23 August 2018

PR Stunt - Professionalism in parking

The industry, for that is what it is, not a service, wants the public to hold them in better regard. 

Together the aim is to change perceptions, challenge misconceptions about the parking sector and local government’s role and make the parking experience a better one for all concerned.

Their PR stunt isn't going to work until such time as they get their house in order.

Just look at this tribunal decision from yesterday, found in Mr Mustard's daily read of all Barnet Council decisions.

Mr Mustard has noticed that Barnet Council are very resistant to claims of cloning and other enforcement authorities are quicker to accept reality.

Clearly, the adjudicator thinks that Barnet Council are unreasonable but uses restrained language to say so.

The council had two chances to stop enforcement. The first one when the motorist wrote in to say the car had been cloned and the second when he lodged the Appeal with the tribunal. Someone then spent a couple of hours putting the evidence pack together. Mr Mustard would love to have a read of the case summary as he likes short works of fiction so if you know Arun Saroye please ask him to email mrmustard@zoho.com

It is of course really aggravating to have their car cloned and even more so when the council's representatives deny the blindingly obvious. 

That is the work of an amateur. If you want to be treated as a professional then you must act like one.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Not finished reading all the cases from yesterday yet but here is a second case of cloning which looks like it was blindingly obvious.

18 August 2018

Gross incompetence

The 18T weight limit sign is clear enough

No enforcement authority sends representatives to the tribunal more often than Southwark. Mr Mustard doesn't fight many Southwark PCNs but expects to see one or two representatives when he does. They are always happy to chat, and good at what they do and Mr Mustard always enjoys it when they turn up & a good clean fight ensues. Honours are pretty even so far.

Now it may be that on the day in question that none of the, at least 4, regular representatives were available but more likely Mr Mustard thinks they realised they were going to lose so didn't waste time attending. Mr Musatrd suddenly thought to check the register. There were two other cases decided on 22 June which were attended between them by 3 different representatives of Southwark Council so staff were available. Bwak Bwak Bwaaak.

Here is the decision which was made on 22 June.
At this scheduled personal hearing the appellant Company were represented by Mr Scott Sharkey but the Enforcement Authority did not attend and were not represented. The Enforcement Authority had previously indicated that they would be attending but have today contacted the Hearing Centre to say that no one will attend.

A contravention can occur if a vehicle is driven so as to fail to comply with a prohibition on certain vehicles.

There appears to be no dispute that the vehicle was in Tower Bridge Road, as shown in the closed circuit television (cctv) images produced by the Enforcement Authority.

The Enforcement Authority state in their case summary “It is not permitted for a vehicle which has a MGW [maximum gross weight] of 18 tonnes to drive through a restriction prohibiting vehicles with a MGW of 18 tonnes, regardless of whether the un-laden weight is lower than the restriction. The line is drawn at the MGW to avoid drivers guessing whether their load at that time is below the restriction and posing what could possibly be a detrimental effect on the road network.”

This is wholly incorrect. The sign at the location shown in the images produced by the Enforcement Authority is a permitted variant of that prescribed by Diagram 622.1A at Item 13 in Part 2 of Schedule 3 to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 for the restriction that goods vehicles exceeding the maximum gross weight indicated are prohibited.

Indeed, this complies with the A100 GLA Road (Weight Restriction) Traffic Order 2003, Article 4 of which provides that except as provided in Article 6, no person shall cause any goods vehicle the maximum gross weight which exceeds 18 tonnes to enter or proceed in the lengths of road listed.

The plating certificate, a copy of which was supplied to the Enforcement Authority by the Appellant Company and the original of which I have been shown today, confirms that the gross weight of this vehicle is 1800 [kilograms] which is 18 tonnes. (18,000 kilos?)

The Enforcement Authority further state in the case summary “The vehicle had a forklift truck on the back on the vehicle which exceeds the weight limit.” Again, this is incorrect. The gross vehicle weight includes all parts of the vehicle and everything carried on or it in. This is what the term ‘gross’ means.

Considering all the evidence before me carefully I find that the Appellant Company have no case to answer and the Enforcement Authority have failed to show that a contravention could have occurred.

This appeal must be allowed.

Unsurprisingly, the Appellant, a truck company, applied for costs.
Regulation 12(1) of the Road Traffic (Parking Adjudicators) (London) Regulations 1993¸ being the relevant provisions in this regard, provides that the adjudicator shall not normally make an order awarding costs and expenses against any party. The Adjudicator can only make such an award if he is of the opinion that that party has acted frivolously or vexatiously or that his conduct in making, pursuing or resisting an appeal was wholly unreasonable; or against the local authority, where it considers that the disputed decision was wholly unreasonable.

I decided this substantive appeal by making findings of fact and applying the law as it stands.

At the original personal hearing the Appellant Company’s representative made a detailed application for costs in the sum of £199, being £142 for the return fare from Swindon of the representative who attended the hearing that day and three hours preparation for the case, being £57 at the rate of £19 per hour allowed to a self-represented litigant under rule 45.39(5)(b) and rule 46.5(4)(b) of the Civil Procedure Rules.

Regulation 12(2) provides that an order shall not be made under paragraph (1) against a party unless that party has been given an opportunity of making representations against the making of the order. Accordingly, on 25 June 2018 the Enforcement Authority were informed of the application in order to make representations. They have failed to make any.

For the reasons fully set out in my original decision I found that the appellant Company had no case to answer and the Enforcement Authority had failed to show that a contravention could have occurred.

Considering everything before me carefully I find that resisting this appeal was wholly unreasonable.

According, I award costs in the sum sought of £199.

That should make Southwark Council more careful in future.
What they had done was to reject a perfectly reasonable challenge.
Then they opposed a perfectly reasonable Appeal to the tribunal.
They ducked out of the hearing.
They caused an employee to lose most of a day's work travelling to and from Swindon.
They didn't oppose the granting of costs but disrespectfully to the tribunal, did not say so.
Southwark Council got what they deserved.

Professionalism in parking? A long way to go.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


15 August 2018

all Betts off at Suzuki

This is a blog post by Derek Dishman, the real person behind Mr Mustard, so is written in the first person.

I am in the market for a new car as I have done a lot of miles this year in my lovely Audi A3 due to commuting to Kettering from Barnet. I can buy what I like but do consider what my girlfriend or lady co-director would be happy driving.

I've looked at a few cars and got myself a shortlist of 4 completely different cars.

On Monday I popped to Glyn Hopkins at St Albans to test drive an Alfa Romeo Giulietta. A fine car, very similar to my A3, and on the short list.

Today I had arranged through Suzuki head office to test drive a Vitara S at Anthony Betts at Water End just north of Hemel Hempstead (it turns out). When I tested the Alfa on Monday they simply took a photocopy of my driving licence and then I was handed the keys, and with a salesman in the passenger seat, out we went for a quick circuit of local roads. No fuss, no drama, no pressure.

Oh dear me, it was so much different at Anthony Betts. I told the young salesman that I was interested in the S model, a manual petrol car. I was going to pay by cash and trade in my Audi A3. He mentioned the 0% finance deal, I said it was of no interest. I gave him my driving licence to photocopy. Then he said he had to read a screen of blurb to me from Automotive Compliance. No you don't, I said, as I don't want credit, I don't want gap insurance and I don't want anything they may have to offer. I just want to test drive a car which I haven't yet decided if I will buy or not and if I do I will simply give you the money for it.

This is what Automotive Compliance are about, upselling, you can forget it in my case

I do not want finance, HP, a lease, a PCP nor GAP insurance nor anything else you are selling, I simply want to buy a car in the same way I would a bottle of wine. I give you money, you give me a car or a bottle of wine, preferably a car if that is what I paid for.

This caused some consternation as I had departed from the script. I was told I had to agree to this to get a test drive. I read the blurb. I pointed out that it said I had to agree to my data going to Automotive Compliance* ('AC'), which I didn't, as I wasn't asking for any of their products, all I wanted to do was test drive a car and then if I liked it, pay by cash. I would have no relationship with AC and therefore my data did not need to go to them. I was starting to get mad at the misrepresentation which was occurring and which most of the public wouldn't understand.

I told the young salesman that I would not be agreeing to involving AC in any way, least of all giving my data to them. He said he would have to talk to his manager. OK I said. 5 or 10 minutes passed whilst I was left to stew. The salesman came back and said he had spoken to his Director who said I could have a test drive if I signed his pad, the one which said I didn't want credit, that confirmed I had refused to agree to the compliance statement about the credit I didn't want. At this point I decided enough was enough, I was too mad to test drive someone else's car, although calm enough in my own, and said I was leaving. I was polite to the young salesman and that I understood it wasn't his fault but that making me sign irrelevant documents was just too much for me.

Suzuki head office don't come out of this very well either. Firstly they sent me here.

which is a closed site, the dealer showroom being 6 miles away now. I was early so still made it to the dealer on time but it added stress that I did not need (I cannot stand being late to a meeting, even one with an ignorant dealership).

Secondly when phoning me to confirm the test drive they wanted to take me back through the marketing options which I had carefully declined earlier that day, by carefully leaving the four boxes unchecked

I don't need to go through my choices again less than 4 hours later, I know my own mind. It is as if Suzuki didn't like my choices so hoped I would change them, fat chance.

As it happens the Alfa dealer is part of a big chain which also has a Suzuki franchise so I will take a test drive there and then make my mind up what to buy.

One thing is certain is that I won't be buying it at Anthony Betts Ltd. The other dealer will be getting my business, whichever model it is I eventually choose.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

* I have sent a Subject Access Request to AC to see if any dealer has given them my details as whilst at the Countryfile Live show I also agreed to my details to be given to Jeep for the sole purpose of arranging a test drive. I haven't driven the Compass as it doesn't have a proper manual handbrake so fell off the list. The answer will be interesting from AC.

Update 15 August: I decided to put the car into CarWow and see what savings I could make.

One dealer has responded so far and has offered a discount of £840 if I take out a Personal Contract Purchase plan with 0% finance but a discount of £1,840 if I pay outright (less my trade in of course).

What we see from this is that 0% finance offers are not free. You pay for them by paying a greater capital sum for the car, a difference of £1,000.

14 August 2018

Sneaky Sunday charging

Sunday charging for parking not far from Finchley Central tube has quietly been introduced (almost opposite the Sainsbury's Local). Mr Mustard doesn't know if that policy change was consulted on or not. The old bay 9045 was split and the new bay 59117 created, a bay that is at times only for loading and at others you can pay to park there. The sort of bay that causes confusion, especially when you know that almost every other bay in Finchley Church End is payable Monday - Saturday only.

Here is the traffic order which introduced the new bay:

What strikes Mr Mustard as bizarre is that in front of the building (Gateway House) you have to pay to park on a Sunday and down the side of the building, you don't.

You know what to do? Park almost anywhere else.

It is possible that this was a drafting error by the Design Team, the change wasn't by design, boom boom.

As ever keep your eyes open and read the sign every time you park even if you think you know what it says, it may have changed.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

3 August 2018

Why motorists hate Barnet Council

So what you do as a council which is short of money is that you paint bays which are too short, then you fail to maintain the perimeter (let the shrubbery grow and the kerb stone fall in) and then when the motorist backs up as far as is reasonable in the circumstances you give them a parking ticket (PCN) for being outside of the bay.

Profiting (well trying to profit as this will be going to the tribunal and you'll lose Barnet Council) from your own incompetence is thoroughly unattractive Barnet Council as well as being procedurally unfair.

Mr Mustard has looked at his records for PCNs issued in 2018 by the same traffic warden which have been contested by Mr Mustard. The score is 3-0 to Mr Mustard.

This was one of them - ticket issued in the snow.

Another one was issued to Mr Mustard's friend for being in a suspended bay, but she was outside of it. The traffic warden in question, no. 5XX, is simply not up to the job.

Another resident who will be critical of the council if requested to give an opinion in a public perception survey.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Box junctions are tough on buses & lorries

To get a bus across a box junction without stopping and into a long enough space on the other side is tricky as smaller nimbler traffic, cars, can fill the empty space as soon as 5m is available beyond the box whereas a double decker bus needs at least 15m so the bus can sit there in lane 2 at the location in question

(cars in lane 1 should go left but some will go straight on) whilst those rowed up in lane 3 can 'steal' the 5m space one at a time and leave the bus unable to proceed legally.

It seems from the adjudicators decision above that in this case the bus driver entered when he did have room to exit so whatever happened next he could not be in contravention, no matter why and for how long he stopped. The council don't seem to understand this and blindly follow the assumption that if the computer thought it was a contravention, it must be one.

Whilst the rules of the road apply equally to buses and lorries, there needs to be some common sense applied for larger vehicles, and generally across London there is as Mr Mustard rarely sees bus companies taken to the tribunal for being stopped in a box junction. This is Barnet though, recently described to Mr Mustard in the following terms:

The overwhelming impression is that Barnet see every PCN as sacrosanct and that to cancel one is a personal defeat.

Mr Mustard knows that Barnet Council read & consider his tweets & blogs so maybe someone in management, with a less rigid approach, will apply the brakes to such cases in the future.

The council seem unable to link the way they behave in relentlessly pursuing unmeritorious PCNs with the poor public perception of the department in surveys. Doh!

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

a reminder of how to approach safely navigating, in financial terms, a box junction 

1 August 2018

Case summary confusion

As part of the evidence pack which enforcement authorities have to submit to London Tribunals at least 3 clear days in advance of the hearing, is a case summary which is meant to give the adjudicator an overview of the case, address all the issues raised, summarise the council's case, make submissions & comment on the representations made by the Appellant. 

It should, of course, be even-handed as it is the duty of the council to assist the tribunal, not to mislead.

Mr Mustard finds Barnet Council's case summaries to be verbose, inaccurate and partial.

Looking at the extract above, for a case coming up next week, the first thing to note is the council have failed to check it before submission. They comment both upon fact that the appellant (the registered keeper of the car & the driver in this instance) was collecting their child from their school (and there isn't a school in the road in question) and that they were dropping off elderly relatives. Both statements are not true, the second one is.

The council omit the part of the TMO (Traffic Management Order) which allows 2 minutes for anyone to be collected or dropped off. One of the passengers being dropped off is a blue badge holder so by (current) definition has mobility problems, or is blind. For such passengers there isn't a 2 minute limit.

The council apply a ridiculous and unsafe rule for boarding and alighting of children, that you cannot leave the vehicle unattended. There are keep clear zig zag markings outside most schools so you can't get that near especially with the parental competition for space at drop off and pick-up times. At what age is it safe to sit in your car whilst your child exits the school gates and comes to find you, when they don't know if they should go left or right or across the road? Mr Mustard isn't a parent so asked one and the answer was not until year 6, when the child will most likely be 11.

It doesn't matter how credible the council think the traffic warden (CEO) is. What matters is what the adjudicator thinks, as one told them a long time ago, as it is their job to weight up the evidence in an Appeal, not the council's.

There wasn't any catering going on, as the council suggest.

The second observation time is before the initial observation time!

This is an example of how you need to read the evidence pack slowly & carefully and point out the flaws in the council's case, which even if not fatal to it, may undermine it enough for you to get the benefit of the doubt when the adjudicator would otherwise be unsure of what decision to make.

Mr Mustard doesn't mind that Barnet Council write utter tripe so often, it helps him to win.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard