31 January 2017

Yellow Box Junctions - 50 years old this year

Some things have been around for longer than you think, box junctions since before the not young Mr Mustard passed his motorcycle test in the 1970's.

The above historic footage shows us perfectly how to approach a box junction and of course, back in 1957, there wasn't all that much traffic on the road.

Fast forward to today and the delightfully named Bob Christmas, a driving instructor, gives us some perfect demonstrations of how to drive and deal with yellow box junctions (he was in Boston, Lincolnshire at the time, traffic does get quite heavy in the part of town).

Just don't let yourself drift into the box whilst not really paying attention. Look ahead, think & act accordingly, you are meant to be driving which involves taking decisions.

Think of the leading edge of the box as a stop line. Just stop and wait for the box to clear. Do not worry about the people behind you as they won't pay the £130 penalty charge that you receive in the post. You will have to pay it. 

More often than not Mr Mustard will have to tell you to pay up and not fight. Best avoid that problem by stopping and making sure your exit is clear before proceeding.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

24 January 2017

East Barnet School - a zig zag problem

Of course you don't stop on school zig-zags, unless you have to.

This is a tale of an over zealous computer and an apparently under zealous contractor, NSL Ltd, as represented by an unknown employee (maybe).

You can see that what might happen here, especially at school drop off time is that parents may be perfectly properly dropping little Johnnie off after the zig-zags have ended and probably on both sides of the road. That narrows the carriageway way down to a single car width through which self evidently two cars cannot pass in opposite directions at the same time, ergo one of them has to give way and probably stop. If you are heading in the direction shown above then you have no choice but to stop on the zig-zags. No-one gets in or out of your car so surely you won't be sent a PCN, will you? Oh yes you will, by NSL Ltd on behalf of Barnet Council. Here is a photograph from one such event.

Mr Mustard's client was driving the teal coloured car (the Barnet Council corporate colour as it happens) and she could not proceed as the black car in front had stopped to let another car pass in the opposite direction. This was the first occasion on which she received a PCN, she got another one 5 days later when she was equally courteous to a driver coming the other way. The second PCN has been cancelled and the first should be very shortly as Mr Mustard has raised the problem with the parking manager.

The decision as to whether or not to issue PCN for cctv derived contraventions is undertaken, under contract (not yet seen) by NSL Ltd. Mr Mustard thinks that this breaches public policy interests as a private company, a profit motivated company, should not be undertaking public interest decisions. Mr Mustard has this argument in front of an adjudicator at the moment.

The council is required to have a belief that a contravention has occurred before deciding to issue a PCN. Mr Mustard has watched the cctv. It shows the reflection of a car in the side of the black car going through in the other direction and then later on when his client moves up another car also going through in the other direction. So it is clear that a contravention did not occur.

Therefore, either the computer decided to issue a PCN which means that the council itself did not hold a belief or the operator who watched the video isn't up to the job. Neither is a satisfactory situation.

Mr Mustard dealt with the same problem in Richmond Rd last year.  Clealry lessons learned were not applied to other locations.

Mr Mustard has asked for compensation for his client who has been wronged and who has been put to time & trouble and the worry of having to find £260 just after Xmas when budgets are tight. Luckily she is a client of Cafe Buzz who told her about Mr Mustard. She won't now be parting with a bean.

If this happened to you, do not pay, make representations & take the case to the tribunal if rejected.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

17 January 2017

Newham Council parking have their own idea of the law

Mr Mustard's client Jenny has had housing problems. Jenny is a lovely lady who is a carer for the daughter of another one of Mr Mustard's clients who has complex behavioural problems (the daughter, that is). Currently, with her own small child, she is in a B&B which really isn't ideal. She has problems in getting everyday things done, like washing their clothes. She has to put it all in the car and then go to her sister's and use her washing machine.

Her sister gives her a 6 hour permit which is just about enough to do some washing, drying and ironing and load it all in and out of the car. She arrived at 10am. This is what she then emailed to Mr Mustard after getting a PCN:

Enclosed are the parking ticket and the visitor parking ticket that was issued to my car that day. I didn't realise that I needed ink to send these documents, omg! (ink was needed so that the scanner would work, not a nice way for printer makers to programme their machines).

The day I got the ticket, it was raining. It was also on a one way road. I was visiting my sister's to do some washing. I left her house at 15:55 pm but could not lock the front door and no one was in. You had to twist and lock it. I also had two big bags of washing and I was jogging up the road as there is never a parking space and my car was 200 yards away.

When I got to the car, I saw the parking ticket on the windscreen and a motorbike speeding away.


The PCN was issued at 16:09 so some 9 minutes after the visitor permit had expired.

Mr Mustard challenged the PCN using the 10 minute's grace rule (introduced by 'Uncle' Eric Pickles - he's a big fan of the Barnet Bloggers you know) and then he challenged the Notice to Owner using the same grounds and Jenny received the rejection which contains the following:

Just plain wrong, the law also applies to periods of free parking

Poppycock, balderdash, codswallop, says Mr Mustard. Let us look at the law.

not the snappiest title
Was Jenny parked in a designated parking place? Yes, a bay for residents.

Had she paid or was the parking free?  Possibly either. In Newham if you don't have a car you get so many visitor vouchers for free and if you have a registered car with the free permit then you pay for them (Newham are very reasonable with permits & vouchers). Either way she had been parked during a permitted parking period.

Had that period expired by a period not exceeding 10 minutes, No, only 9 (phew).

This new rule was intended for the very situation that Jenny found herself in. She intended to leave on or by 4pm but the blessed door was a problem and that caused her to run a few minutes late. That should not cost her £130 as the penalty is disproportionate to the contravention. Look also at the stress it causes to people. Parking departments cause huge anxiety all over London.

Newham are clearly desperate to rake in the filthy lucre as they have resorted to telling a blatant untruth in order to try and persuade Jenny to pay up. Fat chance of that happening when Mr Mustard is representing her.

Mr Mustard must go now, file the Appeal at the tribunal and send Newham a complaint. If this Appeal goes ahead he will be asking for costs as Newham have been wholly unreasonable.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

16 January 2017

Sit down, there is PCN good news

Last Autumn Mr Mustard had a spate of PCN for mini-buses that were parked in contravention of the overnight waiting ban (yes, the one that no-one knew existed). One family, with 9 children if he has got the number correct, Mr Mustard has only seen some of the brood when he visited the parents, were at their wits end as they received 6 PCN in about a month. They had paid 3 before Mr Mustard pointed out that he could probably overturn them all. Mr Mustard set to with the 3 that were live. Two of them had representations refused and Mr Mustard was heading towards the tribunal having registered two Appeals at about the same time as another motorist got there and the adjudicator made this withering judgment

'Mis-directed itself' = cocked their case up
Mr Mustard then suggested to the council that they DNC (Do not contest) his appeals and quite close to the hearing date they did just that. They also DNCd the case for his neighbour who uses a brand new mini-bus for charitable purposes at his own expense.

On one PCN some paperwork went missing in the post and it was registered as a debt by default at the Traffic Enforcement Centre. Mr Mustard submitted a form TE9 (witness statement) to wind the process back and at the same time reminded the parking section that they owed him a reply to his email of 25 November in which he gave the council a chance to look good by cancelling every incorrect mini-bus PCN and refunding all payments received to which idea a deaf ear was turned. They did though agree to cancel the 6th PCN which had been registered as a debt (and the bailiff visit would have been the eventual outcome but for Mr Mustard's intervention).

Mr Mustard then asked the parking section to refund the 3 PCN which were paid before the family knew of Mr Mustard. Rather than resistance he received an instantaneous reply that this was being done.

Knock Mr Mustard down with a feather. What a result. He is feeling epic. He shouldn't because any council parking department that has done wrong should give the money back but they make limpets look like pathetic creatures in the hanging on to something stakes.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

12 January 2017

Bomb Scare - but PCN issue must continue unabated

On 24 November 16 there was a bomb scare in Ballards Lane. It was reported in The Standard, here.

You can see that it was absolute havoc with one of the main North South axes of the borough being severed.

Mr Mustard's client is a teacher at various locations. One was at Finchley Central where she has a parking space available to her. On the day in question she had to be there to teach her class at 11 and was unable to reach her destination. A teacher does not lightly abandon her pupils and so as the lesson was from 11am to midday she left her car at 10:45 on a single yellow line which she though must have the same time as resident parking i.e. restricted from 2-3pm (she was wrong) and many other people were also abandoning their cars where they could, and thought she would easily be back by 2pm.

In the pandemonium and her high adrenalin state she missed the sign that would have told her the single yellow was in force. She could not have paid to park, even if there was a suitable bay, as she did not have a mobile phone with her.

When she returned to her car she found a PCN which had been issued at 12:14 she took it to her office to get a letter from the supervisor confirming the lesson she taught and that there had been a bomb scare. She returned to her car to find another PCN which had been issued at 12:33 (it was not her lucky day) even though it is generally the case that a car in contravention & not moved cannot be ticketed again before 24 hours have passed and that is also what Barnet Council's own rules state.

Anyway, she wrote to the council saying that there had been a bomb scare and fully expected that in the circumstances the PCN would be forgiven. No such luck. Here are parts of the two rejections:

Absolutely no sympathy or understanding of the real world whatsoever. To think that the first thought of everyone when close to a suspect bomb is how they can comply with the parking regulations is to place the importance of parking tickets in society at far too high a level. The issuing of the PCN can be understood, if the roads had opened again and traffic was back to normal, but not the failure of the back office to apply sensible discretion to the request for mitigation.

In addition, the council have failed to appreciate that two PCN were issued just 19 minutes apart and that the second one simply isn't valid. The council have blinded themselves by the prospect of the £220 income. Had she not gone to her councillor and been invited to contact Mr Mustard, she might have ended up by paying. Mr Mustard is about to log a complaint & suspects that the PCNs will then both go away.

Yet more reputational damage for the council, self inflicted.

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

10 January 2017

Traffic warden forgets to do his/her job

So you park at night on a single yellow line in Burleigh Gardens (it is quite convenient for Southgate tube station). You can see this sign

which shows the school warning correctly facing oncoming traffic (so motorists know to slow down & keep their eyes peeled, you do do that don't you?) and then the sign which tells goods vehicles & coaches over 5 tonnes not to park overnight is facing the wrong way and has been since at least May 2016. This led Mr Mustard's client to not notice the no parking timed restriction as the sign was at ninety degrees to it, as you can see from above. The no parking until midnight sign is facing the road, which is correct, but is inadequate thanks to the hgv sign above which misleads.

What does the contract with NSL say about signs and traffic wardens? This:

Mr Mustard wonders why this sign has not been reported (he assumes) for more than 6 months and then rectified? Is it because NSL's traffic wardens focus on the issuing PCN aspect of the contract rather than the defective lines & signs? (115 PCN were issued in Burleigh Gardens in 2016). Is it all about the money? Does Barnet Council not realise that these things damage its reputation?

Is Mr Mustard going to complain about NSL not doing their job? Of course he is.

Is Mr Mustard going to fight the PCN all the way to the tribunal? Yes again.

If you get a PCN based upon defective signs and lines please make a complaint about the behaviour of the traffic warden to barnet@nsl.co.uk and send a copy to first.contact@barnet.gov.uk so that the council know about it. Add the complaint into your representations against the PCN. Councils hate getting complaints and they might cancel the PCN just to tidy the complaint away.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

9 January 2017

Staff ask councillors to hand over the reins

Here you go, moving traffic contraventions only started recently and are a real money spiiner with 5000 PCN being issued each month. Not enough clearly to satisfy officers (staff) as they want councillors to hand over the power to them to enforce outside every single school and every single junction in the borough. Best pull the duvet over your head and never get into your car again as the least mistake will be punished by a £130 PCN.

Will councillors dare to vote against this on Wednesday?

Have they even read the papers?

Do they care?

Barnet has gone from being a borough with a benign enforcement regime in which traffic did generally move pretty well to one which will be very near the top of the income charts for moving traffic contraventions and the traffic won't be any better, in fact if they follow Mr Mustard's advice, it will be much worse at yellow box junctions as everyone waits for the junction to be clear before they move.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard