28 December 2017

Revaulting decision by Barnet Council

One day Mr Mustard hopes that he won't have to read stupid, immoral, money motivated and unreasonable council arguments in the parking ticket tribunal register. He suspects he always will.

So let us be clear here. You have parked your car legally before the restrictions started at 4pm. You have been held up in the bank behind a locked door, whether due to a mechanical failure or a robber waving a gun around we don't know, but whatever the reason you could not leave the bank to move your car.

Mr Brown will have made formal representations to that effect and Barnet Council, assisted or not by their contractors NSL Ltd, have refused the representations and made you take your argument to the tribunal where the adjudicator will have struggled to curtail his incredulity and judging by the shortness and simplicity of the written decision, it was arrived at very easily.

Barnet Council, in common with many others, simply have too much power. They are required to exercise their discretion in situations such as these without thinking about the money represented by the PCN. They simply aren't independent enough and are swayed by the prospect of receiving £110 from a motorist without the guts or time to fight. Luckily Mr Brown had principles & could be bothered to fight. Mr Mustard salutes you.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

p.s. The PCN register is a public document.

Mr Mustard can spell revolting.

24 December 2017

Blunders abound - updated, but not compensated

Although Mr Mustard is very busy working and really hasn't got the spare time for PCNs he can't leave wronged motorists without the necessary help.

A PCN was issued to a Scotsman for code 87: Parked in a designated disabled person's parking place without displaying a valid disabled person's badge in the prescribed manner. The photo above was taken by the traffic warden.

Although the clock is displayed and shows a time of about 11:05 it wasn't necessary to display it as blue badge holders park for fee all day in this car park. The gentleman in question had driven down from Scotland to visit his brother in Barnet General and then nipped up to the town centre where, after finding the PCN on his car, he was lucky to be spotted by a friend of Mr Mustard's on his way to band practice (he plays the tuba whereas traffic wardens just play the fiddle) who passed on the necessary mobile phone number.

The motorist has done nothing wrong, he has clearly displayed a valid blue badge the correct way up. Now he has to fight a PCN and make a charity donation for Mr Mustard's help so will be out of pocket even if the PCN gets cancelled the instant that Mr Mustard's complaint goes in.

Mr Mustard has seen more instances recently of complete lash ups by traffic wardens. Service really needs to improve as being wrongly threatened with a £110 penalty is not cricket. This is another example of an instance in which the motorist should automatically be compensated for the inconvenience.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Here is the council response: 

The arrival time does not appear to Mr Mustard to be wrong (and the council don't actually know the time of arrival) but what usually happens is that the traffic warden looks to see if the clock time is later than the current time & if it is assumes that the motorist was trying to gain extra minutes. The snag with that thought process, if indeed it is one rather than simply mechanical, is that the rules say you just have to set for the quarter hour within which you parked, so arriving at 11:01 you can properly set your clock for 11:14

Note that there is absolutely no mention of compensation. The council do not have to compensate you by law for their errors so the council won't pay any. Bah humbug. When PCN laws get refreshed Mr Mustard will be pushing for automatic fixed sum compensation for council errors.

24 December 2017

12 December 2017

Barnet Council have slipped up since 2009

Above is Barnet Council's assessment of their performance faced with the worst snow fall for 20 years and it sounds pretty good. Mr Mustard doesn't remember any particular problems from that time, his work diary looking pretty normal.

You have to ask what has changed since 2009?

The depot has moved out of the borough (a shortsighted decision).

There has been a massive shift away from directly employed staff to outsourcing. The traffic wardens no longer work for the council so unless reusing them for salt spreading was in the contract (Mr Mustard has read it & doesn't remember seeing such a clause and certainly hasn't seen or heard of traffic wardens doing anything other than being as zealous as ever in issuing PCNs) that isn't going to happen. It would also need to be in the employee's contract. Refuse crews are still in house - others will hopefully know what they have been doing.

Winter planning was outsourced to Crapita - Coventry had it much worse than Barnet so the Capita staff at that location may not have made it to work?

Probably due to recent mild winters contingency planning hasn't seemed so important
 Budgets have been cut left right & centre. Street scene has not escaped

Feel free to add other factors in the comments box.

Whatever the reasons we are all suffering the effects of the council's poor planning. 

Q. Why do we pay council tax? 
A. To receive communal services.

Q. Are we getting them?
A. No

Q. Can you get better service for less money?
A. No

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update 12 December 2017 at 19:54

No traffic warden has been out gritting pavements which they could usefully have done as we have 50+ of them and they couldn't issue PCNs on Sunday.

11 December 2017

A snowball's chance in hell of your road or pavement being gritted.

Gritting by MisterMustard on Scribd

If you start with the notion that something is almost impossible then you are hardly likely to be brilliant at it. Perhaps it is this lack of conviction (apathy?) that has led to such a poor gritting performance this weekend in the borough of Barnet.

Mr Mustard does not think that Barnet Council have met their statutory duty this weekend as in some previous years the performance was more effective which demonstrates that a better performance is reasonably practicable.

Priority 1 roads were not regularly gritted. This evening coming home from his snooker match Mr Mustard found that buses on Barnet Hill were staying well out from the kerb due to lack of grip and that a pedestrian was walking in the road in the High St near Normandy Avenue because the footpath was an ice rink.

Priority 2 & 3 (=no priority at all) roads were not gritted as all Priority 1 roads had not yet been done. Priority 3 roads in this study were only gritted 2% of the time of Priority 1 roads. They have a snowball's chance in hell of being gritted.

'Clear snow early in the day when fresh' & 'Apply salt before night to prevent refreezing' are two piece of council advice that the council should take heed of.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Pay but get PCN; valid challenge gets refused!

What, you are wondering, has Ski Sunday got to do with a PCN? 
It is that service is going downhill fast.

Mr Mustard's client, let us call her Miss R, parked her car near to her place of work and immediately paid for her parking at the correct location, which she knows well, and for the correct car (she may in fact only have the one). The payment was made at 08:34. The location being North Finchley, where the traffic wardens hunt in packs as their base is just up the road, a traffic warden clocked her car the moment she arrived. He/she checked for payment which of course takes about a minute after parking (you must not try to pay whilst still driving along). He/she then waited until 08:39 and issued a PCN for non-payment. Mr Mustard thinks they forgot to check for a payment at the end of the 5 minute observation period in their haste to clock up another PCN towards the non-existent target (something makes them really keen to issue PCNs).

Having found the PCN when she went to use her car a bit later, Miss R thought she wouldn't trouble Mr Mustard with such an easy challenge, she would make it herself. She duly did so and the council denied that any payment had been made for that car that day which is odd as Mr Mustard could see the payment in her on line account.

Mr Mustard therefore intervened and sent a complaint to parking management, who know that Mr Mustard is always serious and almost always correct, and has heard back very swiftly today (the complaint was only made on Saturday) and the PCN has been cancelled.

This response nails the lie that payments made to PayByPhone appear instantly on the hand held equipment of the traffic warden.

Whilst that is a quick and sincere apology, one small part of Mr Mustard's email did not, as per usual, get responded to. It read:

NSL back office have incorrectly stated that no payments were made that day. Motorists really shouldn't have to suffer two errors on one ticket, it is stressful, exasperating, wastes their time and costs them a £25 charity donation for my help.

The council really should compensate motorists when they have got it so wrong. You don't let motorists made even one teensy weensy parking error without expecting to extract a penalty of £60 or £110.

The blog for the last few entries has highlighted one cock-up after another. There is another good (bad) one (two) coming shortly.

How much should motorists have to put up with?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

29 November 2017

Traffic wardens 67x/67y - proper novices

On 16 October in the Finchley Central CPZ Mr Mustard's client, let us call them Ms T, received a PCN at 10 in the morning on a single yellow line which starts at 2pm. Mr Mustard noticed that the traffic warden had a high badge number, 67x, where x is a number he is not going to tell you, and so Mr Mustard surmised that new traffic wardens were being sent out with inadequate training or supervision, or both. Mr Mustard lodged a complaint, the PCN was cancelled and the traffic warden given more 'guidance' whatever that is.

Roll forward to 23 November and the same thing happens again, a PCN given out by a different traffic warden 67y, where y is a number known only to Mr Mustard & his client, the same mistake at the same place by another newbie traffic warden who clearly needs the same guidance as the others.

Another complaint by Mr Mustard, another cancellation and a second letter of apology.

The additional training needs to be before the traffic wardens (CEO) are let loose on the street issuing real, painful, expensive PCNs.

There was of course no question but that the council would not pay compensation to Ms T. This is exactly the sort of case where compensation of a fixed sum, say 50% of the PCN value, should be paid as a matter of course.

Study your PCN very carefully if the issuing traffic warden has a badge number above 669.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

26 November 2017

Barnet Council blundering about in the dark

A traffic warden (CEO) has to have a good reason to believe that a contravention has occurred and unless it is blindingly obvious that a vehicle is miles from the kerb there should be clear photos with a measuring device to prove the 50cm has been exceeded. This is what the traffic warden has within his evidence, and with service of 5 years he should know better

When viewed on his laptop Mr Mustard thinks he can make a kerb out under the back of the car at an oblique angle and so on the traffic warden's own evidence there is no contravention.

This is what the scene was like the next day in daylight

A challenge was made by the motorist and rejected by the council. The council confuse themselves, this is the scene from further away, the location is Victoria Close EN4:

What the council fail to understand is that the entire curved edge of the 'turning circle' is 'the edge of the carriageway' and that as long as any part of the car is within 50cm of that, the front or rear bumper, or a mirror, then no contravention has occurred.

This is the only PCN issued at this location for this contravention in 3 years. It it going to be fought all the way to the tribunal.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

18 November 2017

Mind the gap

Torrington Park
A contractor working on behalf of the council has blocked the width restriction and left the only possible route as the bus gate. Mr V therefore drove through it and made representations against the inevitable PCN that there was a truck in the way which was broken down or was there for some other reason. Here is the council's response:

 What Mr Mustard expects is:

a. the video to be looked at more closely so that the council realise the van is almost certainly engaged in works at the location and a cancellation on the grounds of common sense
b. the workmen not to block the route unless it is necessary by reasons of safety
c. a road closure order to be in place to make the council's actions lawful
d. the council to make enquiries of its workers as to what they are messing about at and to instruct them not to obstruct the Queen's highway in the future nor to act in such a way as to make moving traffic contraventions more likely
e. diversion signs to be posted well in advance of the restriction.

Anyway, the vehicle owner appealed to the tribunal and the council cancelled the PCN as soon as they were notified of the hearing by the tribunal.

The council look to have behaved cynically in rejecting the prior representations.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

11 November 2017

Council errors are OK, apparently, yours are not.

The errors of new drivers are a useful revenue stream for Barnet Council.

They don't want it ruined by having to pay out compensation for the blunders of brand new traffic wardens.

If your PCN was issued by a traffic warden (CEO) with a number above 650, take a close look at it.

The council's attitude to error is morally dubious.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

29 October 2017

Are you illiterate? Barnet Council will employ you.

You are? well you can get yourself a job writing case summaries to send to the parking tribunal on behalf of Barnet Council as you will fit right in. All of the above errors came form one 3 page case summary.

The errors won't lead to the PVN (sic) being cancelled but there are some other procedural blunders in the case summary which will.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

This is what happens when you contract out services (although it is never clear in parking if an NSL or a direct employee has written a particular item) as the contractor saves money by employing cheaper people than the council did hitherto. Cheaper isn't usually better.

28 October 2017

Wrongful rejection by Barnet Council

all Barnet parking restrictions available here http://www.barnettraffweb.co.uk/main.html
Mr B received a PCN. Mr Mustard compared the local parking sign to the Traffic Management Order which sets the rules, which the sign must then follow, and identified a discrepancy i.e. they were for different times. He made an informal challenge in response to the PCN.

The council rejected them.

It seems that the writer did not go and look at what the rules where as otherwise he wouldn't have said that the hours were restricted at that time, as they weren't.

The writer didn't understand the point about London Councils either. Mr Mustard did not mention TPT (in front of which he occasionally also appears) so why the council did he isn't sure. In any event had the TPT made a decision on this point it wouldn't be irrelevant, it would not be a precedent either but it would be persuasive so should be considered carefully.

Once the Notice to Owner arrived the identical challenge was made. It doesn't matter that the council have already rejected it, the Owner has the right to make the same representations as the driver (who may be one and the same person) and it is in fact good practice to be consistent.

So there you have it, a reverse ferret, and clearly Mr Mustard was 100% correct at the earlier stage.

The worrying aspects about this case are:

  • the council don't appear to be considering informal challenges properly
  • an unrepresented Owner would assume the council are correct because surely they only write the truth and paid up at 50% (which is intended to reward motorists who make honest errors and pay up promptly but appears to Mr Mustard to be used more as an inducement to settle even when the motorist is correct) and payment kills the PCN so the council would have had unjust enrichment of £55
  • there is no sanction against the council for wrongly saying No at first and then Yes.
If you think you are correct, just keep fighting until all 3 stages of the process are complete. The worst that happens is that you end up paying 100% and learn something and on the other hand you have cost the council a tribunal fee of £30 which they don't see again.

Yours frugally
Mr Mustard

The Judge's Walk - 12 November 2017

17 October 2017

TfL - Turn fractionally Late = PCN

If there was ever any doubt that those public servants who have been given huge big brother power have let it go to their heads, here it is. At a badly signed no right turn from the Upper Richmond Road into Dryburgh Rd the vehicle arrowed started to turn before 7am when the restriction starts and can be said to have made the turn when this still was taken, at 2 seconds past the start time of the no right turn restriction. Does this really deserve a PCN for £130?

The odd thing is that if the vehicle had been entering the congestion zone it would not have been ticketed within the first or last 2 minutes of the zone hours. Only TfL know why they don't apply the same sensible discretion to the use of their powers at timed banned turns.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

11 October 2017

Indifferent Islington Council

More than a tweet required in Islington
Mr Mustard has been consulted about a PCN debt problem in Islington. A vehicle owner was being chased for £662 for 4 PCNs which had all been registered as debts at the TEC (Traffic & Enforcement Cetre located at Northampton County Court) which is always followed by bailiffs being instructed.

He decided to find out what the theory was in order to compare it to actual practice. This was it as obtained under Freedom of Information legislation.

This is what Islington Council were told about the debtor (the vehicle owner & also the driver on the 4 occasions in question) by a concerned family member (Mr Mustard isn't certain they had any authority to get involved). Let us call the vehicle owner 'C'

- the address the council have for C is out of date by many months
- he moved to another borough for a while
- he was made homeless
- he slept in his car for some weeks
- he slept on the floor of a church charity for a while
- the car has been scrapped
- he is mentally ill
- he has paranoia & psychosis
- he was sectioned for 4 weeks
- he is not yet fully recovered.

Islington Council were asked to 'look into the matter'. You, dear reader, faced with this awful situation would either close the PCNs if you believed the account or if sceptical you would ask to see a hospital report to evidence the sectioning and then write off the debt, would you not? Well, you might, but Islington Council didn't.

They said:

- all statutory notices were sent to the known address as per the DVLA.
- they made offers to settle at the 50% rate which were not taken up for one PCN.
- none of the letters for the other 3 PCN were returned
- the comments were noted
- all the PCNs were correctly issued and must be paid in full
- £452 will be accepted in settlement (100% + £8 for each PCN)
 - this is the very last opportunity
- if unpaid after dd/mm/yy bailiffs will be instructed
- further fees will be added.

You will be shocked and appalled by the callous inhumanity and indifference shown by the council but sadly Mr Mustard isn't. He sees this sort of thing all the time and is inured to it but hopes that one day the repeated exposure in his blog will do some good and bring about change. He can't of course suggest putting the affected people in the newspapers as their medical condition makes it unfair on them.

He advised the family member thus:

- it is not their debt so do not pay a penny
- the bailiff will search for the car & not find it
- goods are rarely taken and C will not have any in any event
- the bailiff will not find C
- just forget about it and/or ask Islington Council what they are playing at.

The rather vague policy of Islington Council that each case will be decided upon its merits is just empty words & they wouldn't 'expect' to sent the case for warrant collection (i.e. to a bailiff) means they would expect to. The utter futility of Islington Council suggesting the use of bailiffs is obvious but what they are hoping for is to get some income from the concerned family member which is why they offered a reduced sum.

It really is all about the money in parking. PCNs are more important (to councils) than your mental health.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

10 October 2017

Nasty Newham Council

Mr Mustard has a client who doesn't like bothering him so tries to sort out parking tickets themselves and this sometimes goes wrong and the odd PCN ends up with a bailiff. That isn't too bad a problem as the car belongs to Motability and is used to transport a disabled person so cannot, in law, be removed by a bailiff (although they will threaten to remove it to bully you into paying). The physical needs of the disabled person are clearly quite severe as they qualify for a Motability car and their mental needs are such that they have a litigation friend under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Newham Council have ended up with a PCN at the bailiff stage against the Litigation Friend as that is the name recorded on the V5 registration document rather than the disabled person. That record will be amended.

Newham have their own bailiffs who work under the umbrella name of OneSource which is a shared service company (OneSource Partnership Ltd has filed dormant accounts) owned by the boroughs of Havering, Newham & Bexley.

To ensure the life of the disabled person was not disrupted by the wrongful removal of the car Mr Mustard emailed OneSource as follows:

As you know, a Motability car cannot be clamped or removed by you for two reasons. The first is that it is not the property of A (the litigation friend) or B (the disabled person). The second is that a car used for the transport of a disabled person is exempt, and a Motability car is patently such a vehicle & is so used.

What came back, after a bit of email ping pong, was this:

We are aware that Motability vehicles cannot be removed. Please be aware that under the standard terms and conditions of the Motability scheme the registered keeper of the vehicle is liable to pay all outstanding penalties and fines and failure to do so is likely to be regarded as “breach of contract” and may lead to the cancellation of the agreement and/or to you being refused Motability finance in future. oneSource Enforcement Services will notify Motability of all cases where we believe the scheme is subject to misuse and a refusal to pay has been identified.

As Mr Mustard was writing as a representative the use of 'you being refused' clearly points to this being a standard wording. Mr Mustard had heard of such threats before but not seen them in writing. The 'paramount' privacy statement and the threat of disclosure seem somewhat at odds with one another?

He was unhappy with the proposed actions so he emailed OneSource again.

You are hereby cautioned not to intervene in a private contractual arrangement to which you are not a party and in which your proposed actions would amount to a Data Protection Breach. I would suggest you consult the borough's in house legal team / information experts before you take such a step.

This email has been copied to my solicitor.

That was 2 months ago and no further email has been received by Mr Mustard which is the usual modus operandi of an authority caught in a compromising situation - go quiet and hope the problem goes away.

One bailiff letter has been sent since threatening that they will take control of goods but they have no right of forced entry to premises and as both the disabled person and the litigation friend are in receipt of state benefits they are unlikely to have anything worth the costs of seizure and sale.

The whole way in which councils go about chasing debts due (& there is one here although there is an 84% chance Mr Mustard would have beaten the PCN if given it at the beginning) from the disabled and/or mentally ill is just wrong, it is based on the blunt use of force. There needs to be nuance and finesse and a tailored approach. Offering time to pay to people who don't have the money now would be a much better solution for both parties but councils rarely offer instalments and the bailiff approach of pay it all or else leads to resistance to paying anything. 

What it probably needs is one council to analyse current results for all PCNs involving the physically or mentally disabled (this will show up by the nature of the contravention i.e. blue badge slipped off dashboard cases) and then try a new approach of inviting instalments, arranging a meeting with the vehicle owner if there are multiple outstanding PCNs to both try and stop further PCNs being issued and to see what arrangement can be made about current ones or to establish if the financial situation of the person is so hopeless that writing off the debt is the only logical step. What the council are meant to do is to make 'due adjustment' for the disabled. It isn't greatly in evidence.

Councils automatically increase unpaid PCN values by 50% as soon as they possibly can. They do not have to do so. The regulations say 'may' increase not 'must'.

Sadly, Mr Mustard thinks that in a year's time, nothing will have changed.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

9 October 2017

Up the junction in Enfield

Is this a valid yellow box junction? Needless to say Enfield Council are still issuing PCNs here, at the supposed junction of Southbury Road and Eaton Road but clearly there isn't a junction, so there isn't a need to keep the area clear, although most people where, but the light blue car owner was sent a PCN.

A 'box junction' (at this locale) means 'an area of carriageway where the marking has been placed and which is at a junction between two or more roads'. 

That is the case normally whilst Eaton Road is open to traffic but Mr Mustard would argue firstly that if you can't drive down enter or exit Eaton Rd then temporarily there is no junction and there is, of course, no traffic management purpose to any PCNs issued whilst the side road is coned off. The only effect of leaving the camera running is to raise revenue.

Mr Mustard has been agitating for some time about the way that moving traffic systems work. The cctv computer controlled camera watches the footage 24/7 and selects clips which the computer programmer defines as a contravention and once a day a person is meant to watch the clips and come to a reasoned decision that a contravention did take place and that a PCN should be issued.

It is possible to automate the entire process of issuing such PCNs and Mr Mustard thinks that may be happening. Alternatively the people who watch the clips simply say yes to everything. There is no common sense. Mr Mustard thinks that operators assume the cctv is correct, of course the motorist is guilty, and ticks yes to a PCN.

This is the sort of immoral behaviour we have come to expect from the private parking sector, a local authority should be beyond criticism at all times.

Enfield Council - hang your heads in shame and pro-actively cancel all PCNs and refund monies paid for any PCNs issued during the days when access was not possible.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Enfield's response:

Parking Services were not made aware* of the closure of Eton (sic, Eaton) Road by our Highways Department and only found out last week.  We went through a process of cancelling all 247 PCNs which was completed on the 4th October.  We have received a communication from your neighbour which was logged on our system on 6th Ocotber. The case was reopened this morning to send a response to confirm that the PCN has been cancelled and case is now closed again.

*Parking must all use public transport to get to work then? Mr M.

Common sense has prevailed.