19 December 2018

City of London - no expedition

Mr Mustard is a stickler when it comes to paperwork. He creates a physical file for each PCN he manages which contains all the statutory documents, such as the Notice to Owner, and the emails sent and received, as well as his notes. Every two weeks or so he checks the balance on the relevant council's computer so that, hopefully, no PCN gets away from him into a position in which nothing can be done about it. 

Not every PCN progresses from the Charge Certificate to the Order for Recovery as council have to pay the TEC section of the County Court £8 for each one they register as a debt and if they don't then collect, it is money down the drain. This is why councils (wrongly in Mr Mustard's view) get bailiffs to vet each debt in advance to see if it is worth registering. Mr Mustard has complained to councils which send a bailiff letter at that stage and Haringey Council, for example, stopped once he raised the matter.

Mr Mustard has a PCN issued by the City of London on which they had issued the Charge Certificate on 22 December 2016. He only knew this as a Reminder (a document which is not within the sanctioned process was sent on 25 January 2017. It is cheaper to post out a reminder than pay £8 to the TEC). Representations had been made on 7 November 16 and a Notice of Rejection had not been received. Mr Mustard was relaxed as he knew both that a witness statement could be made if an Order for Recovery was issued and also as he knew that the City of London never registered PCNs as debts and therefore didn't instruct bailiffs subsequently because they couldn't. Just in case he kept the file in the live draw and it was just as well that he did as in December 18, 2 years and 3 months after the PCN was issued, his client received an Order for Recovery. An in time witness statement was duly filed and the court have cancelled the debt registration, so we are back to £130 at risk. This was a case of a bay suspension, it is well known that the City of London signs for such a move are inadequate.

Most people would have thrown the paperwork away by now but not Mr Mustard. He penned a complaint to the City.

I represent Miss S as attached authority.

You sent a charge certificate on 22 December 2016 and you have now just sent her an Order for Recovery (a TE9 has now been filed) some two years later. This is unfair.

If you refer this PCN to the tribunal I will rely on, inter alia, the attached persuasive decision. You might care to cancel it instead.

FOI request: How many Order for Recovery documents have been issued since 1 November 2018 where the Charge Certificate was issued more than 6 months previously?
This is an extract of the tribunal decision Mr Mustard quoted in support of his argument

Reasonable expedition means that a council must get on with it fairly swiftly. They must either lose or use the powers that they have.

He now has a response to the complaint.

Thank you for your email below. Unfortunately the authority to act you have provided is dated 5 years ago so it is arguably lapsed and I cannot be fully confident that Miss S has given you authority to act in this specific case.  If you have been acting for Miss S for the last 5 years in relation to his/her* PCNs and continue to do so then you should get an updated signed authority to act when approaching local authorities or the tribunal.    

The City of London has been delayed in registering cases at Northampton County Court. Despite the time limits for claim for penalties arising from statute being 6 years, the City would normally register cases within 6 months of the charge certificate. We have however been unable to meet this timetable over the last 18 months due the introduction of a new back office system and a requirement to recruit and train additional staff to address backlogs. This resulted in a planned pause in registrations. 

The City is however confident in this case that there has been no material prejudice to the keeper as it is clear that they were aware of the original notice through formal representations and a subsequent phone call, both of which are documented on our system. The keeper’s position remains as per their original challenge, i.e. that they felt the suspension notice was unclear, and our position remains unchanged, i.e. we feel the notice was clear, so I would argue that there is no prejudice arising from the legitimate delay in this case although I accept from a customer service perspective it is poor.

If this matter does end up before the tribunal it would be perfectly right for you to question delay and any other matters your client wishes you to raise, provided you have the requisite authority to act. We will address these points and an independent adjudicator would make a balanced decision having considered the evidence of both parties.

Thank you for your kind attention in this matter.

(Mr Mustard has redacted the name of the motorist but the City did know they had sent the Notice to Owner to a lady so have not been overly diligent in their reply).

Mr Mustard certainly will question the delay at the tribunal. The lady cannot remember having phoned the City but it may have been 2 years ago. The City's email is carefully devoid of that detail. Mr Mustard has a tribunal decision in which system error did not excuse the delay.

Mightily magnanimous of the City to agree that their service has been poor but to not then cancel the PCN makes them look foolish and money grubbing (money they are unlikely to ever see).

Mr Mustard does now have an updated authority letter as the tribunal have introduced new rules such that he has to produce one specific to each PCN for GDPR compliance but it was self serving to assume that his authority had expired as how else did he know about the Order for Recovery having been served.

As you saw above Mr Mustard asked an FOI question to find out how many similar cases there were. Here is the answer:

1458 Order for Recovery notices have been issued since 01/11/2018 to 10/12/2018 where the Charge Certificate was issued more than 6 months previous.

Mr Mustard doesn't know when the City got its act together again but we do know that for 18 months they were not acting with reasonable expedition and should simply cancel all the PCNs. Over 18 months they may have late processed about 17,500 tickets and many of those people are going to have moved home and the first they will know about this is when the bailiff clamps their car, as redirection of post will only have been for 3 or 6 months and as when people move they are likely, quite properly, to have thrown away paperwork related to moribund PCNs.

The trouble with parking enforcement in the public sector is that it is assumed that enforcement authorities will wield their power sensibly. If & when they don't, as in this example, there is no supervisory body which could investigate at short notice and ensure that the process is being fairly managed.

We will just have to let twitter take care of it.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

5 December 2018

Evil plans afoot

Next week's Policy and Resources has got a long and complex agenda to be discussed. Fatigue sets in and later items like agreeing the procurement forward plan is likely to be rushed through due to the shortage of meeting time or glossed over but it is vital that councillors read all 13 pages as if they fail to challenge items on the list they are set in stone as things which 'officers ' (staff) can just plough on with.

Mr Mustard thought he would bring a few items to your attention, out of the 310 listed for council tax year 2019-20. Some are bog standard but others are more interesting. Firstly the headings:


Is this for checking what charges suppliers have made and then seeing if we can claw some of it back? What is the implication of Capita having done the purchasing of utilities to date?

This is a huge amount to spend on security, including within libraries. The period of the contract isn't stated though. There is scope to extend the current contract which has not been exercised.

Most of these items are probably for the new council offices. They are costing us a packet but are meant to save money. Will they?

Having sold a perfectly good depot before finding a new one the council are now having to fork out bundles to put us back where we used to be but somewhere else. Much of the income from selling the land at Mill Hill has been frittered away.

Expect to see hideous neon billboards at every turn.

Got a skip that is an hour overdue for removal from the public highway?, then expect a penalty notice (which goes to the skip hire company) which in turn will lead to higher skip prices and/or more fly tipping.

Mr Mustard has not yet asked to see the new contract (it might get published automatically which was the council's stated aim a few years back but hasn't happened) but the previous one had the contents of statutory documents allocated to the supplier to deal with as part of the contract price.

A workplace parking levy? Now Mr Mustard has your attention. There is so much money to be made from parking, PCNs (expect more cctv cameras aimed at catching you out) road user pricing, car parks cpzs etc that the council cannot resist.

What does 'outlet' mean? An anaerobic digester or a big mound of green waste rotting down in a semi-industrial setting next to residences? the schedule should specify exactly what is planned.

There will be fewer visitors to parks starting the slow process of softening them up for sale.

Your guess is as good as Mr Mustard's but hey, only £4m.

The council are keen on crowdfunding (although there are already sites for this sort of thing) as it means they don't have to contribute so much or at all to worthy projects.

It seems that the Residents' Perception Survey, which is currently not carried out, will make a comeback, presumably in a different form which provides 'better' answers.

The management of Barnet Council can't seem to tie their own shoelaces without a consultant to tell them how to.

Please, someone tell Mr Mustard that this is a mistake. Thirty eight million quid on glorified temps.

Now that has whetted your appetite to see how long councillors spend discussing these items, has it not. here is a link to the meeting. It is public. Do come along and start to get interested in the monstrosity that is Barnet Council.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

3 December 2018

Bin there, not done that

For the last week Mr Mustard has been trying to get Barnet Council's twitter account to tell him how many bin lorries there are. The unwritten but self evident ethos of the twitter account is that Barnet Council only ever tweet good news. Consequently, it is to be inferred that the council have an inadequate number of bin lorries. That is a question which may get answered later but Mr Mustard wants to get on and blog about bins, although bingate may go on for some time, despite what the vlogger Richard Cornelius had to say on youtube.
Mr Mustard does like to get his facts right but if Barnet Council want to treat a simple statistic such as the number of bin lorries as a matter of state secrecy he will just have to estimate as best he can. A bin man (not ruling this out as a career choice for ladies but don't believe there are any currently acting as loaders or drivers) will possibly confirm the facts in the comments box below.

The correspondence with the Mayor of London included the statistic that 12 loaders could be saved who dealt with the food waste bins, one for each bin round, so we have 12 lorries for black bin collection (some bins have become grey with old age). The latest reorganisation, or shambles as it is known in homes across Barnet, elicited the additional fact that blue bin recycling rounds and black bin rounds are the same, so there must be 12 lorries for blue bin collection. It isn't so much the number of lorries as spare ones will be needed to cover for breakdowns, servicing and accidents etc. as the number of collection rounds which is important. 

Now to Mr Mustard's reckoning as to why the new system isn't working and will never work 100%.

If the above numbers are correct each crew is expected to collect:

359,000 bins a week, as per Richard above, which divided by 5 days

= 72,000 bins a day, which divided by 24 lorries

= 3,000 bins a day per team (lorry) with 2 loading

= 1,500 bins per person, who usually does 2 bins at a time (if the street layout permits)
= 750 repetitions in 7.5 hours

= 100 reps an hour or a pair of bins being rounded up, moved, tipped and returned to the property/pavement

A pair of bins being tipped every 36 seconds.

That does not look possible. The team I saw this week had a driver + 2 and more staff doesn't make much sense as only 2 bins can be tipped at the same time so you have two on the lorry with 2 more being picked up / returned at the same time.

Of course not all bins are put out every week but still, to expect that many collections day in and day out will lead to binman burnout.

Please rubbish my figures if they are wrong.

The article from Barnet First claism the changes are to make the service more efficient (not happened) effective (not happened) and economical (not happened either due to up to £20,000 a week of extra costs being incurred for 98% of a service).

Mr Mustard thinks, and the budget cuts dictate, that the changes were motivated entirely by the need to save money but the budget has been cut at the same time as the number of proeprties in barnet has increased. You can only ever stretch an elastic band so far before it breaks and that is the point we have reached with bins.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard