of my house to discover I had a parking ticket. Apparently my resident parking permit had expired at the end of March.

I had not noticed this as I have always received a reminder notice from Barnet Council, asking for payment for the upcoming year. (Reasonable expectation is an argument that should find favour at PATAS)

This year I received no reminder and so did not notice that the permit had expired.
I phoned Barnet council, only to be put through an extremely long-winded automated system, several times, in my attempts to speak to a human being.

When I finally did speak to a member of Barnet Council staff I was told that they had changed systems, and, as an experiment, they were not sending out reminders in order to ‘see if people remembered to renew’

I cannot express how annoyed/upset I was to receive this response.

They also said that it was not part of the ‘Terms and Conditions’ to send out reminders and that I should have read these terms to see that. I pointed out that in all probability very few residents had read these.

Also, it surely sets a precedent when you send out a reminder for 3 years in a row; obviously people then expect a further reminder.

In fact the Barnet website permit renewal screen actually still requests that you fill in the ‘pin code’ received with your renewal letter, in order to renew it. (Ooh, a forensic resident. Spot on)

As I did not have such a code it took a member of staff about 30 minutes to try and set up an account and get my payment.

Total chaos. (and total ineptitude).

To add insult to injury, once I had paid I received an email confirming payment, as my email address was already in their system. It would have been just as easy to send out a reminder in this form. (Which is exactly how Mr Mustard is reminded by the council)

If I had parked illegally then I would accept it, but I feel Barnet Council are totally unjustified in changing their policy on reminders without actually telling the public. (They do this every time they change a system. It displays an institutionalised disdain for the public).

I was told that this had just come into force, so I am fully expecting hundreds of residents to get similar parking tickets, as I am sure most people will not realise the date of expiry had passed. (There was a surge in these types of parking ticket a few months ago but it had died down)

I would be most grateful if you would take this up with the council, who I believe are acting in an extremely high-handed way, against the interests of the public. (High handed? Barnet Council? indeed)

A Hendon Resident

The next email was to Mr Mustard

Dear Mr Mustard

I recently had a parking ticket from Barnet Council. My residents permit for my car parked outside my home had expired and I had not received a reminder from Barnet Council, so did not notice. See my below correspondence with Councillor Braun, for details.

It was a bit of a strange situation. I could perhaps have thought that I had been unlucky and that the reminder letter had got lost in the post, but when I phoned Barnet Council to query this, they confirmed that they had not sent a reminder ‘as an experiment to see if people paid without being sent a reminder’. However, 2 weeks later, my immediate neighbour did receive a reminder. In fact she received 2 reminders!

As I have paid online on each occasion I do not understand why they could not have sent me an automated email reminder in fact, but that is a separate issue.

I appealed the ticket and the appeal has just been refused. What a surprise. They just said that is was my responsibility to check. I argued that I had always received a reminder in all previous years and so relied on receiving a notice, and therefore Barnet should have warned residents if they intended to stop this practice.

I wrote to Councillor Braun and received an acknowledgement but have heard nothing further.

I will now have to pay the ticket I realise. However, I am writing to you to see if you are aware of this happening to other residents? It seems most strange that the council admitted to me that it had stopped sending out reminders, but then immediately started sending them out again. Was this due to the response from people getting tickets I wonder, or some other factor? One of the several Barnet staff I spoke to admitted (when I asked him directly) that the system had recently been started and that they had received other complaints similar to mine.

Kind Regards

A Hendon resident

Mr Mustard's fingers flew to the keyboard. Firstly, he told the Hendon resident not to pay & not to worry and then he emailed a parking manager to ask for a cancellation as all PCN issued in this circumstance are to be cancelled by order of the leader of the Council as this published answer from the full Council meeting of 23 September 2014


It took a few days but after a gentle reminder (as Mr Mustard's emails to parking management do usually get pretty quick responses as he stops the rot from spreading for them) NSL were instructed to cancel the PCN.

Now the question that comes to Mr Mustard's mind is why NSL don't know what Mr Mustard knows about the policy that the Leader has set? Is it incompetence? (NSL & incompetence in the same sentence, that isn't a first) or is it a deliberate policy to raise revenue? We should be told. (The usual excuse of a one-off error is not available as Mr Mustard knows of several instances).

Mr Mustard's PCN workload is heading towards the 100 PCN mark and he could do without any really difficult ones at the minute but these ones are easy so if you have one the same, do send it to Mr Mustard and he will get it fixed for you, sometimes within 24 hours.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

29 May 2015

The Friday Joke - Capita

Customer - the model of efficiency
The adjudicators at PATAS vary greatly in their approach but one is, despite decades of parking ticket minutiae, always ready for some dry humour, indeed on finding Mr Mustard in the reception area recently he said "Good morning, I see you are here to amuse us again, Mr Mustard*" and now here he is returning the compliment (Mr Mustard is actually deadly serious with his appeals but also tries to keep it light, although there is always that tingle of nervous anticipation as he can't tell which way an adjudicator will think on a particular case, they often come at him from left field, although they nearly always end up in the same goal)

*Mr Mustard's real name was used by the adjudicator. Mr Mustard always calls them Sir or Madam, as the case may be, as those are the rules of the tribunal. Nor does one try to shake hands on meeting.

The Appellant's vehicle was parked in a restricted street displaying a badge that had expired and a fairly detailed note explaining that the badge was in the process of being renewed. Despite that note I would not criticise the CEO for issuing the PCN (as motorists cannot write themselves exemptions from parking restrictions).

However it transpires that the reason there was no valid badge on display is that the Council's agents Capita, had failed to issue him with one at the proper time. Having heard the Appellant in person in detail there is no doubt at all that the sorry history of his attempt to renew the badge in very good time is correct; and that his request to Capita for the required renewal forms was, as he was informed by Capita when chasing the matter, "lost in the system". When the forms were eventually received on a Saturday morning, he completed them and put them in the post that same morning.

It appears that Capita could learn something from the Appellant's efficiency.

The Council states that the Appellant should have applied for a temporary dispensation. He was never informed of this by the Council when he made his initial renewal enquiry or at any subsequent stage by the Council's agents Capita. All he was told to do was to display a note, which he did.

In my judgement in these circumstances the law follows common sense and does not allow a Council to enforce a penalty for a contravention which occurred entirely as a result of its own failings (Capita being the agent of the Council for these purposes). Allowing it to do so would be the equivalent of an abuse of process and in these circumstances no contravention can be said to have occurred (see the dicta in Camden v The Parking Adjudicator and BHS t/a First for Food Service Ltd [2011] EWHC 295 Admin [2011]EWCA Civ 905)
The Appeal is therefore allowed. (i.e. the PCN is cancelled)

The Appellant has shown to me today a charge certificate issued in respect of a very similar case, and where he never received a Notice to Owner. He has of course the right to follow the statutory procedures to set this aside. I am not seized of that matter today. However if it is the case that the situation in that case is indeed identical, the Council might be well advised to cancel that PCN without further ado, since if the matter ever came to appeal it might well find itself at risk of an order for costs on the Appeal being allowed.

The adjudicator is a solicitor or a barrister. They tend to talk in code but make no mistake about that last sentence, the adjudicator is steaming mad and will make the council pay for their stupidity if they continue to exhibit same. The barrier for costs is set very high "shall not normally allow" which speaks volumes in the context of this adjudication finding.

Anyway, the report amused Mr Mustard. If it brought a smile to your lips, then all well and good.

Do have a nice weekend and make sure you attend on time to any PCN paperwork.

Please also park properly as Mr Mustard currently has 75 PCN to handle and if he gets sent many more will have to give up his day job.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

18 May 2015

Emailing into nowhere

For at least a couple of years, the email address of Barnet Council's parking permits section has been parking.permits@barnet.gov.uk and it is, in fact, still being put on letters which have your new permit attached, viz:

from a May 15 letter
Now, a reasonable resident might just conclude they could therefore contact the parking permit section by email and many of you have done just that. You have been whistling in the wind as those emails do not get a response because the address is configured for outgoing email only. Mr Mustard has been told that an undeliverable message will automatically be generated.

Now you know Mr Mustard, he likes to test things himself, so he sent an email. He also put delivery and read receipt requests on it. It was delivered, doh!

No-one is looking at them though, delivered or not.

The permit system has been the subject of more than one change since Capita took over. No positive communications explaining this have been pro-actively sent out with residents left to find out the hard way when they don't get a permit nor a response and extra PCN are being issued some of which will end up being paid (not if you go via Mr Mustard they won't) as some people with busy lives just want quiet lives. Coupling a defective email address with a lack of permit renewal reminders is a double whammy and extra income for the council.

So halfway through this blog post and Mr Mustard does get a message

which does seem perfectly reasonable except for all those words at the bottom "blocked:" which makes him think he won't get a cheery little hello back from Crapita in Coventry.

What you do need to do if you have sent documents to that email address is to phone 020 8359 7446 or go to this link and upload your documents rather than email them. You will need your PIN number which you might have to phone up for as no previously allocated reference number for you seems to last 12 months.

If you haven't got your permit also ask for a dispensation and then put a reminder in your phone as you need a new one every 14 days.

It would be much better if the council opened contact points in libraries where this sort of thing could be applied for in person, your documents could be checked and loaded by a council employee and your permit could be printed out on the spot. But that would be to put the needs of residents first which is only an empty mantra, not actuality.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

14 May 2015

White City ( Hammersmith & Fulham council ridiculousness )

So you have your car stolen when staying with family and naturally you report it stolen to the police as soon as you come out of the house and find it missing (can you find something which is missing?). The car gets smashed up and dumped in a White City council car park. Here is a photo of it (the black rectangle is where the numberplate was to be found, sitting there casually).

Now consider that the airbags were deployed, the front numberplate is on the bonnet, the front bumper is resting on the ground and clearly a serious accident has occurred.

What should a traffic warden do? Check the stolen cars database or issue a PCN? Traffic warden number 1 decided to issue a PCN (no there aren't ticket targets but you can see why the public think there are).

So did number 2, just 4 days later

and number 3 on the very next day

then we go a whole fortnight before traffic warden number 4 arrives (either the car park isn't patrolled very often or there are some traffic wardens with gumption)

 not traffic warden number 5 though some 3 days later.
The following month the police somehow come across the car (an ANPR equipped police car perhaps?) and give it to the insurance company who now own it, having paid out on the claim. The police take the five PCN and say they will sort them out. Somewhere the system breaks down as all 5 PCN are live with £195 owing on each one (150% of PCN value) on the H&F council website except for one which has been sent to bailiffs so is £202 which with bailiff's fees is now £512, which is how my client heard about it, the new owners of their former residence having been knocked up out of bed at 6am (the earliest time that a bailiff can call). The bailiff gets a phone number from the new occupier for the wife of my client but will not listen to reason about the car being stolen and not being her responsibility (she wisely refuses to give the bailiff a new address). A copy of the warrant (which is invalid in any event as it has the wrong address on it) is refused by the bailiff until she pays it (naughty bailiff, there is an absolute right to know by what authority you demand payment). Luckily the bailiff can't clamp Mr Mustard's client's car as he no longer has one.

Mr Mustard will be logging complaints with the council about their own actions as well as the bailiff's but he likes to share with you some of the stupidity he has to deal with.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update: 15 May 15

Out of the blue H&F have just cancelled these 5 PCN (as they jolly well should have done)

5 May 2015

Not so pro Force

Union St, High Barnet
If you are a security guarding company and decide to dress your vehicles up to make them look like police cars and thus highly visible then Mr Mustard's advice is to follow the rule of the law and not park for 7 minutes on a double yellow line whilst you buy your lunch in the Victoria Bakery, because, quite simply, you are being hypocritical in breaking the law whilst supposedly being in business to uphold it.

During those 7 minutes a traffic warden had patrolled the next road along, Salisbury Rd, and after that was 30 metres away in the High Street checking on people who had properly paid to park.

Never a traffic warden where you want, when you want, is there?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

2 May 2015

One rule for the council (NSL)

So here we are in Salisbury Rd, High Barnet where Mr Mustard had just walked past a traffic warden giving a PCN to a 4by4 that had it's front wheel on the double yellow and the rest of the car over the single yellow; however, the traffic warden must have ridden his scooter the wrong way up a one way street. You can't park against the flow of traffic in a one way street, even on a scooter. If councillors ever wonder why residents hate the venal and rapacious enforcement to which they are subjected then they should look at the hypocrisy of situations like this one and the fact that enforcement vehicles (not sure this is one, surely it is merely transport) park in contravention when they don't need to (scooters can be parked in almost any bay) is what annoys the public. Parking in contravention by traffic wardens has to be reasonably necessary, it clearly isn't when there are parking bays nearby. This sort of thing should stop.

Having to park properly, like the public have to, would slow the traffic wardens down so they don't issue sufficient PCN to please their bosses. Why they are so keen to issue PCN is one of life's mysteries. Someone somewhere has targets in mind even if the contract forbids them. The only pseudo target is that the council project a certain annual income from parking and if they see slippage they take action to correct it which usually means more PCN.

The traffic warden was also in breach of the NSL contract with Barnet Council as he was wearing his crash helmet whilst issuing the PCN. If traffic wardens are supposed to engage with the public then they need to be able to fully hear them which Mr Mustard knows you can't when you are sporting a crash helmet, even without ear plugs.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

p.s. Where was Mr Mustard going you ask yourself? To the post office to send two PATAS appeal forms and some representations to Enfield Council against a bus lane PCN. Enfield have sneakily placed their camera where the imminent end of the lane is not shown and so they dish out PCN to anyone who cuts the corner off the lane which is too trivial to merit a PCN.