29 September 2018

Bunns Lane Car Park - ticketing pattern

Having just read an unusual tribunal case about paying once you get to work for your parking in the Bunns Lane Car Park, a method that would work fine in many private car parks, Mr Mustard thought it might be instructive to have a look at the times at which tickets are issued for not paying at that location. The results are graphed above and here is the data for January to August 2018.

Mr Mustard also had a glance at the 12 cases for this location which have reached the tribunal. Apart from the lady who paid from work, with 4 PCNs, the most common reason for the others was that it was Saturday and payment was not due for a stay of less than 3 hours, which Mr Mustard could construct a winning argument for.

As the traffic wardens fall out of Solar House in North Finchley at 8am the earliest PCN issued at this location was at 8:29 and the last at 18:17 (some unlucky person perhaps thinking no warden would turn up after 6pm).

So we can see that there is a bit of a feeding frenzy by traffic wardens between 8.30 and 11am and then all goes quiet until 2pm when there is a flurry of ticketing and then it goes all calm again.

Only 3 people a day fail to pay for their parking and whilst there may be the odd chancer most will actually have paid just for the wrong vehicle or wrong location. The phone signal is poor at this location and there isn't a ticket machine for some unfathomable reason.

All PCN data is published by the council on their data portal, here although Mr Mustard prefers to download the raw data and manipulate it himself as that works better for him.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

27 September 2018

Objection to the failed experimental cash cow at Briardale Gardens & Pattison Rd in Childs Hill.

A popular route at rush hour, roads are there to be used.
This is Mr Mustard's objection, which he has just submitted. You have until 7 October to get yours in.

This is an experiment which is failing.
There has been plenty of time for people to get used to the new restrictions, nearly 6 months having passed since its introduction, and yet there were 433 PCNs issued for contraventions at those locations in the week ended 31 August 18.

It brings the council into disrepute to have such wholesale flouting of banned turns. The general public at large won't know that the errant motorists received a PCN apiece.

It also isn't an attractive look that the council will gather in c.£28,000 in PCN revenue in a week when what they really wanted to do was to stop motorists from using the two roads in question at certain times.

It isn't clear to me why the experiment isn't working, and I don't suppose the council has done any research into why it isn't, by, for example, joining with the police and stopping vehicles after the contravention has occurred and asking the drivers about their actions.

If we contrast these junctions with that of Barnfield Road (junction with Market Lane, HA8) where there is a no entry restriction and an enforcement camera we find that in the same week ended 31 August there were only 2 PCNs issued for breaching the No Entry restriction. Clearly the No Entry sign is accorded much greater respect by the motoring public. I note that was the preferred option of the adjoining borough, Camden Council.

Barnet's DPR shows that they did not follow the preferred option of Camden Council, which would have led to the desired effect of virtually stopping any contraventions from taking place.

In summary my objections are:

1 The experiment is a failure so should be stopped and not made into a permanent order.
2 The majority of affected residents are within the borough of Camden so their view should take priority.
3 The council have carried out no research as to why their experiment has failed.
4 A new experiment should be conducted using 'no entry' signs. These have to be 24 hours but that doesn't matter as most of the traffic will be within the banned turn times so extending the times affects far fewer motorists & cycles can still be excluded.
5 No entry signs are respected almost all of the time.

I now have a copy of what Camden Council sent to residents, since the start of the trial.

Further to our joint letter of 16 March 2018, we write to update you in relation to the trial traffic scheme that is currently in place at Briardale Gardens and Pattison Road.

As you may recall, there is agreement between Camden Council and Barnet Council that there is a traffic problem at Briardale Gardens and that action was needed to address the safety concerns, in particular for pedestrians crossing Briardale Gardens at its junction with Finchley Road.  Officers from both authorities have been working together on finding an agreeable solution and in April 2018 an experimental scheme was implemented that banned the right and left turn movements from Finchley Road into both Briardale Gardens and Pattison Road operating between 6am and 10.30am and between 3pm and 8.30pm (except for cyclists), Monday to Friday.

We are aware that since the implementation of the experimental traffic scheme the concerns amongst local residents regarding road safety, particularly on Briardale Gardens and at its junction with Finchley Road, remain and that there is a widely held view that the experimental scheme has not been sufficient in addressing these issues and only a no entry from Finchley Road into Briardale Gardens will address the concerns.  Residents of Pattison Road have also expressed concerns at the operational hours of the scheme and its impact on them accessing their home. It is noted that the volume of traffic in Briardale Gardens has reduced by up to 90%, during the restricted hours, however, traffic volumes have increased by an average of 85% during the hours between the traffic restrictions, 10.30am – 3.00pm Monday to Friday.  There continues to be a high level of non-compliance, especially in the case of Briardale Gardens. 

Since its implementation the operation of the experimental scheme has been subject to ongoing monitoring, including traffic count surveys, video surveys, levels of compliance and the feedback received during the trial period.  This information is currently being reviewed by officers and will be used to produce a monitoring report and it is anticipated that this will be available in early October. 

This technical analysis and the findings of a road safety audit will be used to inform discussions with Councillors and the authorities will jointly agree a final decision on the future of the scheme. 

We would like to thank you again for your patience in this matter and would like to assure you that we are working to bring this issue to a conclusion as soon as possible.

26 September 2018

Yeah but no but yeah

Not 100% certain this was the bay but the sign fits the decision
Mr Mustard keeps an eye on the decisions made each day by parking adjudicators. In the next decision the council ticketed a goods vehicle for being in a goods vehicle loading bay and then when the motorist points out that his was a goods vehicle the council change their argument, which never plays well with an adjudicator, being a slippery eel.

Not all adjudicators will cancel a PCN for the lack of adequate description reason, many will say that in combination with the sign, you know what you did. If the vehicle owner isn't the driver though and wasn't there it would not be obvious. The public is entitled to be told exactly why a penalty is due, you shouldn't have to guess.

The adjudicator slays the second argument about not being engaged in loading as that is not the allegation on the PCN so the council, in their desperation to extract £110 from the innocent Mr Joyce, blathered on about an irrelevance. Mr Mustard thinks the quality of correspondence has gone downhill since NSL moved the back office to Dingwall because it is cheaper, naturally, but cheap ain't often also good.

Rare though it is to see costs awarded Mr Joyce clearly felt he had been badly done by and applied for costs.

If a council don't oppose an application for costs it is more likely to be granted, it being assumed that the council has no objection whatsoever.

It doesn't matter if the council don't see you unloading. They rarely observe for even 5 minutes and so if the traffic warden is only there for one minute, they aren't likely to see much happening.

Barnet Council were adjudged to have been 'wholly unreasonable' - nothing new there then.

What Mr Joyce should have claimed for was the costs of preparing his Appeal i.e. from the moment he received the Notice of Rejection and his travel time in attending the hearing, at the litigant in person rate of £19 per hour.

Barnet Council are lucky to have got off with wasting £35.

Remember, just because the council state that the traffic warden didn't see something happening doesn't mean that it wasn't happening. If Lady Godiva had ridden down the street whilst the traffic warden was intent on his handheld equipment and didn't see her ride by, it doesn't mean she wasn't in East Finchley that day (although it is an unlikely event) only that the traffic warden didn't see her. The same goes for loading, please please do it properly dressed.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Inhumane homes

This application has been withdrawn, probably because of the strength of local feeling which led to some 17 objections. Don't relax as the developer will, in all probability, be back with a slightly less greedy scheme in a trice.
a Chicken run that you can buy from Omlet
Could you live in that space? We need to fight back against the conversion of offices into multiple occupation developments unless they are of reasonable size. Mr Mustard was idling through planning applications when he came across the proposed conversion of 2 Bruce Road EN5, an address just a few minutes walk from his house. A mid-sized office in that location should rent out easily at the right price. He thinks that it is over development and offers units which are far smaller than the proposed conversion of Barnet House which caused such a hue & cry last year and now looks positively spacious.

This is the building in question:

into which it is proposed to stuff nine dwellings. Here is the floor plan for the first floor (don't worry, Dory's does not form part of the redevelopment)

None of those rooms are larger than the hen coop, nor the two downstairs.

If you want to object to this ridiculous scheme, then the application is here.

Recently the plan for a hotel on the market site next door, was rejected. It is illuminating to see their proposed room sizes, which are of course only for short term occupation, not to live in for a long time.

They are typically twice the size of the planned HMO rooms. A HMO is not the best use of this lovely old building. Time for the owner to have a rethink, which they will have to if enough of you object and the council throw it out.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

24 September 2018

Capita are bluffing & have a bloody nerve

Just delete anything you don't have to agree to by law, as here.
It is really boring to have to keep telling a council a fact which hasn't changed when you are duty bound by law to tell them if your circumstances change. Of course there will be some people who try to get away with claiming a discount that isn't due but we need a targeted approach to find those rather than the blunderbuss approach which is being taken.

Having asked on twitter Mr Mustard discovered that many of the ladies in the Older Women's Co-Housing had also received these letters. It is pretty dense of the council and Capita, who gave the scheme planning permission, and know that this is a collection of homes for single ladies of a certain age (or uncertain as Mr Mustard's elderly French professor used to say)

(sorry ladies, your apostrophe has gone missing in the heading)
If officialdom can't trust these pioneering ladies, there is no hope for society.

Mr Mustard doesn't stand for being pushed around so he has penned a letter to Crapita, which will go off to them tomorrow:

Mr Mustard's property isn't the one in which a fraudster was found to be residing who made 62 fraudulent payments to himself for non-existent properties. That of course, was Capita.

So before questioning Mr Mustard about his property it would be a good idea if Capita were to get their own house in order and leave honest council tax payers alone.

You too can make a Subject Access Request to Capita on the same lines as Mr Mustard has. You are entitled to all the date they hold on you, free of charge and within a month. If this procedure becomes too expensive for them to process, they will change their behaviour. If you only declared you were the sole occupier a few weeks ago, complain about them writing to you again so soon, whilst you are about it.

Mr Mustard nearly forgot to mention one important fact. The reason that Capita are so keen to get you off the discount list isn't the obvious one, it is that they get a share of the saving for every person who stops claiming, even if out of fear when they have done nothing wrong.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Objection - Briardale Gardens

This experimental order has not worked. Almost every day Mr Mustard receives an email asking him to help with a (or in one case nine) PCNs for turning here during the banned times. Camden Council (these roads are on the border) wanted to deal with these locations by having no entry signs at one end, which would by law have applied 24 hours a day and 99.9% of the public would have spotted those signs and adhered to them, but that would not have made any money for Barnet Council.

If you don't like this experiment you can object to it being made permanent by writing to:

The Design Team
11th floor
Barnet House
1255 High Rd
N20 0EJ

or emailing briardale.pattison@barnet.gov.uk

by 8th October 2018.

Mr Mustard will be objecting.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

20 September 2018

Unprofessional, immoral, pure revenue raising

This is a car park which Mr Mustard knows well as his office was in Moxon Street, EN5 for two decades. he remembers when this was just a waste ground. Now it is neatly painted out into bays, many too small for an average car but that is a story for another day. This car park is intended to encourage short term shopping by offering one hour of free parking if you press the green button on the meter and obtain a voucher to put in the windscreen.

Old sign - business permit spaces do exist there now - avoid them unless you have such a permit
It is somewhat academic though if you leave by 9am whether or not you place a little piece of paper in your car windscreen as you cannot have been there for more than one chargeable hour as charging commences at 8am. The council wouldn't send traffic wardens to this car park before 9am would they? You bet your bottom dollar they would because it is all about the dollars, or pounds as we have here in the UK. How many times have they done this, issued a PCN before 9am? Only 114 times.

Some people won't have paid the PCN and some will have ended up paying at £60 this being a lower value contravention than being on a double yellow at £110 (take note, a lesser penalty for not paying where you should than being on yellow lines or in residents bays). If we average out the tickets at £30 the council have raked in an unjustified £3,420

They will also have annoyed up to 114 residents (although some folks may have been from out of town) and guaranteed themselves terrible scores in surveys of resident satisfaction.

The parking industry are trying to convince the public of this:

'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'

but it isn't going to work when the public think that councils are spivs, out to rob them, are not fair and traffic wardens act like they have in the Moxon Street car park, giving out what may* be technically correct PCNs, but which are self evidently manifestly unjust tickets. There is no misconception about the lows to which many local authorities will stoop.

The council read Mr Mustard's tweets and hence his blog. Please instruct your traffic wardens not to set foot in the Moxon St car park before 9am. Much obliged, thank you.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

*'May' is used quite specifically. If you get caught in the first hour do consult Mr Mustard by email mrmustard@zoho.com

19 September 2018

One task, three emails.

Mr Mustard is a busy man & sometimes emails arrive into his inbox far faster than he can get them out and his plan to keep unanswered emails below a one page listing goes to pot. If he gets sent three emails when one would do his stress levels rise.

You may have read the earlier blog post about the travails of trying to buy a Suzuki Vitara. One was, in the end, purchased from a helpful main dealer down Fareham way. Driving back up the M3, Mr Mustard stopped in the services, took a photograph of the sales invoice and emailed it to parking permits at Barnet Council, Crapita really. He then phoned up to ask for the permit to be changed over, having traded in his old car, and wanting to park outside when he got home. The sales invoice isn't proof of purchase apparently! that will be a story for another day once the parking manager has reviewed what documents count as proof of ownership, Mr Mustard having pointed out there is no finer proof. After some huffing and puffing a dispensation was granted. A week later Mr Mustard emailed in a copy of the V5 registration document, once he had it. He then received 3 emails in quick succession.

Excuse me, Mr Mustard swaps a permit for a car with a 2 litre diesel engine for one with a 1.4 litre petrol engine, how can it cost more and certainly not that much more? The answer for an in year swap should simply be to swap permits and charge the real full year price at renewal to save on administrative time.

Mr Mustard can't see the point of this second email, received 4 minutes after the first one.

What is there in this third email that couldn't have been in the first one? Mr Mustard has suggested to the parking manager that he reviews Crapita's procedures. Perhaps they charge per email?

Mr Mustard queried the £130 charge, which hadn't been paid by him, and got this reply from a proper council employee, one with some savvy and good manners:

That is a pretty decent explanation and apology which could be improved by using 'the' instead of 'any' as of course there was confusion, mostly in Crapita's systems, and there was inconvenience as credit card accounts had to be checked and an email written. That small caveat apart, it is good to see someone take responsibility for a blunder not of their own making.

It isn't as if Mr Mustard is the only person to buy a brand new car within Barnet (it is only the third time he has purchased a brand new car or van) and so he hopes that because it is him the systems will be looked at to be improved. (Mr Mustard's comments have now been ntoed for future improvements. It will probably be 5 years before the Vitara is changed, let's hope the system has improved by that time).

It is a routine task after all. If only there was an efficient multi-national billion pound turnover process outsourcing company that is up to the job who Barnet Council could outsource to.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

10 September 2018

People power in N12

When Barnet Council make an experimental traffic order, which can last for up to 18 months, they don't have to consult as an affected party can make representations at any time in the first 6 months.

However, it is a little arrogant, if not slightly stupid, to increase the restricted hours for residents 

from Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm 
to a daily 9am to 9.30pm

when residents in the zone generally have not asked for any change. Mr Mustard thinks that residents of the two roads which envelope Solar House, into which St Barnabas Church has moved, did raise concerns with the council. The first that most residents knew of the plans was a leaflet through their door just before the new arrangements were about to start and the rush also bothered them. The vicar of the church didn't know and was horrified that they could be the indirect cause of bad feeling. The three ward councillors didn't know either which is rank bad manners on the part of council officers (staff) as it is councillors who are first in line to take the flak.

Why was the experimental order necessary? It was assumed that the church would generate lots of unwanted parking in residential roads seven days a week which doesn't seem that likely. What the council should have done was to:

1. survey out of hours and weekend parking occupancy.
2. let the church services commence.
3. re-survey the parking occupancy to see which, if any roads, were affected.
4. consult with affected residents about proposals for new hours and/or days.

As it happens the church seems to be very well run. The vicar asked the congregation what they should do and they do have 57 spaces of their own to start with. The congregation have decided to use the Lodge Lane car park on a Sunday as it is a 4 minute walk and far nearer than the roads in which the ridiculous new hours were introduced and then withdrawn on the their first day, such as Woodhouse Lane, Torrington Park where it abuts Friary Park & half of Sandringham Gardens which runs into Summers Lane and in which no-one would ever have parked for visiting Solar House.

So now we have a council which has introduced an experimental order, put up all new bay signs and then on the very day that the new restrictions came into force used the Chief Executive's powers to suspend the order that only came into that day at 9am. Councils keep complaining that they are short of money and yet they waste tens of thousands by introducing ill thought out and self evidently unwanted changes. Each bay sign costs something in the region of £70 and there will have been hundreds of them because every bay in 19 roads needed the times changed. Luckily it seems the old signs had not yet been consigned to the scrap metal skip and they have now been put back up again.

Mr Mustard was in a meeting with a resident last week and it looks like the council are now going to be faced with a well organised group of residents who are not going to be pushed around. If the church congregation behaves as considerately as they say they will, there isn't going to be a problem which needs further controls in any case.

Any resident of the NF CPZ who gets asked to respond to the annual council satisfaction survey isn't likely to be complimentary.

When will council staff start to understand that they are public servants, not our masters, and the public are not going to put up with every stupid idea they dream up.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard