26 September 2015

Nine PCN Polish-ed off

It was back in March that Mr Mustard had a rather worried Polish builder contact him as he had received 9 PCN whilst working on one job for 4 weeks near to the Tate Modern in Southwark. He had charged his customer the cost of the congestion charge (he lives outside London) and 8 hours of parking a day at £4.80 an hour so clearly he had intended to always park properly. This was the sensible action of a man who has been in the country for over a decade. He was though somewhat overrun with the paperwork and the borough had left the street name out of his address so much of it had gone missing. At the point Mr Mustard jumped into his car and went straight to see him at home; the reason being that if clients come to Mr Mustard they always leave at least one vital piece of the jigsaw at home, or in the case of a builder, on the dashboard of their van.

It has been a bit of an epic as many of the PCN had already been registered as debts at the Traffic Enforcement Centre (TEC) and so the builder was facing a total payment of £1,725 to avoid a single PCN going to a bailiff (9 bailiff letters would have added another £675 which makes the bailiff fee for writing the first demand letter look rather generous as all 9 PCN could be put in one demand). Mr Mustard filed the appropriate in time (only just for some of them) witness statements at the TEC and all the PCN were then wound back to the Notice to Owner stage (the liability was then down to a potential £1,130 as there were 8 higher level PCN at £130 each and one lower level at £80).

Mr Mustard then set to with his challenges. A number had been given for parking on the pavement. The spot concerned was laid out with the pavement and carriageway being level with one another and bollards existed to stop vehicles going where the council didn't want them to go but that encouraged people to park partly on the carriageway, straddle the double yellows and be on the pavement. When you are refitting a kitchen and have no room to turn around in a tiny riverside flat you keep needing to bring your van close to the property to load and unload tools, materials and debris and thus commit one &  sometimes two contraventions at one and the same time and there is always a traffic warden lurking nearby.

Amusingly the same error was made three times. The building had a plaque saying it was on Bankside. It was at the front but the van was at the back and so it was in Hopton St. That made those 3 PCN invalid. The council recognised their untenable position pretty quickly and cancelled those once challenged. They also cancelled one where payment and the PCN occurred at pretty much the same instant. 

As Mr Mustard produced an invoice for building works Southwark Council also accepted unloading on all but two of the PCN which Mr Mustard then took to London Tribunals (formerly PATAS). Mr Mustard awoke early this morning and was idling through the tribunal register when he saw that Southwark have decided not to contest the two Appeals to the tribunal which now makes the outcome of the 9 PCN this:

So that is a potential outlay of £1,725 reduced to £nil. Don't feel sorry for Southwark Council (who have been entirely reasonable throughout) as they gathered in £800 of parking receipts for the one van during a month. The Polish builder has now retained his profit from the job which would have been pretty much wiped out by these PCN.

Please don't leave it until your PCN is registered as a debt at the TEC if you think you might need Mr Mustard. Never ignore PCN paperwork, always stick to the timetable. If you are going into hospital or abroad for a number of weeks, get someone you trust to open your post.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

24 September 2015

CPZ permits for teachers, you decide

The council have kindly provided Mr Mustard with a cleaner copy of the questionnaire than the scan that he did of his paper copy. You have until the 30th to make your views known. You can ignore the equalities section and then the form will only take 2 minutes

22 September 2015

A profitable problem (not solved) Connell Crescent, Ealing W5

Scouting around the internet Mr Mustard found that residents of Connell Crescent (close to the Hanger Lane gyratory) have been unhappy about their road being used as a short cut from the A40 to the North Circular since at least 2005.

The local residents association wrote about it in a 2015 newsletter:

be careful what you wish for; some Connell Crescent residents received PCN!
The council duly implemented a "no motor vehicles" restriction from 3 to 7pm.

Did the council know the extent of the problem?
No, and here is the proof in a letter from an Engineer in Highways. (an expert in financial engineering Mr Mustard would hazard)

The council now know the extent of the problem because they have been issuing PCNs like confetti.

So the council now know that c.300 cars a day are still using Connell Crescent when they shouldn't (the council didn't try very hard to warn people did it, with only 1 in 10 motorists being sent a warning? and no extra warning signs of a new restriction, or council staff giving out leaflets on site) so the residents are still suffering, despite the council imposed "solution" but this road is now a nice little big earner for Ealing Council. Trebles all round.

On Thursday 24 September you will find three NoToMob members on site who will put a dent in the daily figures and try to get them as near to nil as possible. In that way the NoToMob will be doing the councils job for them and helping the residents to have a more peaceful life. Do pop along to say hello to Bald Eagle and CoCo.

Just look at the income though that Ealing Council could gather in a year.

52 weeks at £167,570 a week is nearly £9million.
Of course many people will pay at half price but that would still be over £4million of lovely revenue.

Local residents will slowly catch on as they are caught out (one incurred 8 PCN before the first one arrived in the post) and so then it will only be visitors who are caught but there are plenty of those on the A40 and until every satnav is updated (Mr Mustard's is 4 years old so he reads the road signs) there will be victims aplenty for Ealing.

They will probably resist change now that they have such an earner (the council only made £8.5m in PCN income in the last financial year so this one spot will, incredibly, double their revenue) and they only issued 3,024 code 52 (no motor vehicles is 52J) PCNs in the whole year which figure they have passed in a fortnight at Connell Crescent, so something must be done.

Clearly, this level of non-compliance suggests that the signs are inadequate.

What are the choices for this location?

1  A physical barrier, either an arm that comes down but lifts to let vehicles exit, or bollards which rise and fall.

2  An illuminated No Entry sign (the red circle which has a 99.9% compliance rate) which only lights up during the 3 - 7pm restriction time.

3  Make the road one way westwards with permanent no entry signs at the Boden shop (Hanger Green) end.

If the council stick with the status quo that would tell Mr Mustard they don't give a fig about residents but have become addicted to the revenue.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

21 September 2015

Barnet Council: Schools Parking Permit Consultation

For those of you, like Mr Mustard, who don't believe in placing your data on a US controlled server, here is the paper version of the survey.

Once downloaded, printed out and completed please send it to:

Paul Millard
London Borough of Barnet
Building 2
North London Business Park
N11 1NP

by 30 September please.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

19 September 2015

Art Reach Barnet

Mr Mustard had a parking consultation with a lady with mental health problems this morning at 10am in Hatch End so he could not hang around to see the unveiling of the mural in the Chipping Barnet Library Garden which volunteers rescued from council neglect

He did meet the project manager Amanda Lyddon and he has previously met landscape gardener Ali Amos both of whom are pictured here

the Art Reach charity helps people who are recovering from mental illness. You can read about them here and here.

The event was a success, here is the email which Mr Mustard received from Amanda

Hi Mr Mustard

It was lovely to meet you.

We had a wonderful morning celebrating the unveiling of The Library Garden Mosaic outside the library in Chipping Barnet.

Art Reach and Members of the Community Garden (their kids and dogs!), local residents and staff at the Library all toasted the unveiling with pink lemonade generously donated by Waitrose.

We raised £78 selling angel bracelets which will help us to fund our next mosaic.
Please support this charity if you can.
Yours frugally
Mr Mustard

14 September 2015

Once more unto the (data) breach

suitably blurred email address so the data breach is not repeated
When the email about consulting on teachers being allowed to have resident permits was sent out to hundreds of residents in batches of 50+ the email addresses of all recipients were put in the "to" box and so were visible to all the other parties, as the picture above to give you an idea of the number of email addresses. If the bcc box had been used there would not have been a data breach but it is an amateur way of going on as this sort of error is prone to occur (Mr Mustard met a friend the other day who had just recovered from a long operation and sent, he thought, a txt to a common aquantance with a report on how the patinet was recovering but accidentally txted it to the patient themselves, doh! Luckily it was not at all negative although the patient did suggest that Mr Mustard could have said he was "looking fabulous" - he will from now on even if he looks like death warmed up) and there is special software that can be purchased for customer contact and/or the mail merge functionality built into Outlook (and presumably in similar email software) could be used:

A schoolboy error having occurred the council response was to send round an email asking you to delete the message thus guaranteeing the exact opposite as it must be interesting if the council want you to get rid of it.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I refer to our email regarding the engagement for the introduction of a School Parking permit sent today.

We are aware that the email has gone out with other email addresses contained within the address list and sincerely apologise for this error.

We would ask that you kindly delete this email from your inbox and in your deleted items.

Again we apologise sincerely for this error which was caused by human error. The Council takes data protection responsibilities extremely seriously and this incident is now being investigated by our Information Management Team.

Again we apologise for this error.

Yours Sincerely,

On Behalf of Information Management

As to whether or not the council should report itself to the Information Commissioner, the council's view is this:

This incident is not of the level of severity that warrants reporting to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

A number of people were livid and emailed Mr Mustard. Mr Mustard thinks the data breach is a serious one due to the volume of email addresses involved. This isn't the first data breach that the council have perpetrated. At least one person (not Mr Mustard whose email addrees is well known so isn't really breached by publication) is reporting the council to the Information Commissioner.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

13 September 2015

Will preferential treatment stop at teachers?

The following email has just gone out to everyone on a council email database (probably gleaned from resident permit applications) which will be a separate story about a data breach in due course.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Barnet Council is currently consulting on introducing a schools parking permit scheme to help schools within the borough attract and retain staff. We would like to hear from you on the council’s proposals so please inform tell your school staff, parents and residents that this consultation is underway.

Reasons why the scheme is being proposed:

Barnet schools currently face a number of issues with the recruitment and retention of staff such as:

• we border inner London boroughs that offer higher weighting salaries
• neighbouring boroughs offer more help with housing and travel currently
• some neighbouring boroughs already offer schools parking permits .

Proposed parking permit overview.

The scheme the council is proposing would:

• seek to ensure residents can park as near to their home as possible by offering a maximum number of permits to a school based on the availability of parking spaces
• allow schools to determine which staff receives those parking permits
• Only allow schools that have a school travel plan in place to take part in the scheme.

Summary of proposed scheme

If a schools parking permit scheme was introduced it would allow schools that reside in a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) to offer parking permits to their staff.

The individual permits would only be valid:

• in particular streets and only where suitable capacity is available
• during term time
• Monday to Friday

To take part in the scheme the school would need to have a school travel plan in place.

To take part in the consultation visit:

The consultation is titled Barnet Council’s Schools Parking Permit Consultation and closes on 30 September 2015.

Barnet Council Schools Permit Consultation
Commissioning Group

Mr Mustard was aware that this consultation was coming as he was at the relevant committee meeting and this is what he said at it on this topic alone:

Thirdly, permits for school staff.

I am all in favour of maximising the usage of on-street car parking spaces. Adjacent to Ravenscroft Park in High Barnet there is 200m of residents parking which sits empty all day as houses are only on one side of the road. It could also offer free parking in the afternoons the same as on Hadley Common.

However, the idea of letting school staff (park) is one that needs to be treated with caution as even private profit making schools appear to be included. So a school employee could have a permit which would cost, I presume, the same amount as a resident's permit (with £40 being typical) but an employee of, say, a school stationery supplier, which might be in an adjacent building, would have to pay £525

I feel a judicial review coming on if you treat one group of employees more favourably the another.

Thank you.

and this is what a local business has to say on the matter:

Giving teachers permits would be absurd and completely to the detriment of the local economy. But then Barnet does not care for the local economy – it is something to be mined and exploited until it collapses.

Teachers are a net drain on the local economy. They tend to live outside the borough (if they did not then why permits?) and thus draw their salaries locally and spend them elsewhere.

Parking is a very scarce resource. Our local economy depends on shoppers to be able to park and to that end we have fought hard to re-align the parking in High Barnet and contain commuters to Fitzjohn Avenue car park. To fill the remaining places with teachers' cars would be an economic disaster. They say that it would only be allowed in designated CPZ areas but by doing that existing parking in those areas will be displaced. Many visitors to the High Street use the side streets as they simply will not embrace the current parking regime.

What makes teachers a special case? It would seem we cannot recruit into many areas of employment. What about doctors and nurses? And, hey, shop workers! In Maslow's hierarchy of needs education is way below food (but probably not sweets). We have to pay £525 for the privilege of parking our van that serves the people of Barnet. I rather think that WE should be given free permits!

All other occupations depend on employees commuting when they cannot employ from the local community. You have to ask why is this ‘perk’ necessary in the case of teachers. If their package is not attractive you have to look at remuneration.  To take a resource from somewhere else and give it away as a cheap (free as far as the council is concerned) solution is not the way to do things. The economic cost is simply being displaced – residents and businesses will bear the cost.

To argue that some other councils have implemented this ill-conceived policy as a reason for doing it in Barnet is simply a ridiculous argument – just because someone does something does not make it right.

This is positive discrimination towards one group (with delusions of grandeur) at the detriment of another group which is actually funding the economy.

If you don't want your road, near to a school, over-run with teachers' cars so that you can't get parked in the day, then you know what to do, complete the survey.

If, like Mr Mustard, you don't want your data going onto SurveyMonkey's US server then email Paul.Millard@Barnet.gov.uk for a paper copy to complete. Although you have until 30 September to get it in, the best day to act is today.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard