20 November 2019

Barnet Council - Capita - data harvest reduced

Capita recently demanded that Mr Mustard prove he was still entitled to the single person discount and he had a choice of completing the form they sent him or going on line and completing a form, as above. Mr Mustard started by having a look at the on line form and decided that his telephone number and email address should not be compulsory information.

Mr Mustard complained to Barnet Council and they have half agreed with him.

I can advise that the email address is collected to provide automatic notification to the customer that their review has been submitted successfully. As part of this notification the customer is given a reference number that they can quote if they have any queries about us receiving the online form. We do not send any other response to the review.

I am satisfied that the collection of the email address is not excessive and that the collection of this information is necessary and relevant to the processing of form.

The telephone number is collected in case there is a need to contact the customer about their form, however I agree that this should be optional field as alternative contact details are available. In my view making both the email address and telephone number mandatory could be considered as unnecessary.

With that in mind I can confirm that the form is being redesigned, making the email address mandatory, and the telephone number optional. This will become live in the next three weeks.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Mr Mustard does not agree with the reasoning as they could simply provide a confirmation of receipt reference number on line. If they want to contact you they can write as it is a property that is the subject of the enquiry, it isn't going anywhere, or they can make an email address optional should you want to be contacted that way.

Mr Mustard sent his response in by post and the form does not say you must supply an email address and a telephone number, boxes which Mr Mustard would have put a dash in anyway. Did Capita send an acknowledgement that they had received his completed form, no they didn't so they only want to send one if it doesn't cost them anything.

Did they tell Mr Mustard the outcome of their review?
No, of course they didn't, as they only get paid when someone loses their single person discount, so they want to cut out all possible costs, even at the expense of providing a resident with the reassurance that all is well.

Rather than being left in the dark, Mr Mustard has now written to Capita to ask them to confirm the outcome of the review and to see the data on which they based their decision.

Mr Mustard is also now going to lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner to see if they agree that the collection of an email address on line is not necessary, it should be optional.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

19 November 2019

Barnet - the renegade council

The above image is from the Highway Code which couldn't be clearer, you can stop to load/unload on double yellows (provided it isn't explicitly prohibited by lateral kerb marks) and you can drop off and pick up passengers.

The below is from the council's own Traffic Management Order i.e. the council enacted it:

So given both of the above why are Barnet Council rejecting representations based upon a complete lack of knowledge of both the Highway Code and their own rules? Could it be the money?

Anybody who pays up in response to the council's incorrect interpretation of the law has been conned out of £55.

If you have such a letter send a copy of the challenge you made and the council's response to Mr Mustard (mrmustard@zoho.com) as he is going to fire an email into the inbox of the parking manager and ask him to get the law applied properly. Mr Mustard can't be sure but the rejection letter was probably written by an employee of NSL Ltd who really ought to know the law by now.

Within 24 hours of Mr Mustard emailing the parking manager, the PCN is being cancelled, an apology sent and retraining is planned.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

18 November 2019

Capita - not at all helpful

A minor gripe is that Capita left part of the postcode off their address.

The rest of the letter isn't of much use either.

The 2018 statement was wrong so must be chucked away.
The 2019 statement didn't arrive.

What is the recipient to decide upon receipt of this letter? nothing, as there aren't any figures with it.

What should it have contained?

A statement as at the date of normal pension age (NPA).
A list of the possible options.
A request for your bank details so that the arrears can be paid asap.
A calculation of the compensation which will be paid to the pensioner for not paying them for up to 2 years.

The letter as it stands merely tells you they messed up and then wants the pensioner to make the running.

Mr Mustard's advice.
Don't phone them and don't write (unless you don't do email) you'll need to complete the post code, it is DL98 1AJ

Mr Mustard would email and ask for the information that you should have been given on the NPA (normal pension age) and for the relevant facts and figures and options. You want everything in writing, phone calls can lead to disputes.

Having right royally messed up Capita should be going the extra mile to provide information & compensation to the adversely affected parties, not putting the onus on them to phone up Capita. They should be offering the affected parties individual appointments at which Capita can demonstrate that they have now got the pension records correct and explain the options available in each case.

Mr Mustard really doesn't understand why councillors don't kick out Capita given that this is just one more example in a long list of administrative incompetence. They are truly awful and yet on we trot lurching from one dreadful story to the next.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

14 November 2019

A decade has flown by

What you see above is the PCN which led to the creation of Mr Mustard, the wrongful PCN although Mr Mustard didn't realise it at the time. Since then he has fought at least 1000 PCNs and his win rate per thousand is about 850.

Before you get agitated at the thought that Mr Mustard is the sort of person to park where he shouldn't, here is the sign that is adjacent to the bay.

The bay is only restricted during the week. Anyone can park in it at the weekend.

That PCN, BA66081914, is the most expensive PCN ever issued by Barnet Council not for the £100 they didn't get but for the 850 PCNs worth c. £100,000 that they failed to collect and the £12,000+ they have paid out in fees to the tribunal. Before November 2009 if Mr Mustard received a PCN, which he did now and then, he just paid it.

What does the next decade hold?
Probably another 1,000 PCNs personally fought by Mr Mustard.
Perhaps an academy to train up other residents with the necessary knowledge and skills?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

9 November 2019

Are Harrow Council deliberately incompetent?

Readers with good memories will recall that Mr Mustard wrote about Harrow being horrible at the start of 2018, the back story is here.

It might have been the case that Harrow Council just got a little bit behind and their slowness was a one off which they should then have fixed. Unfortunately that is not the case as twice this week Mr Mustard has been contacted by clients who hadn't heard from Harrow Council for a year and then suddenly they did. If his clients thought the PCNs were over due to council neglect they would be correct in principle but wrong in practice as Mr Mustard checks every PCN twice a month to make sure nothing gets away from him.

The case with the worse delay has the following timeline:

You can see that Harrow Council have been sat on their hands for 33 months.

The Order for Recovery was sent to the same address as the PCN. Luckily the recipient had not moved home. If you had moved home in 2018 would you notify the council of your change of address from 2016? No, I didn't think you would. Nor would you have a postal redirection for more than 12 months, most people probably only have 3 or 6 months of redirection given how so much documentation now arrives by email.

Mr Mustard recommends that if you have had a Harrow PCN in the last 5 years that you contact them and ask them for the number (give them your car registration and date of purchase) and ask them to tell you the current balance of every PCN ever issued since you bought the vehicle and if it is not zero, to tell you the dates of all the statutory documents they have issued.

If you have moved you could do this even if you don't think you have had a PCN as it may have gone to your old address. Mr Mustard also recommends leaving a note for the incoming resident with your new address, as he did recently for a house he sold and he left a few parking visitor vouchers to help them in their moving in period - they were very pleased and have already dropped a final utility bill letter through his door. (Another tip, he read the gas, electric & water meters hours before they moved in and left a note of them at the property to save the buyers the time of performing the same task.)

What happens next to a PCN, if you don't file a witness statement (or statutory declaration in moving traffic cases) is that a bailiff will be instructed. If the bailiff finds the car, and most people don't move far and bailiff vans have ANPR, is that it will be clamped. As all of the paperwork will have been sent to your old address and you haven't been served with at least one obligatory statutory document Mr Mustard does not think you have been properly served but it is you who has the problem, a wheel clamp on your vehicle, which you may need urgently, so you end up paying. This is grossly unfair.

In this way, by being incompetent, Harrow Council and their bailiffs profit at your expense. That is unjust.

Once Mr Mustard has the current PCN sorted out, he will file a complaint with the council and if they don't apologise he will go to the LGO. He will also complain to the Iinformation Commissioner as the council, having abandoned enforcement of the PCN by their failure to act expeditiously, they no longer have the right to process your data.

After writing this blog post Mr Mustard decided to look through decisions made at the tribunal in October 19 & he found this one:

Councils are meant to learn from the decisions of Adjudicators, Harrow haven't learnt a thing and are plouging ahead with PCNs which they know is prejudicial.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

8 November 2019

Mr Mustard made a mistake - so did others!

Mr Mustard's client parked in The Grove near Finchley Central tube station, on a Saturday. She told him she had parked this way for years. Mr Mustard looked at the council's evidence on line and the sign which the traffic warden photographed, thus:
Mr Mustard thought the reason that this sign had been missed was because it was around the corner in Nether Street and therefore not driven past by the motorist who had driven up from Mill Hill. There are Regulations which a council must follow about installing and maintaining signage

Is the sign which was photographed 'on or near the road'? Mr Mustard would say not as it is on a different road around the corner but an adjudicator might find it to be adequate. However, for 'persons' using the road probably kills it in favour of the motorist as you must have been able to see the sign when driving in the road in question and you cannot. 

Mr Mustard looked back through google street view history and there hasn't been a sign since street view started on that section of yellow line in Nether Street.

Here from google is a photograph of the sign in Nether Street, the cable tie in the traffic warden's photo still being in place after the removal of the sign it was previously securing and there is a strap across the 'H'.

Mr Mustard made the informal challenge (against the PCN). He kept it simple as ever and the 'y' is next to the 't' on the keyboard which turned his 'not' into 'noy' a word he quite likes

Needless to say, the informal challenge was rejected 10 days later

They rarely consider any informal challenge carefully, as will be proved.

Was the sign located on The Grove? If you look for yourselves on google street map, turning in from Nether Street at the tube station end, you will see the sign the traffic warden photographed on the right and then no sign at all on the single yellow line within The Grove. The council have lied, again, in order to try and persuade the motorist to cough up £55.

Here is the council's map of traffic restrictions and signs in The Grove. There is no icon to show a sign within The Grove on the black and orange line. You can see a sign icon in Nether Street but none on the black & orange line, where the car was parked, only on the differently restricted green line in Nether Street. The council, or their sub-contractors NSL, are terrible at lying.

There is guidance on signs and lines, known as Chapter 3 of the Traffic Signs Manual. It isn't law but the council must have due regard to its contents. It says this

No-one can argue with the fairness of para 13.1.12 - the driver could not readily establish the precise restriction.

There was not a sign within 15m of the northern end of the single yellow line in The Grove as there wasn't a sign within The Grove at all.
Ignore the kerb marks about loading as that was not prohibited. These are stock images. What you can see is a little transverse mark which shows where the restrictions change, as they do between The Grove and Nether St, the change is not marked by a line on the ground nor signs at the changeover point.

When Mr Mustard received the council's letter rejecting the challenge, he went back over the facts to check them. He decided to start with the council's own map based traffic order. At that moment he realised his error when he clicked on the point where the car was parked and the rules popped up on the page.

This shows that the times when you cannot park where the black and orange line is located at 2-3pm on Mondays to Fridays inclusive. Mr Mustard smiled as immediately he knew he would beat the PCN (previously he just expected to beat it). He was annoyed though as the council had told him something which he knew not to be true with the sole purpose of trying to extract revenue from his client (who turned out to know the situation better than he did!).

What are the rules if a yellow line is not signed on the spot? (and let's take it that a sign around the corner in the next street does not, in all fairness, apply) It is the cpz entry sign that sets the times.

Down at the lower part of Dollis Road, towards Mill Hill, the place the driver came from, is this sign

which sign confirms the Monday-Friday 2-3pm times when you cannot park on an otherwise unsigned single yellow line (bays may have different times).

Who got what wrong?

The traffic warden got wrong that the sign around the corner applies. 
They should have thought that the absence of a sign meant CPZ hours apply.

Mr Mustard got wrong not checking the TMO map for the rules.
He was wrong to rely on the traffic warden's photo of the sign.
He should have wondered why his client had parked there on so many previous Saturdays without being ticketed.

The Barnet Council back office (probably NSL in Dingwall) got wrong the fact of the existence of a sign in The Grove. They refer to 'the sign' which must be a reference to the one photographed within Nether Street.
They got wrong not looking at The Grove on google street view, if they had looked back through 10 year's worth of google street view images they would not have found a sign in The Grove.
They got wrong not checking the rules for the location in question in the council's own map of the parking rules.
They got wrong that if there was a sign in the Grove it would say: Mon-Fri, 2-3pm.

Next steps

Mr Mustard's assistance was not disclosed in the informal challenge. It will be now as he will make a second informal challenge. Councils always tell you that you cannot do that but Mr Mustard disagrees as the PCN says

'If we receive representations before a Notice to Owner is served, from any recipient of a Penalty Charge Notice, those representations will be considered'.

The motorist does not yet have a Notice to Owner so is entitled to expect the council to do what they promise.

Besides, a factual error has occurred and it is in everyone's interest to correct this error as soon as possible. The motorist should not have the PCN hanging over them for a moment longer than necessary.

Mr Mustard is sure the second informal representations will be considered more carefully, as they will be accompanied by a complaint to parking management, who are all far to wise as to tell an untruth to Mr Mustard.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update 17 December: Mr Mustard complained on 10 December to parking management and provided his analysis of what was wrong. Clearly management agreed as the PCN has now been cancelled today. There was not a word of apology in the cancellation letter but there was a warning that the outcome didn't set a precedent at that location, it is panto season, oh yes it does.

5 November 2019

Lying - Barnet Council policy or just ignorance?

Mr Mustard doesn't, as usual, know if a Barnet Council employee actually wrote the above Notice of Rejection or if an NSL employee did, although formal representations are meant to at the least be decided upon by an employee of the council.

The part that is not the truth is the statement that you cannot board or alight (on a double yellow line) where loading/unloading is banned (as notified by double marks across the kerb stones). It is true that no loading also means no blue badge parking but this wasn't such a case.

What the car owner told the council was that his wife who was driving and was collecting him and two small children left the car in order to help him because he has a disability. That is perfectly proper behaviour. The rules for loading or unloading are different to those for boarding or alighting.

The council set the rules for each section of road. This is what they say about boarding and alighting.

The passenger was disabled and therefore as long as necessary is allowed for the purpose of boarding.

How do Barnet Council not know about their own Traffic Management Order? They should have known, particularly in this case, as the formal representations included this huge clue

Needless to say an Appeal is now being made to the independent adjudicator at London Tribunals. Costs can be awarded in cases where the council has been wholly unreasonable. The bar is set very high but ignoring the exemption in your own traffic order may well be seen to be.

Thus in this case Mr Mustard comes to the conclusion that ignorance can be no excuse. It looks like a cynical and deliberate refusal to accept the obvious.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard