29 July 2017

Box junction quiz

It has been ages since Mr Mustard had a poll on twitter so he thought he would set you a little test.

Read this, the box junction contraventions rules, as set out in the snappily titled The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Direction 2016 (those in the business talk about the TSRGD) which every motorist is deemed to know as ignorance of the law is no excuse. Mr Mustard's paper copy set him back £65 and runs to 547 pages which he has thumbed extensively and annotated.

Now watch the video at the top, the car which turns right.

Does it commit a contravention deserving of a PCN, by law?

Mr Mustard will give you a hint, that Barnet Council thought so, well at least in the eyes of their contractor NSL who are contracted to check the computer generated cctv clip before a PCN is authorised for issue. Mr Mustard can, of course, be a bit mischievous and the fact that he says that Barnet Council have issued a PCN may be no clue at all as to whether their action is correct, as they are a council who regularly go off the rails.

You decide. See you on twitter.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 July 2017

Coach driver #2 - needs coaching

Just like buses Mr Mustard found reports of a second coach related PCN right behind the first one. Here is the adjudicator's (correct) decision:

The children at this school are aged up to 11 hence the wish for the coach to be as near as possible to the entrance although it has no chance of getting all the way along Richmond Rd which is tight to navigate even in a large car.

One solution to the problem is to park the coach in Gloucester Rd but the kids would have to be supervised crossing the busy road or, cynically, to add a £65 'parking charge' to the quote for transport to cover the cost of the PCN and just pay it on arrival.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Back to school for teacher

This adjudication decision caught Mr Mustard's eye

Mr Mustard popped down to Southover to have a look.

Clearly the coach cannot turn around in the cul-de-sac section

What were the alternatives?

1. Stop short of the zig zags which would mean the road was blocked and the passengers could disembark in complete safety as traffic could not pass. It should only take 2 or 3 minutes.

2. Drop the kids off in the side road, Arlington, and use the side gate? (it may be parked up during term time?)

Other thoughts:

The council have partly caused the problem by installing two sets of keep clear markings adjacent to each other with a small gap. The maximum length of school keep clear markings is 43.560 metres and the use of two sets is not really on.

If the council hadn't installed the second set there would have been room for the coach to stop. It isn't as if the second set are there to protect the kids as although they do cover an entrance it isn't there for children to access the school but for the benefit of the teachers' car park. More thought really needs to go into these markings as otherwise they will be disrespected.

As to the adjudication decision Mr Mustard notes the following.

Hearns Coaches have not in the last decade taken a London PCN to the tribunal so don't appear to be habitual offenders (they may of course simply pay PCN when they get them).

The adjudicator had no choice in the matter as there are limited exceptions to stopping on school keep clear markings (fire, police, ambulance & like ilk).

The morning pickup might have been outside of restricted hours hence the lack of a PCN from that time & besides it wouldn't have presented a defence to the contravention.

The coach driver is in charge of the coach. Would they have driven at 50mph in the 30 zone if a teacher told him to? Would they have turned left where not allowed? Would they go through a no entry just to please the teacher? No, no & no, so why he/she parked on the keep clear markings is an interesting question. The answer we do know is that in the future the coach driver will not stop on a school keep clear marking. Mr Mustard's advice to teachers is to not try and teach coach drivers how to drive or park (did the teacher even hold a driving licence?) and leave them to do their job.

Coach drivers; simply ask the teacher to agree to pay any PCN issued as a result of their ignorant instructions. That will concentrate their mind.

Mr Mustard will try to find out what Barnet Council decide to do about the penalty i.e. whether they accept the recommendation of the adjudicator.

There is only about 1 PCN a day on each school keep clear marking so this mass installation of very expensive cameras won't make a profit and will thus, most probably, get moved to more profitable sites. 

Sod safety, raise revenue.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

21 July 2017

Guess the contravention

PCN as issued
One of the things that a PCN must state are:

the grounds on which the civil enforcement officer serving the notice believes that a penalty charge is payable.

The standard PCN wording for being adjacent to a dropped kerb is this:

Mr Mustard has sent in a challenge to his client's PCN. He wonders if this was a one-off printer error or if all code 27 PCN look like this at the moment as if so they are easily beaten. All you have to do is challenge on the grounds that the PCN does not state a contravention.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

20 July 2017

When the going gets tough - Barnet Council capitulate

The corner of Holmbrook Drive & Holmdale Gardens
Mr Mustard is insulted. The general public generally don't know much parking law but he does and Barnet Council waste his time fighting about blatantly unenforceable PCNs.

His client parked a little unwisely, across the corner above, over the D in Holmdale. On 14 March a traffic warden issued a PCN. It was a wrong un. The statutory purposes for which PCN can be issued at dropped kerbs are as follows:

The whole of Barnet is a special enforcement area
Clearly you don't push a pram out, cross with a walking stick, push a wheelchair into the road, allow small children to cross or even your able bodied self at such a location as you can't keep an eye on both directions of traffic at the same time. The PCN was just wrong but getting the council to admit they have done wrong is always a battle, they view a PCN once issued as inviolable.

On 27 March Mr Mustard made the informal challenge 'The footway has not been dropped for one of the statutory purposes, but has simply sunk over time'. He waited for the cancellation. It didn't come, a refusal did.

'any dropped kerb' is incorrect
Whilst Mr Mustard waited for the Notice to Owner he made a Freedom of Information request to evidence the fact of the kerb being 'purposely dropped'. It didn't go well for the council and they sugar coated the reply with some guesswork.

It wasn't Holmbrook Gardens but never mind
The Notice to Owner dated 11 May then arrived next. On 15 May Mr Mustard made the same formal representations as at the informal stage. It is normal to be consistent and make the same challenge as the one that the council have already rejected:

The representations were rejected in a letter dated 9 June.

The supposed parallel dropped footway, which was on the diagonal in any event, was for access to a residential drive. The response was absolute drivel.

On 28 June Mr Mustard hand delivered the Notice of Appeal to the tribunal, the same grounds for cancellation were replied upon, the kerb has not been expressly dropped, it has simply sunk. That Appeal to the independent tribunal prompted a fee of £30 to be paid by Barnet Council to cover the tribunal's costs. The hearing date was set for 26 July (4 weeks ahead is normal).

On 17 July the council decided to drop the case, presumably as they knew they would lose and in order to save the time cost of preparing the evidence pack.

It is entirely wrong for Barnet Council to reject two lots of clearly perfectly valid representations as an unrepresented motorist might well have assumed the council knew what they were doing and then have paid up. 

All the council have achieved is to waste their time and money.

It really isn't that easy to get Mr Mustard to give up.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

18 July 2017

Delivery bike tax

Mr Mustard happened to see this official notification in the Barnet Press

What payment exemption?
Now Mr Mustard does recall Cllr John Hart mentioning at committee the problem of pizza (well food anyway) delivery bikes taking up all the space in the day in Mill Hill Broadway to the detriment of car drivers who might want to pay to park (revenue of course was not his first thought, it was the loss of a visitor, full stop, of course) & Mr Mustard can see how it might present a problem in certain locations.

The above appears to be an attempt to fix the problem, if there is one, by making motorcycle bays longer and reserving them for businesses who have paid to park there, the Mr Mustard motorbike not having a permit will have to park elsewhere, which would be in a car space for free, thus preventing yet more parking by cars. The problem with reserving any section of road space for one class of vehicle is that the rest suffer even more (a bit like bus lanes but let's not go there today).

Google's last drive by image is below

Maybe there is a fast food delivery shop on the corner now, residents will know and can comment. Mr Mustard prefers slow food, especially at Table du Marché, at no. 111. (their service is at the correct tempo, Mr Mustard is referring to slow food as being real food, he never has pizza delivered to Mustard Mansions).

Anyway if the problem is too many delivery scooters, the bay doesn't fix that problem, in fact it makes the problem official and rakes in the money at the same time. Trebles all round, as they say in Private Eye.

Unless councillors have voted on creating motorcycle permits at a committee meeting, and they may have as Mr Mustard has been a bit slack on his recent attendances, these permits can't yet be sold in any event? However it looks like the Traffic Management Order can be amended by the Chief Executive which is to give him policy making power when really he should only implement what councillors decide upon.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

17 July 2017

A joint statement from the Barnet Bloggers - Children at Risk: Time to take responsibility

Cllr Reuben Thompstone
"There are widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children and their families in Barnet. Inspectors identified a legacy of widespread poor practice and ongoing systemic failures and services that neither adequately ensure the safety, nor promote the welfare of children and young people”. 
Ofsted Inspection Report on Barnet Children’s Service July 2017 

Over nearly a decade of scrutiny by Barnet bloggers, we have investigated and reported the seemingly endless sequence of scandals, blunders, and political folly created by Barnet’s Conservative councillors. The incomprehensible tale of the MetPro fiasco, the disgraceful confiscation of travel passes for disabled residents, the cutting of vital respite care for children at Mapledown School, which cares for children with profound disabilities, the illegal CPZ parking charges, are only some of the many examples of administrative incompetence – and worse – that we have exposed and pursued.

In all this time, in response to all of these disastrous situations, not one Conservative member has taken responsibility for the failure in services to what are very often the most vulnerable members of our community.

No one could be more vulnerable than a child: especially a child in care, whose well being has become the responsibility of the local authority, standing as a corporate parent.

Yet now we see the emergence of a most damning report from OFSTED, one that slates the provision of care services in Barnet for such children: a report that should shame any local authority, and would – anywhere else but in Barnet. 

“The vast majority of care planning is ineffective. There is a lack of focus on measuring progress for children or their outcomes. When there is no progress, this is not re-evaluated or escalated effectively. This leads to drift and delay. This is particularly stark for a significant number of children who are victims of chronic long-term neglect and emotional abuse, who do not have the impact of this risk recognised, responded to or reduced, despite spending long periods subject to child protection planning … ”.

“Young people who go missing from care receive a poor service, because social workers do not find out enough about the risks to them. This means that young people who go missing are not always kept safe enough from dangers, such as gangs or adults sexually exploiting them”. 

In any circumstances where there has been proven wrongdoing, or a failure in standards, it is usually the case, in Barnet, that officers are held responsible, and those elected members tasked with the responsibility – and paid generous allowances for those duties – of overseeing the enforcement of their own policies remain distanced from the consequences of their actions. We believe that this is wrong, and that councillors should be held accountable.

In this case, we believe, the fault lies in a serious failure in leadership, oversight and scrutiny by the Children, Education, Libraries and Safeguarding Committee, chaired by Conservative councillor Reuben Thompstone.

The same committee was responsible for the Mapledown cuts – later reversed, after protests from parents, and a public outcry; and was also the instrument of approval for the devastating programme of cuts to our library service, presented to residents as mere ‘refurbishment’, but which has seen the closure of children’s libraries, and the removal of access for under sixteen year olds from any library operating the newly unstaffed hours.

It seems to us that under this Conservative administration, children are seen not as our most precious asset, but an easy target for cuts, and the lowering of standards meant to ensure their protection, and wellbeing.

In 2014 Tory members approved a cost cutting restructuring of Family Services which has resulted in the use of agency social workers soaring from none in 2013, to £3.05 million per annum in 2016/17.

With the average agency social worker staying just 202 days, there has been a constant turnover of staff, and throughout this period, Children’s Services have been under constant pressure to meet the budget savings forecast.

We believe that pressure on budgets for local social workers responsible for ensuring the safety of young people has lead to the near destruction of the service, and a situation where there are simply not the resources to ensure vulnerable young people are given the life chances they deserve.

This cannot possibly be in the best interests of the children of this borough.

We therefore make the following suggestions:

1. That there must be a full open, transparent, and independent public inquiry into what went wrong.

2. This inquiry must include a forensic audit of all correspondence between the Conservative administration and officers, regarding Children’s Services, to ensure that political interference has not, and cannot in future, prejudice the standard of care.

3. This inquiry should be concluded prior to May 2018, to allow the people of Barnet to pass their own judgement on the administration.

4. We call for the resignation of the Councillor in charge of Children’s Services, Cllr Reuben Thompstone.


This blog has been jointly written by the four Barnet bloggers in response to the recently released OFSTED report into Barnet Council childrens services.

If you receive a special responsibility allowance for chairing a committee then you need to take responsibility if it goes wrong. Mr Mustard

13 July 2017

Special Parking Account 2016-17 (Barnet Council)

Here you have it, the SPA, given to Mr Mustard as part of his annual Audit inspection of the Accounts and to be published to councillors and the public quite soon.

Interesting points:

Parking PCN income has gone up by £1.4m. This is what the Secretary of State says about parking enforcement:

The three main reasons why the number of PCN is not zero is, probably, the payment system not accepting cash leaves too many people who want to pay to park unable to easily do so, too many people take a chance and stop for their fags & newspapers on double yellows for a minute & that the council spend very little time or money in educating motorists to change their ways (as they are dependent upon the income).

MTC stands for 'moving traffic contraventions' things like the no left turn at Tilling Road which thousands of folk like to ignore at least once (until they find it was a £130 short cut) and yellow box junctions. Those first came under a cctv computerised ticketing system in May 2016 and the number of cameras is being steadily increased. Expect more millions to be harvested next year. Have there been fewer accidents as a result of cctv which you can't easily see at a junction? Mr Mustard doubts it. Has congestion been reduced? Mr Mustard would like to see some facts on the matter, not conjecture.

Permit pricing changed during the year. The amount that Saracens have to pay has reduced since the scheme started in February 2013 and may account for part of the drop in income. Many people stocked up on £1 visitor vouchers before they were price hiked to £4 and then the High Court decided that was an illegal revenue raising move rather than for traffic management purposes.

Pay & Display has increased by 2% which partly shows that our High Streets really aren't recovering. Mr Mustard would like to see cash payments accepted in meters in the High Street which is most used by the elderly as an experiment to see if that increased foot fall. If Mr Mustard could only use cash as his payment method he would shop in Enfield where they sensibly offer a choice of cash, phone or card.

Bus Lane income dropped because a camera went faulty and it wasn't corrected very quickly. Mr Mustard is also surprised that anyone gets caught in the bus lane as it is long established.

Costs increased because NSL have to paid to deal with moving traffic contraventions which were not in the original contract.

£5million of the surplus (it isn't a profit as this isn't a business we are talking about although it is big business & very profitable) has not yet actually reached the bank as the council accrue it as anticipated income for the year which has not yet been paid. Mr Mustard thinks that is wrong as no future costs are accrued. Looks like he will have to object to the Accounts again just as he did last year, an objection which the external auditor has not yet cleared away.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

12 July 2017

Do bailiffs bully the disabled?

Without access being offered, entry would not be legal
Mr Mustard's client has got herself in a bit of a pickle. A proud person, she didn't want to bother him with her Ealing PCNs as she thought she could sort them out herself. Thanks though to being ill such that she has to be checked up on every 2 months and suffering from depression due to her illness, lack of money and general quality of life, she has not beaten the PCNs and they have ended up with bailiffs.

Last June she asked Mr Mustard for help with the bailiff at a time when he was so overrun that he couldn't deal with bailiff matters (he also prefers to stop tickets reaching that stage) & passed her the details of a bailiff advice helpline. He told her not to worry as the bailiff could not remove or clamp her car. Guess what happened next? Yes, in September 16 a bailiff acting for Ealing Council clamped the car. Mr Mustard was on his way to the parking tribunal when it happened. He only had time to text the bailiff to tell him he could not clamp the car as the blue badge is permanently on display. Mr Mustard found out later that within 30 minutes the clamp was removed. That bailiff at least realised the game was up having chanced his arm with the wrong person. Mr Mustard's client may be ill but she will not be bullied.

Just before Christmas with perfect timing a second PCN reached the bailiff stage. Now Mr Mustard, as a debt collector in real life, accepts that bailiffs have a job to do and they have draconian powers of removal of goods. There are though also some limited checks on their power. In a civilised society parliament has decided that disabled people will not have their mode of transport removed. In addition, your home is your castle and forced entry cannot take place without specific court consent (for a traffic PCN, it can be for a magistrates court debt) which Mr Mustard suspects would not be granted against a disabled person claiming PIP as they won't have any assets worth the cost of seizure & sale.

The first Notice was delivered on 23 December 16. It was for 2 PCNs.

The next one came on 6 January (perhaps even bailiffs have some time off)

Just another 6 days and here is the third letter, just for one of the PCNs, not for both for some reason.

Another visit on 20 January, for both PCN this time. By now, the bailiff, or at least a bailiff, must have seen the car as it is parked off street outside the property in a disabled bay and with the blue badge clearly visible. It was also the case that the blue badge formed part of the representations which were made & the badge was issued by Ealing Council so they know they are sending a file to bailiffs for goods, nearly always the car, to be seized when the car is exempt by law from seizure. This is information which in Mr Mustard's view should be communicated to the bailiff by their client, Ealing Council (or any other one) at the start so that the disabled do not have their car clamped in error. The previous clamping by a bailiff in the employ of Collect Services may be a factor in them not having clamped or removed despite their many letters and in fact means that in their records they knew from the start of this correspondence that they could not remove the car.

The question is why are they hand delivering letters which state that they will remove 'your Vehicle' when they know it is exempt?

Only 4 days to wait and a third PCN has reached the bailiff stage.
Ooh, a different letter was issued on 3 February. The bailiff didn't need ANPR as the vehicle is usually parked outside the address on the warrant. Another threat to remove which the law will not allow. The balance cannot have increased if a bailiff (enforcement agent) has called recently as the debt already included 3 separate visit fees, one for each PCN, of £235 a pop.

Nearly a month went by, one of the warrants had expired and was not renewed so the debt dropped.

 Another 10 days, another letter.

On 13 March the ANPR letter was again sent containing another threat of illegal action.

Another 11 days and another visit and another illegal threat to remove the car

Another 10 days again, another letter threatening to break the law.

A month until the next letter, sorry if you are already bored, try imagining receiving all these letters especially if sick and living on benefits.

On 8 May Collect had got themselves a new template and sent a different letter about an appointment that never was and again illegally threatening to remove the car.

Just 3 days later back to one of the other letters

Mr Mustard can't quite read the date on the next letter but thinks it may be 10 June. It might be the final roll of the dice by Collect or else they saw that the Newlyn bailiff had only gone and clamped the same car on behalf of Brent Council, a matter about which a solicitor is still waiting a response from Brent Council, the clamp having only been removed after it was in place for 6 days.

Mr Mustard wonders if Ealing Council keep a close enough eye on what their bailiffs get up to, whether sending the debts of Motability car drivers and blue badge holders to bailiffs is even reasonable given that the power of the bailiff is to seize goods and they can't seize the car (and secondhand household effects are pretty worthless) and whether sending 15 letters threatening the removal of an exempt item is harassment (a question which Mr Mustard will ask his lawyer tomorrow but feel free to comment if you are one).

It really isn't very attractive to threaten to break the law in order to enforce it.

How has it made the lady herself feel? Like this:

There are right and wrong ways of doing your job. If the above message is the result of how it is currently done, it is undoubtedly the wrong way.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

11 July 2017

Barking bus lanes now on the pavement?

True but irrelevant
Did you ever think that the council did not properly consider your representations and that the response was a template one? Well, in Barking & Dagenham Council that is certainly true as the PCN which was challenged was for a supposed bus lane contravention and the representations likewise but the response wrongly states that the motorist was parked on the footpath.

Mr Mustard will be handing in the Appeal form to London Tribunals tomorrow. He will give the council a chance to save £30 and cancel today once they have been pointed at this blog.

Incidentally the bus lane in question isn't properly signed, it is a notorious one.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

p.s. If the bus lane is empty as you approach, check the sign. Check it anyway every time as it might be reserved for buses at that moment but an empty bus lane is often a clue that it is in operation or that no car driver dare drive in it anyway just in case (which is when Mr Mustard can be found making good progress on the road). Watch out though in Baker St, W1. You need to be Sherlock Holmes to spot the times becoming more restrictive halfway down.

 Update 3 August 2017

The council wisely decided not to contest the Appeal at the tribunal but to cancel the PCN instead.

7 July 2017

Warning PCN

This parking deserves a warning PCN
The above example picture isn't from the client who contacted Mr Mustard today with whom this short but rapid this exchange of emails took place:

I have a question regarding a parking ticket I was issued yesterday.
I was little over blocking a drive (the car was still able to get out) however I was issued with a PCN.

The amount on the ticket is £0.00

Have you ever dealt with this peculiar situation before?

I am not sure what to do, as even on line the ticket is on the Barnet council website with pictures but again there is no payment due.

I was driving a hire car so maybe that is reason...?
Please advise as to what is best to do.

Many thanks in advance for your fantastic work!

That is easy. The ticket code probably has a W next to it and that stands for warning. That is a sensible approach by the traffic warden, to mark your card for you as to your mode of parking so that you don't do it again.

All you need to do is to park more considerately (ouch!) in future. Imagine you are the person trying to back out of the drive in question. How much space would you like?

If only the council would do this more often or perhaps they are doing?

It is irrelevant whether the car can get in or out of the drive you are over-hanging, all that matters is whether or not any part of your car is adjacent to, i.e. abuts, the part of the kerb where the pavement or crossover and the carriageway are level with each other.

That's brilliant!

Just seen there is only 'W27 Parked in a special enforcement area adjacent to a foot way, cycle track or verge lowered to meet the level of the carriageway'

I definitely will be more careful next time!!

Thanks for your speedy response

Enjoy the sunshine!

Councils who want to educate motorists to not park in contravention such as adjacent to dropped kerbs and/or on the pavement when not allowed would do well to issue more of these warning PCN along with leaflets explaining what you did wrong and what to do in the future. It would hammer their income but if they want to keep saying that the ideal is zero PCN then they need to start educating motorists about common errors.

Warning PCN are issued for the first 28 days at newly under camera moving traffic locations in Barnet (14 days is the minimum required) so if you consistently turn left where you shouldn't and a camera is installed you should get a warning to change your behaviour before you are shelling out £130 a day (if you cheat every day on your commute).

So if you get a Warning PCN you now know what to do, take a look in the mirror and change your behaviour.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard