1 December 2020

Lambeth council lash up


A courier stopped here, in Durham Street, Lambeth, as he had done countless times before, to make a delivery. He is never long as the number of parcels to deliver each day is huge. It only became a red route bay in February.

It is never a surprise when a courier is given a PCN as waiting around for a few minutes to see if loading is going on is anathema to most traffic wardens even when they see parcels piled high in the front of the van. The surprise in this case was that the PCN was doled out by a Lambeth Council traffic warden, not by a TfL camera.


On 14 November 2020 Mr Mustard sent a Freedom of Information request to Lambeth Council to see if this was a one-off error. Apparently not, it didn't even happen.

Mr Mustard thanked Lambeth Council for their speedy response but then he woke up. The response was completely wrong! The PayByPhone app ascribes location 802663 (which number the courier found for him, the how to pay sign being located other than with the red route sign, which is less than helpful or even compliant) to the London Borough of Lambeth.

Not only that, it is possible to search the register of Appeals against PCNs (at the independent tribunal) by borough and location. That led to three Appeals having been decided, all in favour of the motorist.

If 3 cases have reached the tribunal, there are probably 300+ PCNs, as the overwhelming majority of people give in before that stage.

If 300 PCNs have been issued, probably 150 will have been paid at £65 = £9,750

Although signage is poor, some people will have found the sign and paid but how many / how much is hard to say but unlikely to be £zero.

Mr Mustard's next task is to email Lambeth FOI Team and send them a link to this blog.

What a Lambeth lash up - not just the FOI, traffic wardens on the rampage and poor signage.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard



24 November 2020

Brent Council - automation, delay and morality.


It isn't really a surprise when software which is designed to track the progress of a PCN, with many automated steps from one stage to the next, goes wrong. What matters is what councils do when it does go wrong.

This adjudication decision on a Harrow case makes some serious points:

There are, as the adjudicator says, generally short time limits for an enforcement authority to adhere to and Mr Mustard thinks that the excuse of computer error would get equally short thrift as shortage of resources.
Mr Mustard had the following adjudication decision where the delay was just over 6 months.

Note the duty to act with 'reasonable expedition' which are words taken from a decision of a superior court. It isn't reasonable expedition to do nothing for over a year and then start again as if nothing has happened.

They get 6 months for a PCN served to a car to serve a Notice to Owner (effectively 5 as the PCN has to be 28 days old before they can issue one). The Secretary of State says the following in their Statutory Guidance to which a council must have due regard:

The other long time period is for a Warrant, with a bailiff being allowed 12 months to chase the debt. At that point the processing of the PCN is over, it having now become a debt. The time period of one year is reasonable given that it isn't a paperwork task that is being completed but one of locating a car and clamping it.

In Brent's case, there was no action on an unknown number of PCNs from July 18 until March 2020, a period of one year and 8 months. Once the problem was found the proper corrective action was to write off all those PCNs.

Many of the registered keepers will have moved and Brent Council will not have checked for any change of address and postal redirections of a year, a decent interval to pay for, will have expired. 

Many people will have thrown the paperwork away after a few months not having heard anything and assuming, perfectly reasonably, that the council have decided not to continue as they are not legally obliged to take every step in the available process.

If the PCN was for not paying, for example, any proof of payment, such as one of those small receipts that a parking meter gives you, will have been defaced, destroyed or lost.

Almost every PCN which went to sleep for 20 months will have prejudicial consequences for the registered keeper.

The problems were caused by automatic processing which was not checked by adequate human oversight. Upon finding the problem the lack of moral rectitude became the next problem. Councils just hate writing off PCNs it would seem.

What should the residents of Brent do? If I lived in Brent (other people from outside the borough will be affected but far fewer) I would write to 

The Data Protection Officer, Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, HA9 0FJ

or email dpo@brent.gov.uk

and say this:

I live at (insert address) and attach a copy of my council tax (or electric etc) bill as proof. (If you have moved, provide proof of your previous address.)

I am the registered keeper of vehicle (insert registration) and have been since (insert date). I attach a copy of the V5 registration document. (If you have since sold the vehicle, provide proof of the date of sale).

I have become aware of a software error in your PCN system and wish to make sure I am not affected. Please provide me with a list of all PCNs by PCN number which remain unresolved for my above vehicle and a list of dates on which all statutory documents were issued in respect of each PCN, identifying the documents by name in each case.

Yours etc

If you have old PCNs, 2018 and earlier, you might want Mr Mustard's help to resolve them. Email him at mrmustard@zoho.com 

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

23 November 2020

Miscarriage of justice in Barnet

Everyone in High Barnet knows, and probably loves, the duck pond.

Just to the left is a parking bay, number 9154. The main bay sign, facing the road, shows that this is a shared use bay, for permit holders or for people who pay.


Facing the pavement, is another sign which contains some information which should be on the bay sign, that one can park for 2 hours for free (without taking any action to verify the free period).

Here are close-ups of the sign so you can glean all of the detail.

So if you read this sign, which you may not even notice as it is facing away from the road and is largely masked by the pole it is mounted on, you know that you can park there for free for 2 hours, which is most useful.

That accords with the rules set out in the map based traffic management order.

Now Mr Mustard will show you the miscarriage, it isn't in the league of this one from 1660 (chosen just because of the pond)

but it is a miscarriage of justice nonetheless. The PCN was contested all the way to the tribunal.

The contravention description is shortened in the register and will have covered the situation of not having paid (before you tell Mr Mustard that what is recorded didn't happen).

That is a decision which must be wrong. So where has it gone wrong?

The traffic warden got it wrong, Mr Mustard has seen that before (in 2015) at this location and had the PCN cancelled by the council after Mr Mustard contacted senior management. Clearly the signage, which should have been changed 5 years ago, wasn't. The traffic warden relied on the main sign alone.

The back office (run by NSL under the direction of in house parking management) didn't do their job properly. The first place they should look when they get such a challenge is the Traffic Management Order which sets the rules. The trouble is that the person who looks at this, if an NSL employee, is in Dingwall and may have no more idea where Barnet is than Barnet residents do of where Dingwall is (Mr Mustard cycled through it on his way from Land's End to John O'Groats. There is a long hard climb out of the valley which was fuelled by a macaroni pie, yum).

Mr Mustard hesitates to say the adjudicator got it wrong, firstly because he could only decide the case based upon the evidence in front of him, although that should have included the Traffic Management Order as a matter of routine (but probably didn't include a photograph of the PayByPhone sign) and secondly because Mr Mustard might be arguing in front of that adjudicator any time soon.

The PCN though should never have got anywhere near the adjudicator at London Tribunals. Barnet Council, or their agents NSL, should have cancelled the PCN as soon as the 2 hours free challenge was made as it isn't the sort of challenge that one would just make up. Alarm bells should have been ringing that it was, possibly, the truth. Mr Mustard thinks that the revenue raising imperative is so pressing that logic gets thrown out of the window along with the challenge.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


14 November 2020

Error 404

This isn't a story of the usual computer says no error but one of traffic adjudicators who have said no. Mr Mustard is sure that their Appeals handling software is set up to identify multiple Appeals for the same vehicle or the same Appellant (motorist).

In a less structured way Mr Mustard spots patterns, he had seen the name of the  particular car hire company on previous occasions and he decided to click on one of the entries whilst persuing the daily decisions (usually only looking at ones for Barnet), the decisions fairly made his hair curl.

This was the first decision that Mr Mustard clicked on. It sets out the requirements for the transfer of liability to the hirer.

A wider scheme to avoid liability.
A clear problem with enforcement. Not satisfied the agreement is genuine.

Costs are rarely awarded but look inevitable.
Mr Mustard has sat and argued (politely) with Adjudicators for the last seven years. He has been in front of thirty or forty of them. They are all experienced lawyers, some have been criminal barristers, and they are razor sharp and can spot a lie from 100 paces. Just don't expect to tell them something which isn't true and get away with it and there may be consequences.

One adjudicator once told Mr Mustard a story. He said that people accused of murder will admit to it but give them a parking ticket and they lie their socks off. Don't be that person (nor the murderer please).
The stupid thing here is that if the hire company creates compliant hire agreements it can pass on liability to the person or company who hires the vehicle (except for bus lanes). Surely that is easier than what they are currently doing?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

4 November 2020

Barnet Council's PCN bailiffs not properly scrutinised

Here is a report by the Local Government Ombudsman. The first 15 paragraphs have been omitted as they don't add anything useful to the story.

The decision catalogues a litany of errors. It seems to Mr Mustard that NSL, contracted to provide back office services to Barnet Council, aren't properly supervising bailiffs employed by Marstons and yet decisions taken by NSL affect the income up stream. Perhaps this is because NSL now belongs to Marstons. You can't properly supervise your bosses if you want to keep your job. Perhaps Marstons shouldn't be appointed by any council which already employs NSL? or vice versa.

In addition, Barnet Council haven't covered themselves in glory either. They aren't properly supervising NSL or managing their own internal processes. The trouble is that very few cases reach the Ombudsman, not because everything is perfect, but because most people give up the fight once their car is clamped, whether legally or otherwise, as depriving a person of their possessions is a very powerful action. This will not be the only case where bailiffs have exceeded their authority, Mr Mustard sees it all the time.

What is really needed is a panel of independent persons who can consider all complaints without having an interest in the PCN revenue and by that method the council could improve its procedures and reputation.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

27 October 2020

TfL desperately needed the revenue


Add caption

Thank goodness for adjudicators bringing the law and common sense to bear.

Whoever at TfL/Capita decided to reject the representations and leave A1 Loo Hire with the choice of paying £640 or going to the tribunal made a terrible and unfair decision.

Too much power has been given to faceless stupid local bureaucrats.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

20 October 2020

Copthall Playing Fields - rules changed

Mr Mustard received the following enquiry

Seeing the words 'double yellow lines', you may not have much sympathy.

In this case though, the situation is more nuanced. This is a road within a park which drivers might not realise is actually the public highway and subject to the usual driving and parking rules.

Also, for many years this road could be freely parked on. Perhaps rugby supporters were parking on it on match days and that was causing problems. The rules were changed in 2018

Mr Mustard checked the database of PCNs issued. There wasn't a single one in 2019 but enforcement did take place in the first quarter of 2020 but only on random Sundays (when football is likely to be played and thus a traffic warden has more chance of catching someone out)

Later data has not yet been published and enforcement was paused for a while due to covid.

Mr Musatrd's advice is to not park on those lines any longer as the inevitable will occur and an extra £55 (if you pay the discounted rate) is a bit stiff to watch your child play football.

The best defence is one of 'legitimate expectation' - you parked that way throughout 2019 and 2020 without, up until now, being ticketed. This defence only works once, after that you are on notice.

Here is an adjudicator's explanation but the decision in any particular case is fact dependent and in the mind of the adjudicator.

If you have a blue badge you can park there for 3 hours with a correctly set clock.

Otherwise, park somewhere else.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

5 October 2020

Tower Hamlets Council act with whopping unreasonableness

Mr Mustard peruses the list of traffic adjudicator decisions most days. He mainly reads Barnet cases but sometimes there is something elsewhere which is worthy of a read. This list of cases for one company was such a thing.

Here we have 12 PCNs with a total payable of £1,560 should Fox finish up with 12 refusals.

The PCNs were all for driving where you shouldn't, through a newish bus gate in Wapping High St.

Mr Mustard's eyes were popping once he read the decision. Here it is, absolutely shocking.

The local authority placed marshalls at the site, waved the bus through and then sent a dozen PCNs by post, for contraventions in which they were complicit.

It is hard to adequately express the monstrous duplicity of Tower Hamlets in this situation, trying to extract £1,560 from a company whose driver did exactly as he was told.

Where is the common sense, this bus was actually acting for the council and why haven't they exempted such transport from the prohibition, as they will have done for their refuse lorries?

Costs are rarely awarded and only for wholly unreasonable, vexatious or frivolous behaviour. Tower Hamlets haven't been frivolous but they ought to be paying costs for the time and trouble to which Fox Transport have been put.

Feel free to add your own comments in the box below.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

2 October 2020

Barnet Council are baffling

Mr Mustard thinks that the word 'miles' was meant to be 'streets' as that is what is written later on. This is the written decision of an adjudicator.

It really is a baffling case, Barnet Council objecting to the visitor voucher being used by someone who is visiting you and of course they don't live (as in their registered keeper address on the V5) locally. If the person who is visiting you has driven from, say, Birmingham then yes their car will be registered 100 miles away. That is the whole point of visitor vouchers.

If you buy visitor vouchers and then move two streets away, perhaps because you rent, and still live within the same zone, you aren't going to send back your vouchers for a refund and then buy new ones to link them to your new address.

The scope for the council to allege abuse will only be worse if you use virtual vouchers, so still carry on buying printed ones, which are easier to lend to neighbours who have run out and who return new ones to you the following week once they have some.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 October 2020

Printed visitor parking vouchers (permits)

It is often whilst searching for something else that Mr Mustard finds useful information. That was true in this case, he found this report.


Within it, there is the following decision.

Mr Mustard emailed the parking manager to find out when he could once again buy printed vouchers as although he is a big computer user he finds it quicker and more convenient to give his visitors a printed voucher which is their responsibility to complete and display and not his fault if it all goes wrong.
As is usual he received a quick and informative response, as follows:

It was a few days before he made the phone call, partly because he expected it to go wrong & extra hurdles to be put in his way, but Mr Mustard is pleased to say he was wrong.

Mr Mustard already has an NSL Apply account for his resident permit so his identity and entitlement to buy visitor vouchers was not in doubt. It would probably take longer if you are a resident without a vehicle such that you don't have an NSL Apply account and have to provide some proof of residence within a Controlled Parking Zone.

The customer service representative pointed out to Mr Mustard the option to have electronic visitor vouchers and Mr Mustard politely explained that most of them are used by his gardener when Mr Mustard is away on business. Printed vouchers means that his gardener can get straight on with the garden after 30 seconds spent scratching out the relevant boxes as Mr Mustard gives her a few vouchers in advance. Once Mr Mustard told the nice lady the reason why he needed printed vouchers the transaction proceeded smoothly, the operative simply having to record the reason before going ahead.

Other reasons which you might wish to use are that your computer is broken, you don't have a computer, they are mostly for use by your cleaner, carer, decorator, family member etc who visits when you are not there. If you think of any other good reason why you really need printed vouchers do please let Mr Mustard know (email: mrmustard@zoho.com) and he will add them to this post.

The vouchers come in blocks (often still referred to as books) of 4 and 50 blocks per annum is the maximum purchase, 3 books the minimum.

Do let Mr Mustard know if you encounter any problems.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard