29 March 2018

Inbuilt delays work against you - do it now

Recently Mr Mustard had a couple of cases where everything hinged on the date that a certain action was taken. Many people think that the parking department is in Sheffield as that is where the PO Box is to be found but that is merely where the scanning machines are located.

To prove or otherwise his point Mr Mustard asked for the number of documents scanned on each day in December 17 & January 18. The numbers for the full weeks are reproduced above.

He has realised that there is a problem with nothing being scanned on a Saturday. That presents a problem if your deadline is the Saturday or Sunday. If post is not looked at on Saturdays you are potentially being deprived of 2 days of your allotted 14. To avoid that don't delay in dealing with a PCN, do it now. The other way to avoid delays is to make your representations on line using the council's system or to pay on line using your debit or credit card.

Mr Mustard has emailed the parking manager suggesting some changes, as follows:

For a recent case I needed to check that scanning was being done each day & it is, which is good, but it led me to think about deadlines.

There is a disparity in the Regulations between deadlines which are an exact number of calendar days and post only being processed in the working week, Monday to Friday. If you receive a PCN on your car on a Monday you have 14 days in which to pay at 50%, or to challenge informally and preserve the discount, which expires on a Sunday. I note that scanning does not take place on a Saturday. That means that items posted on a Friday, which could reach you on a Saturday and thus in time, become out of time on the Monday.

I am sure you are always looking for ways to improve the parking service & I would like to suggest that either processing the Saturday post on the day itself or keeping it separate on the Monday and processing it first and dating it as received on the Saturday would be fairer to the motorist.

I stress that you aren't doing anything outside of the Regulations, I just think that what I suggest would be an improved service for that section of society which is more reliant on the post & cheques which is generally the elderly.

Best regards

He will let you see the reply.

Looking at the figures themselves Mr Mustard notes that Monday isn't always the day when most documents are scanned which he finds surprising as he expects that what with it containing items posted on both Friday & Saturday it would usually be the heaviest day for post. He suspects that all documents are not scanned on the day of receipt in line with the contract.

There is a world of difference between the day a document is received and the day it is scanned. Just because a document was scanned on Wednesday 28 March does not prove that it was received by the council on that very date. Put the council to proof of when they received something and they won't be able to give a categorical answer unless they date stamp it & can prove that was the correct date on the stamp.

Remember, don't dilly dally as it could cost you money.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 March 2018

Not on - again

This is the second case this week of a PCN being issued at this location when a contravention did not occur. Note the complete absence of any pedestrians, school age or older, so what is the point of such a PCN? Revenue raising.

Mr Mustard's challenge reads like this:

Diagram 1027.1 is described in TSRGD 2016 as being 'Part of the carriageway outside an entrance, where…vehicles should, or must not, stop'.

1. The vehicle is not on the carriageway in Queens Avenue but on Orchard Avenue.

2. The vehicle is not on the markings which denote the extent of the restricted area.

3. There is no provision within TSRGD2016 for placing zig zag markings across a road junction.

(TSRGD is the 500 page Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 which Mr Mustard likes to have the occasional read of. Diagram 1027.1 is the yellow zig zag marking).

Any bets as to whether Barnet Council reject the challenge and he ends up talking to an adjudicator?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

25 March 2018

Cancerlation - no chance.

Mr Mustard is a busy man working full time and fighting councils PCNs in his 'spare' time. He gets tired just like anyone else who works hard but what keeps him going is helping people less fortunate than himself. A Mr Mustard shouldn't, in a civilised society, be necessary, but parking departments have gone so far down the raising revenue at all costs route that they have lost sight of humanity and need someone to tug on their chain, hard, and use the oxygen of bad publicity to try and make them change their ways.

This next decision of the tribunal isn't of a case that Mr Mustard dealt with but it makes him sick to his core of council parking departments. This heartless decision was by Barnet Council.

The vehicle belonged to Motability so we know that the motorist is physically disabled.

The appellant appeared before me today accompanied by Redacted, both of whom made submissions.

The contravention alleged in these proceedings was that this vehicle was parked in a disabled badge holders bay without displaying a valid disabled badge.

There was no dispute that an expired disabled badge was on display in the vehicle.

The appellant gave evidence as to her serious medical condition she living with cancer and other disabilities it being clear from her appearance that she was very unwell.

I accepted that although the appellant had intended renewing her badge she had overlooked that renewal due to the very serious health issues she was experiencing at the time together with a family bereavement.

I noted that her renewed badge was valid from 19-12-17 she not receiving it until 05-01-18. (The PCN was dated 7 December 2017)

I was satisfied that the contravention had occurred and acknowledged that the council had cancelled a previous penalty charge incurred by the appellant's vehicle on the ground of 'first time cancellation' but I was satisfied given the appellant's personal mitigation that this was on appeal a suitable case for the exercise of the council's discretion and I would invite it to cancel this PCN.

Why doesn't the council think that someone living with cancer, who is visibly ill, doesn't merit a second PCN cancellation. Is that just one mistake you are allowed in your lifetime, or one a year? We should be told.

Would any reasonable person not just cancel a PCN for someone who qualifies for a blue badge but doesn't put it on display for whatever reason, given that if they did, they would qualify for free parking.

Are cancer sufferers just a source of revenue for Barnet Council? Yes, they are.

No criticism can be made of the Adjudicator. Their legally defined role is to decide if a contravention has occurred or not. They will always do their best to find a legal escape route in deserving cases but in this one they did not have one available.

The exercise of discretion, or mitigation, rests entirely in a council's hands. They are so blinkered in parking departments as to whether or not a contravention occurred, and the revenue they raise, that they forget to be human.

Part of the fault for this rests with councillors who delegate too much power to council staff, or 'officers' as they are over grandly titled. Councillors need to set out circumstances in which all PCNs should be cancelled and that should include blue badge holders who forget to put their badge out, who place it upside down, who forget the clock, or who have health problems that cause them to overlook something.

Something in Mr Mustard's brain tells him that PCNs are not issued by Barnet Council until a blue badge has been expired for 14 days, in this case only 10 days had elapsed. It would have been a far better solution to issue a warning PCN for £0.00 which would have alerted the badge holder to the problem and prompted them to renew their badge.

Councillors are going to be knocking on your doors asking for your vote. Ask them what they are going to do to make PCNs less about revenue generation and to make the borough a nicer place in which to live without fear of miserable penalties.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

The difference between on and off

The silver car, on the right, received a PCN. It is for being:

'Stopped in a restricted area outside a school, a hospital or a fire, police, or ambulance station when prohibited'.

The road leads to the rear pedestrian entry to Queenswell Schools in N20. The owner of the silver car lives in this little cul-de-sac. The driver is careful to not stop on the yellow zig zag markings as they accidentally did so once before and Mr Mustard had to ride to their rescue with a technical defence.

The reason they stop the car is to undo the chain across the cul-de-sac and then replace it.

The yellow lines on the ground are Diagram 1027.1 from the Traffic Signs, Regulations & General Directions 2016. They convey the following meaning:

'Part of the carriageway outside an entrance where, as described in paragraph 2 or 3 (as applicable) of Part 6, vehicles should, or must, not stop.'

Paragraph 3 of Part 6 says:

'The road marking at item 10, when placed in conjunction with an upright sign which includes the symbol at item 10, conveys the prohibition that a person driving a vehicle must not cause it to stop on that marking.'

Mr Mustard has underlined some relevant items:

1. The car is not on the carriageway but in a different road.

2. The car is not outside an entrance but within it.

3. The car is not on the marking.

Mr Mustard has made the formal representations (the only type that you need to make as it happens for a postal PCN) and fully expects them to be rejected by Barnet Council and then the tribunal will have to decide the matter. Mr Mustard is already armed with persuasive decisions from other cases (decisions by adjudicators are not binding but do carry weight).

Mr Mustard is concerned about the way in which this type of PCN gets issued. It is no comfort to a motorist that they can make representations and an Appeal against the PCN - they have a life which they would rather fill in a more rewarding manner with their family & other joys.

Barnet Council use a computer that has been programmed to select vehicles which contravene. Clearly the target area of the computer is wrongly set.

There is a requirement that a human being watches the cctv clips which the computer selects in order to confirm that they are recording real contraventions & Mr Mustard knows that they are not diligently performing their duties otherwise he would not get cases like this to review. He suspects they tick yes to just about everything that the computer offers them.

This is not an isolated incident. Mr Mustard will be blogging another example just as soon as he has the details.

Elections to Barnet Council are coming up on 3 May. If you find a councillor on your doorstep asking you to vote for them, please ask them to cut back the number of camera issued PCNs as they are clearly being issued in an overzealous and incorrect manner.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

19 March 2018

The TEC & Hackney Council - doubly unhelpful

Within the regulations which govern penalty charge notice processing there is a procedure which rewinds the process so that motorists do not lose out if a document goes missing in the mail. In a recent case Mr Mustard's client, let us call him Ben, did not receive the Notice to Owner and he knew this as after the PCN issued to the vehicle the first document he received in the post was the Charge Certificate.

Mr Mustard therefore drew up a witness statement for his client to sign, a form TE9, and submitted it to the TEC (Traffic Enforcement Centre). He kept an eye on the balance on the Hackney Council computer and for weeks it was stubbornly stuck at £195, rather than having reverted to £130, and a fresh Notice to Owner did not arrive.

Sometimes things go wrong so Mr Mustard emailed the TEC so that they could tell him if they had processed the form and on what date.

This was the thoroughly unhelpful answer he received.

We have been unable to process your request for information on the above Penalty Charge Number.

We would advise you to contact the London Borough of Hackney to ask for the information you require.

Very odd as the standard acknowledgement from the TEC contains the following line:

The current status of the Penalty Charge (e.g. has my document been processed?) - Within 10 working days.

The TEC are able to answer, when they say they are 'unable' to do so. They mean, of course, unwilling, for some unknown reason.

Oh well, thought Mr Mustard, time to ask Hackney Council what they did about the revoking order that the TEC should have issued in response to an in time witness statement (without knowing if they had actually processed it or not) so an email was sent to Hackney Council to ask them.

The response was as unhelpful as the one from the TEC and left the motorist completely in the dark and unable to take any steps & denied him his rights to fight the PCN:

Thank you for your e-mail. Please note that the form should be sent to the Traffic Enforcement Centre and you would need to direct any enquiries regarding an update to a submitted form directly to themselves.

The action plan to tackle this which Mr Mustard decided upon was to submit a Subject Access Request to Hackney Council which would force them to provide the requested information and also to send a complaint to both bodies with copies of the two useless responses and ask them to agree who would respond.

Mr Mustard had drafted the requests and the complaint, a week after Hackney's useless response, when he checked their website and found they had closed the PCN so he had reduced the balance from £195 to £130 to £zero. How nice.

What this told him was:

1. The TEC had processed the witness statement (they could have replied to that effect in 2 minutes).
2. Hackney Council had not issued a fresh PCN as soon as they were able to (although they were still in time).
3. The request for information caused Hackney Council to look at the file and decide to close it (which they should have told the motorist who clearly wanted to know).

All is well that ends well but this has been a right palaver that less experienced PCN fighters would have really struggled with.

Enforcement authorities and Courts have huge powers. They really need to wield them in a professional manner and give out vital information promptly when requested. (All authorities, please take note.)

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

11 March 2018

Brent - sloppy work on the removals truck

It is the black car which was removed.
A friend who helps his extended family approached Mr Mustard for his help and was apologetic for asking because he knows Mr Mustard has a heavy workload. The friend hadn't deal with a removals case before so wanted some reassurance. In fact removals cases aren't much different to normal PCNs except that your car has gone for a walk and you have to pay before you get it back. The procedure in these cases is much quicker as some steps get omitted.

All you have to do is to make representations within 28 days of getting your car back from the pound (& the day you do so is day 1) and then wait up to 56 days for the council to either accept or reject your representations. You must always make representations as that is the only way in which you may get your money back. If the council accept your representations they will refund you for the PCN & the £200 removal charge. If they don't, you get the chance to Appeal to the independent tribunal.

Mr Mustard will spend longing writing this blog than dealing with the PCN as it is a council blunder, one of the categories for which his help is reserved.

This is what the PCN was issued for:

You are already there aren't you? The PCN is invalid as the car wasn't more than 50cm from the edge of the carriageway, it was on top of the edge of the carriageway. This contravention describes in a measurable form the fact of double parking which authorities wished to curb (pun intended). It can only be used for a vehicle which is wholly on the carriageway not on the pavement.

If any contravention could have occurred it was that of being parked other than on the carriageway (pavement parking) but that wouldn't apply anyway as the location in question is not enforced for that reason.

Mr Mustard doesn't know what they are doing in Brent but then clearly they don't either. A hard working innocent law abiding member of the public has had the horror of thinking his car has been stolen, been issued with a clearly invalid PCN, had a senior traffic warden authorise his car for removal, had an evening wasted, had to lend Brent £265, had to pay out £10 for a taxi (& £25 later on to the hospice for Mr Mustard's assistance).

Can you see Brent Council issuing a fulsome apology, making good the out of pocket expenses and then giving him some compensation for his stress, time and trouble on top? No, nor can Mr Mustard. All he is likely to get is his money back and a short apology.

There really does need to be a fixed price compensation payment in such circumstances, of clear council wrongdoing but it seems, councils can, in the eyes of the law, do no wrong.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard