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.

Plans for the Fern Room - 11 October 2017 from 16:30 to 20:00

As it happens Mr Mustard was at the meeting of the Cabinet Resources Committee on 4 April 2012 when this property was agreed to be sold.

What do we see here? Firstly, the property was sold for the sole purpose of extending the Spires Shopping Centre. That is not now happening on this site.

Secondly, an offer was refused from a private developer and since that time, the ownership of the Spires itself having changed, this plot was offered to the highest bidder. If Barnet Council had put the plot up for sale to developers Mr Mustard thinks they would have got a better price, a monopoly buyer won't overpay.

The Land Registry tell me that property was sold on 23 May 17 for £1,100,000 so someone thinks they can squeeze enough properties onto the site to make a profit.

Mr Mustard couldn't find the sale price form 2012 and he wonders if anyone at the council thought to include a clawback clause to recover any future gains from change of use? Why the council sold it in the first place and didn't use it to build social housing is a question that occurs to Mr Mustard.

The other question is why the developers need a big PR firm to present an exhibition for what should be a sympathetic build, perhaps that tells us that some egregious & hideous looking over-development is planning. Mr Mustard predicts another featureless rectangular flat roofed block.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

5 October 2017

Oktoberfest - N12

This sounds like fun, get yourselves a ticket before they sell out.


Mr Senf

3 October 2017

Councils kick themselves

One of Mr Mustard's regular readers kindly looked through the on line register for more instances of when councils took themselves to the tribunal to force them to pay themselves for a PCN. He found far more than one would expect.

Each case is a tribunal fee down the drain to prove a point or to move money from one council budget to another one. It doesn't really matter if they won or lost as they were both the victor and the vanquished at one and the same time.

Seems crazy; surely there is a better solution?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard