26 May 2020

Hillingdon - pandemic parking enforcement

Hillingdon get 0/10 for their response, such as it is, to Mr Mustard's standard FOI questions, as largely answered by many other local authorities in London.

The response was not 'due' by 7 May. A response to an FOI request should be sent 'promptly' and in any event not later than the 20th working day, it is not a target date especially when you are only going to respond to a single question out of 7. 

Mr Mustard was sent a holding reply on 7 May and the below reply a few days later, it wasn't worth waiting for despite being late.

It is rather odd as traffic wardens (CEOs) are employed to enforce statutory provisions and other boroughs who have got outsourced employees managed to send responses and on time. Hillingdon don't therefore know the health of their workforce nor what PPE is provided to them, not the actions of a caring borough.

As for enforcement, business as usual in Hillingdon.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

25 May 2020

One for the mountain bikers

Yesterday as I was headed up Swanland Road towards Welham Green, ultimately headed for the old village of Welwyn (as opposed to Welwyn Garden City which is a town) I decided to put a little route in that my neighbour had told me about, into some woods to the west of the A1, as a 25 mile round trip is a long ride that I can now manage and we must all stretch ourselves.

Thus at point 'A' near the turn off for the Royal Veterinary College I found hidden in the bushes the fingerpost for the bridge which takes bikes, pedestrians and horses over the A1 (I had noticed it on Saturday when I popped out in the car for my walk in Durham Sherrardspark Wood) which is now largely hidden by foliage

and then given a choice of routes I took the harder one, which always seems to happen to me, and found myself going up what felt like the north face of the Eiger (as if! I'm not good with heights) on a narrowing woodland track covered in gravel and with protuding rocks. I caught up with two long distance runners at the tightest spot, equipped as they were with water backpacks, and they happened to spot me and stop for a breather as the going got harder. I kept shifting down through the gears until I was in the lowest of the 27 and then I thought I heard one of the runners on my shoulder, which would not have surprised me as my legs were spinning like a top and I was only inching upwards and forwards with no end in sight, but it was a man on a mountain bike who wanted to come slowly past and so with some diffculty I kept as left as I could and he came past. My will was starting to give but after what seemed like an age of effort and not much progress my legs told me the terrain was starting to level out and I could relax a little. The track then went downhill but that was no time to speed up as a hybrid was not the best bike for the terrain which was at the edge of the bike's grip and my comfort zone.

I exited the wood here, at point B.

I had no idea where I was although I was in Blackhorse Lane which I had ridden along last week, a rottenly surfaced narrow road out of South Mimms which I don't plan to use again. I got my phone out to look at where I was and at this point the man with a dog who I had passed a little while back, and said thank you to for moving over, was able to tell me where I was. I told him I was headed to Welwyn which meant that I really needed to be going north and he told me that the route straight up through the gates I could see would bring me out at North Mymms Church. It is no surprise that North Mymms (rarely heard of as South Mimms hogs the headlines) is to the north of South Mymms (Mimms / Myms). He very helpfully pointed out that it would be a another up down route and that the down would be treachorous. He promised to pick me up if I was lying in a damaged heap at the bottom. The climb was easier as it was better paved but the downhill descent was a horror as I needed fatter tyres with grip and suspension. I met a few pedestrians who sensibly kept their dogs and kids under control and after a few slides I managed to get slowly and safely to the bottom without falling off or getting a puncture.

I will not go that way on a hybrid again. If you have a mountain bike, go to it. You will need your best set of legs.

I stopped when I came out at point 'C' to take some photos. I have somehow managed to not capture the red that the poppies are painted in.

Having survived my little detour I carried on up to Welwyn and got home 3&3/4 hours after leaving.

Lockdown will be the making of me.

21 May 2020

A cycling adventure

Twice a week Mr Mustard goes for a longer ride than the usual round trip through Ridge which takes about 1h 15m. He looked at the Sustrans cycle routes overlayed on an Ordnance Survey map and decided to follow the square formed by Monken Hadley at the bottom left (Mustard Mansions are just below that, off the page), Enfield Island Village at the bottom right, Ware at the top right (where?) Welwyn Garden City at the top left and then back to the start.

Mr Mustard has a hybrid bicycle which is a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike, you wouldn't want to do this loop on a road bike with narrow tyres but a mountain bike would be fine.

Looked at on the map it seemed quite possible as Mr Mustard had survived 3 hours in the saddle recently. 

The distance across the bottom is 8.22 miles as the crow flies, so about 10 by the time Mr Mustard had got lost.

Mr Mustard was tempted to get across to that blue line adjacent to Botany Bay, which is quite near the Royal Chase Hotel, by chickening out of the bumpy route by going up to Potters Bar and along the Ridgeway, but decided that the shortest route was the one he should follow, so not long after setting off he was crawling up Ferny Hill. You are rewarded with a view of the obelisk in Trent Park at the top.

Having rocketed downhill past the Pick you Own fruit farm ( opening in the third week of June, you'll need to book under the new distanced picking rule 

Mr Mustard turned left, crawled up Oak Hill, and crossed the road and went down the track (the one where clay pigeon shooting is advertised) and followed the obvious route. This becomes Strayfield Road at the end (it may also be that at the start) and you end up almost on Clay Hill. There is a right turn just before that junction which Mr Mustard missed. Here it is, seems obvious now but there really needs to be a finger post on the left as well. Mr Mustard will have to go there again next week to follow the proper route.

Below is the proper route. Mr Mustard will be buying a map.

Ploughing on blindly, crossing straight over Clay Hill Mr Mustard found himself on another track (Flash Lane) which took him downhill and then up again straight through Whitewebb Forest and brought him out in Cattlegate Lane. Unsurpisingly at that point there were no pointers as to where to go next and Mr Mustard had no idea where he was. Just up the road on the left there appeared to be a gap in the hedge, Mr Mustard was all ready to take it as he never minds going the wrong way but there was a security van there with a noisy dog in the back.

Having been in the eyeline of the noisy dog for long enough and having spoken to the security guard who didn't know where he was and wasn't letting on as to what he was guarding, Mr Mustard set off along Cattlegate Lane, past the Spurs training ground (one lonely camerawoman outside for some reason) and over the A10 at Bullsmoor Lane and down to Enfield Island Village by a much more boring route than he should have been on. Quite a nice place to live.

At the village he took a photograph as this is an impressive water tower.

At this point after some wrong turnings Mr Mustard fell over Sustrans Cycle route 1, hurrah. After following for a little while Mr Mustard lost his way again but by using his nose, rather than the eyes he should have been using, he got himself back on track here and could relax.

Looks a bit glum when that picture was taken but it was lovely today. Just inside there is a sculpture

Following route 1 was easy within the park as it is harder to get lost, another sculpture caught the eye of Mr Mustard

Mr Mustard pedalled on, past Dobb's Weir to Rye House, where he had to be quick to catch the duck family formation paddling.

From here it was necessary just to keep pedalling along the bank of the river all the way to Ware where Mr Mustard stopped to enjoy a sandwich (strapped to the crossbar) as he had been pedalling for 2 hours and 40 minutes at this stage and he was at the mid-point of his route.

Ware seems to be a much nicer place by bike (or on foot) then it ever seemed when Mr Mustard went there by car.

Mr Mustard pedalled on but stopped taking so many photographs. From Ware it is a hop and skip to Hertford following route 61 along the river. In Hertford Mr Mustard missed another sign so did a lap of the town and came back to where he started and then found where he needed to be and went down West Street which you cannot do in your car unless you live there, as it has the pesky 'flying motorbike' sign which almost no-one knows and it means 'no motor vehicles' and with an 'except for access' in this case which means except for access to proeprties adjoining the road, not for gaining access to the other end of West Street and not stopping!

There was a blue plaque in West Street so that had to be photographed. Sorry but it is slightly out of focus.

Life expectancy in 1800 was about 40 so getting to 96 was another great achievement. The house is grade 11* listed.

Mr Mustard pedalled on through Hertingfordbury, via the Cole Green Way and into Welwyn Garden City. Time for another sandwich and plenty of water.

To Mr Mustard, High Barnet to Welwyn Garden City on a bicycle now seems like nothing at all but he had been out for four and a quarter hours by now.

Now Mr Mustard knew where he was he set off southwards, out of WGC towards Hatfield, diverted off through Old Hatfield, the way route 12 goes, into South Hatfield, over the lovely cycle bridge, into Welham Green down Swanland Road, left just before the roundabout to go along Wash Lane which takes walkers and cyclists behind the South Mimms services, under the M25, and then a tired little climb up Dancers Hill, left up Dancers Hill Rd, right into Kitts End Road and a final slow climb to Hadley Highstone

which is a monument to the Battle of Barnet and 1.25km level ride home.

So very pleased to see home, 5 and 3/4 hours after leaving it and 3lbs lighter. It was a warm day. Mr Mustard had his string backed cycling gloves on, as you can see.

Mr Mustard might try that route again next week without all of the accidental detours and with sun cream applied.

19 May 2020

Islington - pandemic parking enforcement

So here we have Islington Council's answers to the same questions as Mr Mustard asked across London.

Pleasing to see a low sickness level.
Very pleasing to see many traffic wardens assigned to other duties, whatever they are.

Business as usual (they mistyped my question, I was referring to list 6.7.8 not a list of numbers!)

Permitted to wear face masks but not supplied with them. Traffic wardens are not handsomely paid.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Bank Holiday bonanza

Back at Easter, gosh a whole month ago, Mr Mustard tweeted about traffic wardens being on overtime despite the bank holiday and also pushing back against the reduced enforcement which councils have been advised to undertake during the pandemic. Council budgets are under pressure so enforcement continues. Mr Mustard decided to take a look at the number of PCNs issued by Barnet Council on a recent bank holiday, New Year's Day 2020 and the following day for comparison, totalled by the actual contravention for which the PCNs were issued.

As you can see the council managed to issue 90% of the usual number of PCns on a bank holiday. Mr Mustard sense checked this by looking at another bank holiday, 27 May 2019 (380 PCNs) and 28 May (409 PCNs) where there was only a 7% variance in ticket issuing.

Parking is free on bank holidays in council car parks and pay to park bays and in addition there is no restriction in residents bays and that leads to about 170 PCNs not being possible. Most of that is compensated for by catching people on single yellow lines who make the assumption that either single yellows don't apply on bank holidays (that is only true if the sign says excluding bank holidays and Barnet's don't in the main) or that there won't be any traffic wardens about on a bank holiday. There most definitely are and they are hunting for people like you who think they won't be caught and those drivers who made an erroneous assumption about the applicability of the lines on bank holidays.

Please remember this for Barnet (other boroughs may be less miserable) and try and ruin the council's game and make it uneconomic to send traffic wardens out on the prowl.

People still keep getting caught with a wheel on the pavement. Stay off them, save £110 and let pedestrians use them (except where marked out for parking).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

12 May 2020

Middling managers

Having seen details of a meeting between the Chief Executive of Barnet Council and Nic Beech of Middlesex University, Mr Mustard wondered what the different ways where that they were planning to collaborate on in their 'partnership' (a much misused word is 'partnership', partnerships normally requiring formal documents setting out the obligations and rights of each party or else they aren't worth the paper they aren't written on).

Mr Mustard followed up on his wonderment by asking Middlesex University to enlighten him under the Freedom of Information legislation, viz:

(Two titans if ever Mr Mustard saw them, yes, the statues of Atlas on the cupboard behind)

It took three weeks but the answer came:

Mr Mustard wasn't convinced as he didn't think that two such well paid managers would have, or should have, a meeting without writing down a single word on the back of an envelope at the very least, or a jot on a napkin, a telephone number on the back of their hand, even electronic notes in their phones but no nothing, they were only having an informal meet and greet and not discussing anything substantive like a partnership as the tweet claimed. Something stank here.

Mr Mustard pondered. He changed tack, he sent a carefully crafted and detailed Freedom of Information request to John Hooton of Barnet Council. This is it.

So there wasn't a formal agenda but a meeting arranged by email:

This was followed up by Laura Norton the Corporate Communications and Stakeholder Manager (Mr Mustard boggles at such an esoteric title) who was in the meeting despite it allegedly only being a meet and greet and thus not substantive. Mr Mustard notes that the University didn't mention her attendance at the meeting in their reply.

So far from a pally 'meet and greet' as the University alleged in their response, it was 'a useful discussion' and topics included 'Communications' and 'Diversity and Inclusion' (coyly not mentioned in the University's official FOI reply) and there were 'useful conversations'. This email should have been disclosed by the University as it came within the scope of Mr Mustard's request. Anyone would think they didn't want a local blogger to take any interest in what they are doing (which is now probably working out how they will survive in the post pandemic period).

John Hooton followed up quite quickly in his email of 13 February.

 In the cover letter from Barnet Council extra information was profferred:

There should be an apostrophe in Council's

Ooh gosh a meeting to explain that a Council provides local services and a University teaches students, it must have been fascinating.

It is an affront to democracy that the CEO has so many informal meetings with 'partner' organisations, notice should be given of them and agendas published and action points published. If that isn't done it is far too easy to conclude either that they are just so much hot air or that dirty back room deals are being done. Far more would be achieved with an agenda and in a shorter time period. The well known Dummies series of books has one which includes a section on managing meetings and it includes having an agenda and action points.

Who else thinks that the University's FOI response did not meet with the letter or spirit of the Act? If you ask them any questions make sure you know the answer before you do and then jerk on their chain hard if they are economic with the actuality.

A really surprising omission from the meeting is any discussion of the replacement West Stand at Saracens for which Middlesex University are the supposedly anchor tenant, vital to the economic success of the project. Wasn't the risk to public funds worth a single word?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

11 May 2020

Waltham Forest - pandemic parking enforcement

An awful lot of sick traffic wardens (CEOs). Get well soon. A bit of a typo 'does not hold', oops.

Ten traffic wardens are doing something more useful which is good to see.

Mr Mustard got a load of waffle in the answer to Q4 which was, as usual, which contravention codes were no longer being enforced. After checking the council website Mr Mustard concluded the simple and accurate answer is that there isn't anything which, given the chance, Waltham Forest will not issue for.

It would probably be better to let each user clean their own equipment at the start of the day rather than have one person touching all of the sets.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

7 May 2020

Kensington & Chelsea - pandemic parking enforcement

That is an awful lot of sick traffic wardens.
Good to see that almost no on-street PCNs are now being issued.

Kensington & Chelsea are one of the fairest authorities in London, in Mr Mustard's opinion.

Good to see that steps have been taken to try and stop any transmission from the equipment.

Full marks to Kensington & Chelsea.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Hounslow - pandemic parking enforcement

It would have been nice to have told Mr Mustard why they don't hold the information about people who are carrying out legally sanctioned duties on their behalf.

Rather odd that Hounslow Council know that no traffic wardens were sick (which is good news) but not if they have PPE or what they are currently doing. So be it.

What Hounslow Council are very clear about though is that there is no contravention for which they would not issue a PCN.

Miserable sods. Don't they know there is a pandemic on?

Yours frugally

Mr Musatrd