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

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