30 July 2015

He fought like a tiger

Mr Mustard expects that you read in the local Times newspaper about the case of Alan Bengall who was sent a Notice to Owner for parking his car without payment in Barnet when he hadn't visited Barnet. You can read about it here.

Mr Mustard thought you should have his advice about what to do in the case of registration errors.

1. The traffic warden.

Please do not get it wrong (actually please do as it leads to an automatic cancellation every time). A fresh PCN cannot be issued to the correct registration to replace the inaccurate one.

2. The local authority.

Alan was exercised that councils don't check before sending out Notices to Owner. Given that Barnet Council issue 165,000 PCN a year and that probably only about 1 in a 1000 are wrongly issued then it simply doesn't make commercial sense for the council to check the type of car in the DVLA information against the photographs and the two cars, real and wrong might both be the same make in any event, as in Alan's case, and so an error may not be glaringly obvious.

3. The driver who received the PCN on their windscreen.

Please check the registration number on the PCN. If it is wrong please challenge the PCN on the grounds that the contravention did not occur, as it didn't against the vehicle registration number recorded on the PCN, by email to barnet@nslservices.co.uk as this will then mean that the PCN is cancelled without bothering the poor soul whose registration number has been entered in error. Miffed of Minster will not then be miffed.

This driver probably paid for their parking by PayByPhone and it is quite possible that the traffic warden did not notice the similarity of the registration number paid for to the one he/she thought they had input for a PCN.

Mr Mustard wonders if NSL ask traffic wardens before they offer them a job if they are dyslexic or dyscalculic (although knowing employment law nowadays that is probably discriminatory and can't be used as a reason not to employ but would be a reason to make reasonable adjustments to try and prevent traffic wardens from making this sort of error).

If this registration error has happened to you and you have paid the 50% you can ask for a refund as the payment was made in error.

Mr Mustard notes that the council apologised to Mr Bengall. Is that all they did? You make a small mistake and get a PCN for £110. They blunder and you get? - nothing except a few cheap words on a piece of paper. The council should have sent Mr Bengall a cheque for half the value of the PCN which would be £30, as a gesture of goodwill (a commodity which is sadly lacking in parking). They make £7m a year out of parking - they can surely afford to be nicer to people who have done nothing wrong.

4. The innocent vehicle owner.

Do not ignore the Notice to Owner as if you do you will become guilty by default, even though you are compeltely innocent, and you could end up with bailiffs clamping and removing your car even though it hasn't been anywhere near Barnet. Mr Mustard knows it is a pain but it is a slight pain that you have to endure. The same goes for cloned vehicles. If you do not defend yourself justice is so rough in parking that you will be found guilty by default. You can always ask Mr Mustard to act for you as long as you make a donation to the North London Hospice at the end.

The council usually take photographs which can easily be compared to ones of your vehicle to prove your case.

If you are on a 6 month round the world cruise and leave your fully taxed and insured car in public sight it could be clamped, removed and sold whilst you are away thanks to a dodgy PCN. You may have all your other communications sent to you by email, utility bills and the like, but you do need someone to pop to your home once a month in order to ensure you haven't got any rogue PCN paperwork by post or that the pipes in your bathroom haven't burst and brought your ceilings down (said Mr Mustard cheerfully).

Odd event

Mr Mustard purchased a secondhand VW Passat from a main dealer. At the next service when he went to collect it a car that looked like his but with 130 not 103 in the registration was where the service manager said it would be. When Mr Mustard checked the car he found that the front and rear number plates bore different registrations (corrected free by the garage). He is sorry if you got his speeding fines (he doesn't get PCN).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

29 July 2015

Finchley (No) Park, N12

Capita unilaterally decide to shrink the North Finchley CPZ.
Mr Mustard's client, let us call her Mystery, has lived at the same address inside the North Finchley CPZ for over 20 years.

You can clearly see that the whole of the road is inside the CPZ (indicated by thin blue & brown lines and yellow signs). The map above is the council's own system that residents can use to look up restrictions before they leave home (but you must obey the actual signs on the ground if different).

Mystery rang the parking number to buy some Visitor Parking Vouchers. Capita told her that she no longer lived inside the CPZ which covered numbers 1-55 and 2-86 only. Mystery lives in a number higher than 86 even or 55 odd. Mystery looked out of the window and saw bays parked on the road all the way to the end. She would no longer be entitled to a parking permit and have nowhere to park except for her own drive.

A Capita employee is saying he is the parking manager. He isn't as Mr Mustard knows who is. He might be Capita's manager for parking matters but that doesn't make him hold an office with the council and residents should not be mislead that they are dealing with the engine driver rather than the oily rag.

Why can't Capita get things rights after all these years? (rhetorical question. Answer, because Barnet means nothing to them except an income stream and as Barnet is a long long way from Coventry so any address is unknown to them).

Why can't Capita look at the client's publicly available on-line mapping system of the entire borough's parking restrictions. Answer: laziness, ignorance, stupidity; please add own suggestion in the comments box.

Capita parking are asking Capita highways why the change has occurred (that was a week ago and no-one has been in contact with Mystery). Surely a query that Mr Mustard can answer in 2 minutes could be answered by Capita within 24 hours?. Mr Mustard will notify the real parking manager and then something will happen pretty quickly.

It seems that the stories about Crapita's spectacular incompetence will never abate.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update: There are two schedules in a Traffic Management Order.

One sets out the restrictions in the road.
The second sets out which properties can buy permits (as some blocks of flats are not able to).
Mystery's property had been left off the second schedule along with some of her neighbours. This will now be put right.

26 July 2015

Santander Cycles put a spoke through Mr Mustard's wheel

£34 for <30 minutes - avoid this bike.
Mr Mustard decided as he was carrying a "few extra pounds" that it was high time he started to use "Boris Bikes" when in London rather than change tube line. This coincided with the move of PATAS from Angel to the Chancery Lane area (and a change of name to London Tribunals) and Mr Mustard now has a pleasant ride from Euston to Chancery Lane. The traffic isn't a problem as there are a number of quiet or pedestrianised roads and some cycle lanes to use.

The usual problem isn't the traffic but finding a bike to hire near Euston and then finding an empty space to use in Chancery Lane as commuters clearly have the same idea as Mr Mustard and beat him to the stock.

On Wednesday Mr Mustard came out of Euston at about 9.30 and decided to try Drummond St first (you can get good cheap vegetarian curries there in a number of Bhel Poori houses, if you didn't know e.g. £7.05 for a Thali) and needless to say the rack was empty. Mr Mustard started to walk towards Chancery Lane as his first Appeal hearing was at 10am and he likes to be timely. He passed another rack which was also devoid of bikes. He crossed the Euston Rd and cut through into Endsleigh Gardens and there was a solitary bike in the rack. Mr Musatrd piled his paperwork into the luggage holder and the bike moved. Mr Mustard moved the bike gently, it slip easily backwards out of the rack. Oh dear, thought Mr Mustard, the previous hirer is going to get a charge for an unterminated journey at £4 per hour. Mr Mustard docked the bike, it went in and stayed in (this was a mistake of sorts as Mr Mustard could have ridden the bike for free, but would not that). Mr Mustard then inserted his key and removed the bike and cycled happily down to Chancery Lane where the rack he was going to dock it had been taken out of service. Mr Mustard cycled aimlessly in circles until he found a single space just off Lincoln's Inn Fields. Mr Mustard shoved the bike in, one must do this fairly firmly, the bike locked in but there was no green docking light. Mr Mustard then, being a careful man and distrustful of authority, took the following photograph of the bike, duly docked.

Mr Mustard got to London Tribunals just in time at 10am to find that the computer had decided to crash and no hearings could take place. The adjudicator came out to chat to him, and several others also exchanged a few words as Mr Mustard is a well known representative, and after sitting around for a while it was agreed that Mr Mustard would go off to the Supreme Court to listen to the Barry Beavis & the other case on penalties being heard at the same time, and return at 4pm unless the tribunal rang him at 3.30 to say otherwise. (London Tribunals are always administratively helpful). Mr Mustard decided to pedal down to Parliament Square. His key was rejected in a number of bikes so at 11:23 he rang the number on the key. Mr Mustard was told he had failed to return his other bike. No I haven't said Mr Mustard and in fact it is only 5 minutes away so can prove if it is still docked.

Mr Mustard took this photograph of the still docked bike at 11:35

TfL were also sending a street based employee to check where the bike was. Mr Mustard hung around for a while but they didn't show.
Mr Mustard then took the tube from Temple to Parliament Square, watched the proceedings until lunch at 13:00 (he will be on cctv inside the Supreme Court), walked up to John Lewis in Oxford St, and back, to buy a clean shirt (at 13:43) as it was a hot day, and then returned to Chancery Lane via Temple tube.

Mr Mustard doesn't do plain
Mr Mustard then argued his 4 Appeals and won 3 of them. He is slipping!

Here is even more proof that Mr Mustard was elsewhere during the day.

Mr Mustard is always a busy boy.
This does show you that Boris Bikes at £2 for the day and then free (except in this case) for up to 30 minutes are better value than the tube in central London as 2 stops are £2.30

Mr Mustard put a claim in for the refund of the £34 charged to his account and is awaiting the outcome.

The phone app shows that the journey finished at 18:21 How did the person who obtained the cycle where Mr Mustard had docked it, just off Lincoln's Inn Fields, not cause the previous journey to be terminated at that point? Perhaps the bike had worked itself loose again? It truly is the Harry Houdini of Boris Bikes and evidently faulty. Also at 18:21 Mr Mustard was clearly on the Central Line. Did he recklessly leave an unlocked Boris Bike lounging about all day? No.

Mr Mustard will let you know if and when he gets his £34 back.

If you have any doubt about docking your bike, and the docking or faulty bike button does not work phone up the number on your key at that very moment so that the fact of the equipment failure, which is not your fault, is recorded in real time.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update Sunday 2 August

TFL/Santander have emailed to say that £34 is being returned to Mr Mustard's account. He continues to photograph his cycle every single time that he returns it.

24 July 2015

Charge Certificates

Mr Mustard has noticed the unexpected arrival of a couple of Charge Certificates and although he thinks he might have written about them before they are worthy of a thorough blogging. They aren't yet an epidemic, unless you tell him otherwise, but he suspects that there is either a procedural error or human error creeping into the processing of PCN because on two occasions the formal representations have not been responded to. 

The processing of a single PCN could be in the hands of as many staff as exist within the NSL office. This is probably viewed as the most cost effective method but it also leads to loss of consistency. If appeals were dealt with accordingly to postcode or alphabetically by Surname then the appeal clerks (they are called Notice Processing Officers) would get to know the individual PCN and might remember some idiosyncrasy about an appeal which might prevent error. they would also get to see the pattern of someone's appeals and be better able to tell if they were genuine or a chancer and decide accordingly (although Mr Mustard rather suspects that the default setting is to reject an informal appeal regardless of merit).

On Friday he was sent a Charge Certificate for a PCN issued on 30 November 12. That PCN had the old invalid wording.

Informal representations were made online on 4 December 12.
They were rejected on 18 December 12 (Happy Christmas!)
The Notice to Owner (NtO) was then issued on 9 January 13.
Formal representations were made online on 5 February 13.
All went quiet.
Formal representations have to be responded to by the council within 56 days of their receipt. This was not done.
On 7 June Mr Mustard emailed the motorist as follows:

That is good. The council get 56 days in which to respond to a challenge made in response to the NtO. Be warned that the council might still wake the ticket up later! If they do I will help you. (How prescient of Mr Mustard.)
Today Mr Mustard emailed parking client side and they have sensibly and quickly killed the PCN off. That option isn't available to everyone and is only available to Mr Mustard as he has demonstrated a certain understanding of the system and doesn't waste the parking client side's time; in fact he saves it as they know when they are on a loser and can instead plague somebody who doesn't know the ropes who might well go wrong and have to pay up.

What you can do.

The choices of action in response to a Charge Certificate are limited to:

(a) do nothing, or 
(b) pay up. 

Your failure to pay at an earlier stage will have cost you an extra 50% on top of the parking ticket price. That is the harsh price of being slow, poor or mis-placing your paperwork. You should pay, as you don't want your parking ticket anywhere near a bailiff, if you have failed to follow the appeal process (download the guide from the top left). The Charge Certificate looks like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to prod you into paying.

If however, the council have gone wrong then you should sit and wait as the Order for Recovery will be along in the next 3 weeks or so (although some are arriving 6 months+ or a year after the Charge Certificate which simply should not happen) and then you can react.

At this point the cost is still nothing like as bad as it will be once a bailiff gets hold of your debt and it will become ten times worse, so if you haven't followed the procedure, pay up now, you are another £7 to the bad. (Fee now £8 August 2016)

If however, something has gone wrong, you can file a witness statement (form TE9) and if you do this correctly and in time (you have a clear date to act by so don't delay) then the PCN will go back to the first stage and you will have your chance to appeal. In London you can only make a witness statement on one ground alone; choose it out of the following four:

1.  You did not receive the Notice to Owner (if you didn't appeal at this stage then you may well not have received it especially if the PCN is old or you may well know for certain that you didn't receive it) This is the most likely reason for a witness statement to be filed by you.

2.  You sent in an appeal (they are called representations) after you did receive the Notice to Owner and you did not get a response from the council. This is also quite common sometimes due to them being scanned to the wrong file or not printed out and scanned at all. You will need to find a copy of what you sent in if you are to be believed.

3.  You sent an appeal to London Tribunals but you had no reply. This probably doesn't happen very often as London Tribunals are quite efficient. Mr Mustard always gets a free certificate of posting for any parking related letter. If you don't hear from London Tribunals within a week of sending your form in I would telephone them on 020 7520 7200 to check what has happened and if your form got lost in the post send them a copy of the copy (so do take a copy of it). (In some boroughs you can now file your London Tribunals Appeal on-line. If you do this it can't get lost)

4.  You paid in full.

Please do this form TE9 in time as out-of-time witness statements are simply another hurdle that is really best avoided.

This is what the form TE9 looks like. It will come pre-printed from the council with your data or you can download one from the Courts site here.

It is quite straightforward. If your application is in time it will be processed very quickly, a day or two, by the TEC and then the council will probably send you a new Notice to Owner (if that was your appeal) or refer your application to London Tribunals if you say you made representations that were not responded to by the council or London Tribunals.

If you don't fully understand the process send an email to Mr Mustard and he will help you. At the very least he will want to see every single piece of paper relating to the PCN.

Whatever you do don't panic but do act now.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

23 July 2015

If this isn't loading, what is?

So here we go again with the Helen Michael of Cafe Buzz, N12 blog posts.

Helen is of the view that traffic wardens are out to get North Finchley because of her persistent criticism of the removal of parking meters and of over zealous traffic wardens. They are certainly keen when it comes to Helen's car or the Cafe Buzz van.

Here are Helen's own words about the incident (Tracey is one of Helen's friends and she is no stranger to Mr Mustard's assistance, and the hairdresser is located behind Cafe Buzz, i.e. adjacent to the car)

I'd only just pulled up and was getting cardboard together when I spotted him. 

I explained what I was doing and he totally ignored me and carried on.

There was Tracey and I and the hairdresser as witnesses.

Clearly in the time of observing the car and then issuing the PCN the traffic warden will have seen Helen loading up her car with cardboard (It's a Saab, it was Skoda soft tops that in the old days were known as skips) and so his note about whether loading was seen or not will be very interesting.

Secondly Helen told him anyway so why didn't he wait two minutes to see if it was the truth? In Mr Mustard's experience there are a number of apparently deaf & mute traffic wardens.

Traffic wardens are meant to be highly trained in order to speak to the public. Mr Mustard's experience is that a lot of them dish out the silent treatment. Helen should file a complaint about this traffic warden as clearly a refusal to say a single word is not proper behaviour for a customer facing public servant.

Mr Mustard is 99% sure that he will beat this PCN at the independent adjudicator stage if the council decide to waste the c.£40 London tribunals fee by fighting to the end.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

19 July 2015

A voucher is not the same as a permit; NSL please note.

One of Mr Mustard's friends had a workman in. She gave the workman five Visitor Parking Vouchers to use from 6 to 10 July inclusive. On 7 July, Mr Mustard noticed a PCN on his van. It had been issued because the workman still had the visitor voucher for 6 July on display, an easy mistake to make when a workman is mentally planning the work for the day ahead.

Here is an extract of the PCN.

In the case of a code 19 PCN it is necessary for extra information to be provided in brackets as to the exact contravention alleged. That is because the legislation requires the traffic warden to state "the grounds" on which a contravention is believed to have occurred and not a list of possible contraventions. (emphasis added by Mr Mustard).

Clearly in this case the traffic warden thinks that an out of date permit was being displayed. There was not a resident permit, or any other type of permit, on display.

Mr Mustard sent a challenge to the council (NSL get them to look at first):

He was not displaying an out of date permit, as alleged, as he wasn't displaying a permit at all (as Mr Workman is not a Barnet resident and does not qualify for a permit).

It follows therefore that the contravention simply did not occur and you must therefore cancel the PCN.

Here is what Mr Mustard got back, quite quickly for once:

The council need to be more careful than they are.

The council accept there was an invalid (as in out of date "ood") voucher on display.

They then repeat Mr Mustard's challenge but fudge the wording by changing "permit" to "permit/voucher" which completely changes the meaning of the challenge. Permits and Vouchers are both defined in the Traffic Management Order which the council wrote.

A contravention did occur, but not the one they issued the PCN for, which has not been issued correctly and you can't be punished for the wrong contravention, no matter how much you might deserve a PCN for the correct contravention.

Could this sort of ineptitude be why Mr Mustard's PCN success rate against Barnet Council in 2015 is Won 82 Lost 2?

The problem is that Barnet Council and/or NSL can write complete rubbish to the average motorist and get away with it because most motorists don't know enough about parking law or fight PCN to the end often enough, many wrongly believe the council will be correct? and also because there isn't any sanction for misleading the motorist.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update: 20 July 2015.

Parking management stepped in at Mr Mustard's request, reviewed what NSL had decided upon, found they agreed with Mr Mustard and cancelled the PCN.

Mr Workman is donating to the hospice.

16 July 2015

Where's Wally? (asks the client)

There are two parking bays here. Mr Mustard's client likens finding the join, which must be clearly marked, as akin to finding Wally in a whole picture full of them. Mr Mustard would suggest that Wally is off screen issuing PCN to innocent motorists, who, not having been properly notified of the extent of two parking bays, find themselves astraddle them and getting 2 PCN in 3 days for being parked outside of the markings.

The two bays are a Residents Permit only bay and the other bay is a shared use bay for resident permit holders and people who pay to park. Given that his client has a residents permit, he is entitled to park his car in both bays. There is however, a very short single yellow line under the passenger side of his car which a driver would not notice when they get out of the driver's side.

In addition, the two bay signs should be located at the ends of the bay where the imperceptible join is, in order that motorists are given clear information about the restrictions which is a pre-requisite of enforcement i.e they see two signs mounted on the same pole and can then see that they are at a join in the bays and a changing of the parking rules.

It is written in the contract with NSL that:

The appropriate lines across the carriageway that signify the ends of the two bays, separated by a small gap, are missing and do create substantial ambiguity. Traffic wardens often issue PCN where, upon site inspection, Mr Mustard can immediately see what is wrong. He knew about this location as a Mini had a screen full of PCN a few weeks back at this very spot.

Barnet Council will never earn the respect of the motoring public until their contracted traffic wardens cease from issuing PCN in situations where the restrictions are not clear.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update 17 July.

Mr Mustard popped into Cafe Buzz for a lovely breakfast and parked near this very spot. Luckily there wasn't a car parked over the join in the bays so he was able to take a good shot of it; not exactly clear is it, the join?


Dapita (you'll see) (best check your CPZ permit)

The motorist doesn't know that when it comes to wrongly issued permits that the fault lies with Dapita (Capita - who have managed to renew a C zone permit as a D zone, taking business process management to a whole new level of spectacular incompetence) and this is not a one-off although the usual mistake is to send you a permit with no zone marked on it which in theory you could use in any zone (although you might struggle to explain to an Adjudicator why you thought you qualified for an all zones permit).

It is now just 2 months short of 2 years since the customer service (or lack of) contract started with Capita (well renamed Crapita by Private Eye) and you would think by now that they might just know one CPZ zone from another but no, this is what you get for employing cheap call centre staff in Coventry (Mr Mustard has nothing against Coventry & in fact has plans to visit there soon) who possess zero local knowledge because they don't travel about the borough seeing things. The councillors who didn't read much or any of this long contract which they foolishly signed up to won't have carefully road tested the service before going ahead either. Mr Mustard hazards they would all road test a new car before they bought one (a new car worth £30,000 is a mere 0.04% of the value of the Crapita customer service contract) and that they would spend longer test driving a new car than test driving the Crapita service before agreeing to buy.

Now, given the above error, please all pop outside now to check if you have the correct CPZ zone for your road, you can always search for your address here then click on a restriction and the hours and zone will pop up.

Whilst you are looking at your permit you might as well check the expiry date as there is at least a 1 in 100 chance that it has expired as you haven't received a reminder either because your email address has changed or because Crapita seem unable to post reminders out consistently.

If Crapita can't even renew a resident permit correctly, what hope is there for any difficult task they may be contracted to perform?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard