24 December 2016

Emergency PCN

This motorist was unlucky. They were in a bay which started at 2pm and when they went to move their car at 5 minutes to the hour they found they were blocked in by an ambulance. There is also a police car at the scene so something serious was happening. The ambulance was there for the entire zone hour and beyond. Would you go looking for the ambulance driver as Mr Mustard wouldn't?

Being stuck due to circumstances beyond your control is a valid defence to a PCN. Will Barnet Council agree? Let's see as the challenge is in.

7 January - the informal challenge was accepted.

Never a dull moment challenging PCN you know.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

23 December 2016

Barnet PCN - 10 minute grace periods

The above rule, introduced by The Rt Hon 'Uncle' Eric Pickles MP, a fan of the Barnet Bloggers, stopped some of the predatory tactics employed by traffic wardens. It meant that if you were up to ten minutes late getting back to your car, as your meeting or whatever ran over, then you could not be given a PCN. The new rule came into force on 6 April 2015.

Mr Mustard asked to see the briefing which had been given to the NSL employed Barnet Council traffic wardens at the time that the new grace period came in. Here it is.

Official briefings really should be on proper paper.

Mr Mustard didn't find that to be a clear explanation of the new grace period but it is useful in other ways.

Firstly the new grace period means that if you have paid for a period of parking, on street or in a car park, or you availed yourself of a free parking period, which ended at 11:00 the earliest you can be given a PCN is 11:11.

Barnet Council have generously decided to not give you a PCN if you are visiting friends who live within a CPZ and the resident bay hours commence at 10:00 you will not be given a PCN before 10:11 (Mr Mustard is sure this is not being applied).

Similarly if you are in a goods vehicle loading bay, or other bay specific to a certain type of vehicle, which commences at 08:00 you will not be given a PCN before 08:11 (Mr Mustard doesn't think this is being applied either).

Blue badge holders who breach the 3 hour limit which sometimes applies now get an extra 10 minutes to get back to their vehicle.

Mr Mustard hopes that is clear. He will be checking all the PCN in his current workload as he can now probably report a few process errors.

You can find the above response on the council website, here, should you need to use it to argue your corner (ref 3278097). Isn't Freedom of Information wonderful. Mr Mustard doesn't ask much nowadays of Barnet Council, probably only one question a month, but they are usually very good ones.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Mr Musatrd is off to put his feet up very shortly, drink champagne and eat too much food until 5 January 2017.

21 December 2016

Copyright in sets of meeting minutes

Once Mr Mustard found out about the warning circular sent by London Councils, some questions came to his mind. Here they are along with the answers.

3. Similarly to the anonymous employee who was over-using his/her initiative Mr Mustard thinks that the circular that was sent breached his expectation that the circular would not have been sent and his name effectively disclosed.

4. No point in having in-house FOI experts if you don't ask them the necessary questions at the material time.

5. There was no need to do anything other than respond to the enquiries actually made.
6. So the circular that was sent should never have been sent as providing advice on FOI is not part of the remit of London Councils. All London boroughs have their own experts or access to them.

7. In short, Yes.

8. Very odd that different boroughs sent Mr Mustard minutes with different dates, none of which were correct.

9. London Councils were blind.

11. Oh no, no copyright in the minutes and yet the following bodies told Mr Mustard there was so he could not have them. 

Ealing Council, Enfield Council, Harrow Council, Hounslow Council, Lambeth Council, Lewisham Council, Newham Council, Sutton Council, Waltham Forest Council & Wandsworth Council.

What a shocking lack of knowledge of FOI and Copyright.

13. There was discussion of the subject of minutes and copyright though. The next set of minutes will be interesting. Want to bet that they are even briefer now?

Parking departments can run from Mr Mustard but they can't hide.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

London Councils - not applicant blind

When Mr Mustard was struggling to obtain the full set of documents from London Councils and the names of the parking managers or substitutes who attended, he decided to go straight to the councils concerned as they would, if the employees were senior, have to tell him their names. He did this on 13 September.

On the very same day London Councils had heard from some boroughs of Mr Mustard's* request for the minutes etc. and they decided to email other councils in London to warn them of the likely request. Bo so doing, they effectively outed Mr Mustard as having already asked London Councils the same question. The whole point of FOI is that it is applicant blind. It isn't when bodies take it upon themselves to send circulars like the one above.

What London Councils didn't point out was that they told Mr Mustard there weren't any documents (in addition to the agenda and minutes) appertaining to the meeting. That was odd, and wrong, as the minutes themselves referred to two documents about PCN codes and utility suspension charges.

The councils around London weren't holding the document on behalf of London Councils but in their own capacity as parking authorities for their own areas.

Mr Mustard though that the 'if they are still held' comment was an unspoken suggestion to chuck away any minutes that individual officers had taken so that they did not have to be disclosed. Certainly many council did not have any notes to disclose.

You can rely on Mr Mustard to battle to the end. The denouement is coming soon.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

*Whether or not any indivdual council who consulted London Councils released Mr Mustard's name is not a question he asked.

19 December 2016

Barnet Council - Residents' permits - again

Regular readers will know that Mr Mustard tweeted that he was the proud recipient on 8 December 2016 of a PCN for failing to display his resident's permit.

They are of course electronic so he couldn't display one, even if he had one, which he didn't! The reason he didn't have one was simple, for the last 20 years he has relied on the council sending a reminder to him and he did not receive one for the 2 November 2016 renewal date. He has now purchased a new permit and is very grateful for the free month's parking.

Needless to say Mr Mustard wrote to parking management:

'Please tell me the date and time that the permit reminder email was sent to me and whether it was returned undelivered'

Quite quickly he was sent copies of two reminder letters (not emails) sent the month before renewal was due that Mr Mustard had not seen hide nor hair of. Given that he receives about a foot thick pile of mail every month Mr Mustard is necessarily quite efficient when it comes to letters. No email reminder was sent which is odd as every permit requires the provision of an email address.

Mr Mustard wrote back and enquired as to whether proof of printing or posting could be supplied.

The answer was clearly no as at that point his PCN was cancelled for some undisclosed technical error at the point of issue (the vague face saving defence which he so often sees).

Perhaps it helped that Mr Mustard provided the following email from a different member of the parking management team from last year

If you have had a PCN for an expired permit and you also didn't receive posted permit reminders (or emails) then perhaps you need to email mrmustard@zoho.com who will sort the resultant PCN out for you. Do not just cough up for the PCN, Mr Mustard can beat this sort of PCN at least 90% of the time.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

16 December 2016

Parking managers' seminar - why bother going?

Notes made by the typical parking manager
Those parking manager seminars organised by London Councils, the umbrella body for councils in London, which has certain statutory roles and others for lobbying, take place once a quarter. There is so much material in the June 16 meeting that Mr Mustard is still blogging about it (and there's more).

When he hit the buffers getting the minutes from London Councils he wrote to every council and asked many of them for the notes taken by whoever attended (they didn't have to be the actual parking manager) and he expected to receive pages of detailed notes given that the minutes were really just bullet points. Surely you couldn't go to such a meeting, when you know the minutes will be pretty thin, without taking detailed notes and then informing the rest of your team as to what happened. Some of the attendees might as well just have gone straight to the pub, rather than wait until after the meeting. Here is some information about what the representative for each borough made in the way of notes on the day and/or communicated to their colleagues:

Barking & Dagenham - One A4 page of clear notes. The funniest part "No significant adjudication, just general ramblings about how unfair the Adjudicators are (If motorists and councils are both unhappy the tribunal decisions are probably about right)

Bexley - One A4 page of clear notes.

City of London - A dozen lines of which five were about QR codes and the consensus was there is no appetite for them on PCN.

Enfield - Made no notes at the meeting or thereafter. Mr Mustard wonders how the attendee managed to remember anything that wasn't covered in the brief minutes. They might as well have stayed in Enfield.

Harrow - Made no notes at the meeting, there were two attendees. Mr Mustard wonders how the attendees managed to remember anything that wasn't covered in the brief minutes. They might as well have stayed in Harrow.

Hounslow - Made no notes at the meeting. Mr Mustard wonders how the attendee managed to remember anything that wasn't covered in the brief minutes. They might as well have stayed in Hounslow.

Lambeth - There were no notes made / retained by Lambeth Council at the meeting.

Lewisham - No notes made available to Mr Mustard so presumed there aren't any.

Merton - "Did not make any notes regarding or during the meeting." The attendee might as well have stayed in Merton.

Newham - 10 lines of scant notes.

Richmond - "Did not make any notes regarding or during the meeting." (the identical wording to Merton - perhaps they collaborated)

Waltham Forest - Made no notes at the meeting, there were two attendees. Mr Mustard wonders how the attendees managed to remember anything that wasn't covered in the brief minutes. They might as well have stayed in Waltham Forest.

Wandsworth - "There are no recoverable notes made by individual officers at the meeting."
They might as well have stayed in Wandsworth.

Mr Mustard will, on an unknown future date, ask again for the notes taken by attendees to these meetings. Wise managers would start to take some notes and communicate the interesting points of the meeting to their colleagues on return to their offices.

The public are paying for 30+ managers to get together for a chin wag, the least we can expect is some diligence and a 100% attendance from all councils in London.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

15 December 2016

Enfield Council mend their ways

Mr Mustard carefully explains to his clients, and sets out in his written guide (to be updated and published as an ebook shortly) the steps in the Penalty Charge process.

Then some councils decide they want to add to the process, which a clever legal draughtsman has carefully worked out, and send non-statutory documents. This leads clients to think that Mr Mustard doesn't know what he is on about and undermines his credibility. It also puts the wind up nervous motorists who are now driving in unknown territory.

A few months back Mr Mustard complained to Haringey Council about their pre debt reminder letter and by a happy coincidence they had decided to stop using it the previous week (Mr Mustard also believes in Santa Claus).

When Mr Mustard's client received the above letter he wrote to Enfield's parking manager who is always prepared to engage, usually replies quickly, answers the same question as is asked and seems to be a perfectly reasonable chap.

Mr Mustard's critique of the above letter was this:

I attach an authority letter and the pre-debt reminder about which I wish to complain, as a matter of principle, not just for my client.

There is a statutory process which I tell my clients about. It undermines my credibility when local authorities then take steps which are outside it and in my view to depart from the statutory process is procedurally unfair and the pre-debt reminder should not be sent.

The complaints about the wording of the pre-debt reminder are:

- It states that a debt will be registered. The legislation only allows that may happen, if the county court so orders.
- It is headed pre-debt reminder but then the letter states "the debt remains outstanding". At this stage of the process there is no debt.
- It refers to the majority of drivers paying parking fines within 14 days. The pre-debt reminder is about a bus lane PCN so the statement is not relevant. Please also prove it is true by telling me the number of parking PCN issued on 14 October 2016 and the number of them which have been paid at 50% by 27 October 2016. (This can be answered as business as usual or FOI).
- On what basis was my client's failure to pay an oversight? There are other possible reasons. How did you decide that it was an oversight being as how you have made a factual statement?
- How do you consider my client's failure to pay can be attributed to a positive choice, a factual statement on your part? There are other possible reasons.
- Why do you not state that the further charge will be a mere £8? Is it because you want to worry people into thinking it could be a lot more?
- Why do you not mention the witness statement procedure in order to fully explain the choices which may be available to vehicle owners? Is it because all you are interested in is revenue raising?
- Who selects the cases to receive this reminder? Is it an NSL or council employee?

After a little nudge, as Mr Mustard thought the reply might have been issued when his email was broken, he received the following:

I apologise for the delay in responding, normally I can get back to you promptly but in this case I was unable to.

With regard to the generic pre-debt letter, thank you for your comments all of which are noted and we will review the letter next week and make changes as all your points are valid.

The letters are sent to all those with unpaid PCNs after Charge Certificate stage and before Order for Recovery stage. With regard to your question 108 PCNs were issued for being in a bus lane on 14 October 2016 of which 57 were paid at discount stage (by 27 October 2016). (Only just a 'majority of drivers').

Mr Mustard commends Enfield's parking manager for facing squarely up to the criticism and agreeing to change the letter. Mr Mustard has now asked him to stop using it entirely. Let us see what happens next.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

14 December 2016

London Councils give a little - but not much

You may recall Mr Mustard's blog of October about London Councils and their heavily redacted minutes. Mr Mustard challenged the redactions and got the above set in their place and the following explanation.

The notes of the Parking Managers Seminar have now been amended and are attached to this email. Because the majority of the attendees are officers not employed by London Councils, their exemption from redaction is by their consent only, not necessarily because they are senior officers or because of their salary threshold.

Regarding the request for the document pack, I can confirm that this information is not held by London Councils.

Mr Mustard didn't understand about the document pack not being held by the creators of it but the number of other documents given out was only 2 or 3, it wasn't zero though. Mr Mustard put his cunning plan into action. If London Councils couldn't provide him with the documents then ask all the councils to do so which led to a surprising answer, more of which another day.

Parking managers have nothing to fear from Mr Mustard, the worst that will happen is that he gives their PCNs a drubbing, it isn't personal. The people who decide, in effect, parking policy (councillors do so in theory but none of them are invited to these cosy chats) should be known to the public & it would be much more transparent if they had to throw their meetings open to the public.

So well done to the staff who have allowed their names to be published.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Brent better Barnet on cloning

The cloning of cars causes innocent parties all sorts of trouble. This is the message which Mr Mustard received from such a party.


I have been recommended to contact you about a cloning problem I have with my car and registration. I have received PCN from both Brent (a bus lane contravention) and Barnet Councils(3 parking PCN).  On receipt of my appeal Brent council have cancelled their PCN, however Barnet Council refute my evidence as insufficient despite me providing clear photos, a letter from the DVLA and an email from the Police advising of my issue with my cloned number plate and it being added to the ANPR watch list.  Barnet council have since cancelled the first PCN due to an undisclosed technical error? however 2 PCN remain which I now have less than 28 days to appeal to an adjudicator.

I have since written to Barnet Council with the below info and asked again for them to re-consider but without success. They request an official letter headed letter from the Police which I have requested from the Met Police which I understand can take 40 days to action which will take me past the 28 day appeal deadline.

I have attached photos of my vehicle which clearly shows some differences with the clone vehicle photographs provided and also a letter with regards to the cloning from both the DVLA and Police who now have the vehicle on an ANPR watch list.

Please note the difference in number plates. My plates feature the original 'Stratstone' dealer stamp front and rear and postcodes, whereas the clone vehicle shows a blue GB logo and no dealer information. I am the original owner from new which the DVLA can confirm.

Please note the interior scheme in the 2 cars is very different. My vehicle has a non standard plain cream interior with a cream dashboard. The vehicle in question is showing a cream and black striped interior. This is clearly shown in the PCN photos.

Please note that I live in Worcestershire which is 130 miles from this location and can confirm that my vehicle has never been in the central London area as I work from home.

I am a law abiding citizen with no criminal history, and feel frustrated that I am being penalised and evidence disregarded. I also fear I will receive further penalty notices

Any help or advice you can provide would be much appreciated.


Mr Mustard wrote to parking management at Barnet Council and let them know he would be attending the Appeals at the tribunal and suggested they might now want to throw the towel in rather than waste £60 in tribunal fees.

All of a sudden the unacceptable evidence that the motorist had sent them, but was acceptable to Brent, became acceptable to Barnet. Motorists should all be treated fairly and it shouldn't take the involvement of Mr Mustard for blindingly obvious valid challenges to be accepted.

Mr Mustard had noticed in the past the number of cloned vehicle cases which have to go all the way to the tribunal and the Appeals are invariably allowed. He hasn't had an answer to his question as to why Barnet Council are so reluctant to accept the evidence of motorists in this regard. It couldn't be the money could it?

So that is Barnet Council's reputation damaged in Worcestershire but the affected party won't be completing a resident satisfaction questionnaire so will anyone at the council care?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard