8 October 2021

PCNs - Exercise of discretion - #3 Bexley

 






Here we are, the first substantive set of policies on discretionary cancellation. A reasonable number of policies covering some frequently encountered situations and a first offence policy widely applied (which is good).

Mr Mustard takes issue with policy 6 as it simply isn't a legal requirement that a CEO (traffic warden) sees boarding or alighting going on. If you have a young child and park around the corner from the school the CEO can come along, issue a PCN in 40 seconds and be gone, whilst the parent is around the corner or even inside the school gates as drop off has to be at the class room or some other official handover point.

End.

PCNs - exercise of discretion - #2 Barnet

 

Thank you to the officer who sent this to Mr Mustard at 9.51 pm on the long stop day for responding. Surely a response could have been sent on day one or two. Allegedly, there is a policy, just that it would be dynamite in the hands of Mr Mustard and the public at large (except it would make very little difference as Mr Mustard rarely asks for discretion to be applied but hey ho and if he asks a manager directly, discretion is usually applied as the circumstances will have been pretty awful).

Hands up who thinks that Barnet Council are engaged in 'law enforcement'. The issue of parking tickets (PCNs) is a decriminalised regime. The definition does include some regulatory functions, such as the collection of taxes, but doesn't appear to Mr Mustard, at first blush, to include the processing of PCNs.

Now Mr Mustard is a bit concerned that he is only on post #2 out of 33. This will be a pretty dull series if you don't get to see a single policy document. Rest assured you will although even Mr Mustard doesn't yet know which post that will be as he is only looking at the detail of each authority as he reaches their place in the alphabet.

End.

7 October 2021

Enfield traffic warden takes up limbo dancing


Mr Mustard has deviated from his 33 blogs about the use of discretion for two reasons, Barnet haven't answered yet, it is promised for today, and something caught his eye whilst cycling.

Leaving his car at home Mr Mustard took the lovely cycle path from near The Chicken Shed Theatre which takes you most of the way to Enfield Town away from the traffic to visit his favourite bakers (Holtwhites, do try them, coming soon to Palmers Green) and pick up various goods but managed not to pay for or receive the two croissants he fancied when he got home. Oh well, another day.

To vary the route slightly he took the off-road route through Hadley Woods which is found by taking Chalk Lane adjacent to Cockfosters Underground Station and then going down the side of the The Cock Inn.

He already has one PCN to fight there and it is popular with traffic wardens but this latest PCN takes the biscuit, Mr Mustard does not think it is possible for a public servant to stoop any lower.

Mr Mustard's eye was caught by a hand written note on a car so, it being in a public place, he stopped to read it.

The note says: 'That's a pedestrian drop kerb and I got a ticket for parking on it, hence the gap to the yellows'.

The car was parked where the silver car is in this google street view image (a car being in the way almost all the time to enable photographs of the surroundings).


Most pedestrian dropped kerbs have tactile paving so whilst really happy with the love shown by one motorist for another, Mr Mustard thinks his/her thinking is as defective as that of the traffic warden.

This isn't a place for people to cross the road, the pavement on their side simply runs out. There is no corresponding dropped kerb on the other side of the road. It isn't a vehicular entrance to a property and it doesn't lead to a cycle path. Those are the three bases on which a PCN could be issued.

Mr Mustard doesn't know who got the ticket and he would be delighted to assist the motorist if you happen to know them. 

The PCN that was issued is as about a miserable a PCN as it is possible to issue. The traffic warden is either not very good or desperate but there is no call for desperation, people manage to park wrongfully all the time and it is the genuinely in the wrong who could be given PCNs not people who have parked legally after the seductive ending of the double yellow lines and the knowledge that this stretch is always well parked up.

There was no traffic management purpose to this PCN, it is revenue raising pure and simple.

The end.

6 October 2021

PCNs - exercise of discretion - #1 Barking & Dagenham

 

The Secretary of State publishes Statutory Guidance to enforcement authorities as to how to exercise their powers when it comes to parking PCNs. The same requirement does not exist for moving traffic and bus lane PCNs but any half decent authority would also develop policies for responding to challenges against those types of PCN.

As you can read above, enforcement authorities, councils basically, 'should' formulate and publish their policies on the exercise of discretion.

'Should' means exactly what it says. It expresses a strong assertion or command rather than a wish. The SoS should have said 'must' to avoid any doubt.

Mr Mustard decided that it would be useful if he had those policies so could better help motorists who had fallen into error but who might be 'let off' in certain circumstances. Accordingly, he emailed all 33 enforcement authorities in London on 9 September and is going to blog the responses one at a time in alphabetical order. Some are commendably comprehensive and others are lamentably non-existent.

Barking & Dagenham start the alphabet and their reply is hopeless.

Mr Mustard knew that there weren't centrally organised policies about discretion as that wouldn't be the exercise of discretion but a dictatorship and the DfT would not say an enforcement authority should do something it had already done itself!  There isn't a London Council code of practice on the use of discretion. 

He sent a reply, he does not expect to hear anything else.

A bad start, it does get better but there are other hopeless cases at the end. He'll give those authorities a little time to pull their socks up and send a complaint to the Secretary of State at the end of all the laggards.

End.


5 October 2021

Honourable Haringey

Mr Mustard was consulted about this story which resolved itself thanks to the enquiries made by the local democracy reporter. Mr Mustard, however, carried on digging. The car was towed from a spot on the left of the following picture, which is from 2021 and is in White Hart Lane near the car boot sale site.


What Mr Mustard found, was that since June 2021 those lines that you can see which are single yellow, should have been double yellows. They were in 2020 as this photo shows.


Mr Mustard is going to look back once he has obtained the Traffic Orders which existed prior to June 2021 (when changes were made within the White Hart Lane zone) to compare the lines which should have been there with what was actually there in case there has been an even longer standing problem.

So far, after a perfectly pleasant exchange of emails with the traffic orders officer, it was accepted that the single yellow lines should have been doubles and will be repainted and also that the school keep clear zig zag lines needed signs which are now to be erected.

Subsequently Mr Mustard asked if all wrongful PCNs would be refunded and to his pleasant surprise (it shouldn't be a surprise, any enforcement authority which has wrongfully demand a penalty, and possibly removed what turned out to be legally parked vehicles, should put their hand up and refund without demur) Haringey Council, via a Technical Officer, sent Mr Mustard this lovely email:


No need for you to wait if you were one of the affected parties. Contact Haringey Council, quote your PCN and ask for a refund. There isn't an email address for parking so best start at customer.services@haringey.gov.uk

If you have a current PCN, point out that the single yellow lines should be doubles and that the PCN must be cancelled as it was issued 'ultra vires' (outside the pwers of the council).

Any problems, do email mrmustard@zoho.com

End.


27 September 2021

The Unhappy Man (with a PCN)

So here we are in 2018, a lovely view of a local pub in Englefield Green and no single yellow line but the pub reserving road space (they may or may not have a delivery coming but still shouldn't put trip hazards in the road). There are no single yellow lines in this road at this time, only doubles to stop obstructive and/or dangerous parking.


The tall hedge on the right is now gone, replaced by a small development that is close to completion.

Mr Mustard contributes to the PePiPoo forum (silly name but a good site) where you can get good free advice on various problems with officialdom including for private parking charges which Mr Mustard doesn't fight.

He came across this question.


Mr Mustard took a look at the images which had been made available:


This photograph was taken by a traffic warden

Mr Mustard knew immediately that this wasn't a council sign (or else the sign shop is staffed by nincompoops, not the case, they are employed to patrol the streets). The reasons are:

- the screws holding the sign to the pole are not the way that signs are affixed, always done with an adjustable metal hoop at the back. Also, none of the pole should stick out above the sign.

- the roundel is correct but it is so universally recognised that no words are required. Oddly, you might think, the roundel means 'no waiting' not 'no parking'. Look at the similar signs where you are, they have no words and 'no parking' is not an authorised variant of the sign.

- Between means Tuesday to Thursday. The PCN was issued on a Monday so isn't valid.

- Between the time and the am/pm suffix should be a space.

- The arrow is superfluous. There is no line in the opposite direction. Guidance requires one sign within 15m of each end of the line and at 60m intervals on long lines.

In summary, only the roundel is correct (although Mr Mustard hasn't had the opportunity to measure it & it too could be wrong).

It may surprise you to know that traffic wardens don't know what the Traffic Order, which sets out the rules for each section of road, says. They rely on the same signs as the motorist. In order to issue a PCN the following applies:

If the traffic warden was competent, he/she would not hold the belief that a penalty charge was payable, as no contravention can occur unless adequate legally compliant signage is in place. 

Since this PCN was issued, two things have happened

1 - the line has been painted out and the signs removed. This is because the traffic section was asked if the signs and line should be there. At least the council can be praised for their swift action in that regard.

2 - The PCN has been challenged as to not do so would, at the next stage, make the registered keeper guilty by default.

Who painted the line and erected the signs remains a mystery. It could have been the builders who wanted more room to get lorries in and out of their site (the sign & lines arrived once work had commenced) or the pub, who seem to regard the road space as their own. It could equally have been anybody else but that will probably remain a mystery. Here is the scene today:





A barrel across the dropped kerb is partly understandable but still shouldn't be there.

Whilst we are on the question of signs, here are some more that Mr Mustard has spotted in his travels.

The sign above, seen whilst on a walk in Bramfield (try the lovely pub, The Grandison with good beer and food) makes the same 'No parking' error.


At least this sign in The Meadway ask politely and says Thank You.


This sign, numerous example of which were erected in Hampden Way, at the very edge of Barnet, also repeats the 'No parking' error. More likely than not, contravening vehicles will be relocated not removed. This doesn't look like an approved sign to Mr Mustard. He hasn't emailed the Parking Manager much recently, time to do so.  

Mr Mustard

Update 28 September:Runnymede Council say this (not the pub then!)

Until Mr Mustard sees the actual Order, properly advertised, he won't believe it exists.

22 September 2021

Barnet Council - crass and insensitive

Mr Mustard has, since 2015, fought roughly one PCN per annum PCN for a delightful elderly couple in their eighties, just the kind of people he likes to help. Let's call them Mr & Mrs B.

Mr Mustard received a phone call on his home phone from Mr B to tell him that sadly, after 62 years of married life in which they had done everything they ever wanted to do, Mrs B had died 2 months prior and he had a box junction PCN in her name. Mr Mustard made a house call. He found that the PCN had been issued at a location which Mr Mustard has always had over-turned on Appeal, outside Toni & Guy as the box extends beyond the junction with Bath Place, the clue is in the name 'box junction'.

 


The V5 registration document had not yet been updated, other matters like pensions being more pressing, and given that Mr B was likely to do it by post, it would take some time in any event. Mr Mustard suggested it might be something that Mr B could update online, perhaps with the help of one of his children. Mr B is pretty with it for an octogenarian so might even do it himself unaided.

Mr Mustard thought that one email to Barnet Council should rightly see the matter resolved, so he sent it.

To Mr Mustard's surprise he didn't receive a reply. Forwarded on in the post by Mr B was a letter addressed to Mrs B, yes, the deceased Mrs B. Here are the contents of it.

It wasn't a letter, it was an email that Mr Mustard sent.

It wasn't received on 6 September but on 4 September, the day it was sent.

The driver isn't the liable party.

The car hasn't been sold.

Apart from those errors the whole letter is based upon a premise that nothing is more important than one miserable PCN, a PCN that Mr Mustard would, based on previous history, beat at the tribunal should it get there.

Mr Mustard doesn't think it will as he has sent a complaint to the process manager. Here it is


There is a complete lack of objectivity in parking departments. In the rush to plug the holes in council coffers the employees forget they are meant to be public servants and ruthlessly chase every PCN to the bitter end. This one certainly leaves a bitter taste.

What a world we live in when one PCN is more important than the loss of a life.

Mr Mustard

21 September 2021

The council believes....

Here is a still photo taken from the cctv cameras which point at Rodborough Road in Golders Green into which you are not allowed to turn right from Finchley Road (you also can't turn right now out of Rodborough Road into Finchley Road, in fact, more emphatically, you must turn left so don't do the dog leg straight on to go to Sainsburys, that will be £130 on your grocery bill).

Here is what it looks like from a vehicle on the approach.


For a 'no right turn' the statutory placement of the sign is on the left opposite the junction (as near as practicable to that point) which Mr Mustard thinks should be opposite the 'no entry' bollard on that convenient lamp post. Barnet Council have put it a little further up the road which means the motorist is less likely to see it. Also, as it is past the junction it is intended for it might be advance warning of the next road being a no right turn, how would a driver know?

You can just make out, in the lower image, a reinforcing sign just after the junction, on the right hand side. This has been twisted, as it often has, and has featured in tribunal decisions as being turned away and as being after the junction so not adequate as indicating the location of the banned turn.

Now if you go back to the top picture what do you see, a white van with a cage which appears to be full of green sacks. Who uses green sacks Mr Mustard hears you ask? why Barnet Council of course. So what we have here is a Barnet street scene van (most probably) illegally parked on pedestrian crossing zig zags, a contravention so bad it is one of the few that the Met Police can still take action for, and that means that the 'no right turn' sign on the left will be much harder to see and only for a very short time. The test of signage is whether or not it is adequate. Mr Mustard doesn't think this is.

If you then cast your eyes to the right to find the non-statutory backup sign, between the bin and the black van, you can see that the sign can't be seen, no red and white circles in shot.

The way that these banned turns are monitored is by computer controlled cameras. They have been programmed to watch the traffic 24 hours a day and select from the footage some small sections which show when the computer thinks a contravention has been committed. An employee, probably of NSL, probably sat in an office in Dingwall, is then meant to review the footage and decide if the computer has correctly chosen an event which equals a contravention. Mr Mustard suspects that the process of watching one short clip after another for hours on end completely erodes whatever concentration or thinking ability the probably lowly paid employee has and they end up blindly ticking yes to every piece of footage.

In this case no thought was given to the fact that the right hand side sign was twisted (it isn't a legal requirement so that can be put to one side although if it is there it should be the correct way round) but even less thought, always assuming the illegally parked van was even noticed, was given to the visibility and adequacy of the sign on the left hand side of the road.

The law states that the PCN must state what contravention 'The grounds on which the council....believe that the penalty charge is payable with respect to the vehicle'. That belief cannot in all conscience be in the mind of the council on this particular occasion.

Should you receive a PCN at this location during the hours of darkness then you have a rock solid defence. The maximum speed on this road is 30mph which means that this particular sign must be illuminated during the hours of darkness. oddly, the sign on the right which is a sign that doesn't need to be there, is illuminated. The sign on the left which does need to be there, but a bit further forward, isn't illuminated. 

Mr Mustard thinks the council don't think hard enough about adequate and fair sign placements but just bang them up on the easiest poles which come to hand.

The PCN itself will be fought through the usual channels.

Mr Mustard

19 September 2021

The Mystery at White Hart Lane

The mystery has nothing to do with Premier League football.

It has to do with why traffic wardens issue a PCN to one car and not to another one which is more badly parked.

In this case the traffic warden has arrived by riding past a whole line of cars parked on double yellows and then stopped, ticketed 3 vehicles on a single yellow and then left again and ridden for a second time past vehicles on the same double yellow lines as if no contravention had occurred.

Thus the drivers who would be viewed as less guilty of wrongful parking get ticketed and the more serious ones park as they please (Mr Mustard doesn't believe for a moment that they all had a blue badge, the traffic warden wouldn't see those without a brief stop at each windscreen and the date of validity would need to be checked).

Mr Mustard wonders why the traffic warden zoomed off? He hears you think that it was because he got a call from his base on the radio to go somewhere else urgently. That is possible but the odd thing is that Mr Mustard was at the same place last week and the same thing happened except that on 12 September there were 4 traffic wardens studiously ignoring vehicles parked on the double yellows. All very odd.

There is a car boot sale going on at the Haringey Borough FC ground at this section of White Hart Lane. Is that part of the mystery?

Mr Mustard

sorry about the mark on the windscreen, now cleaned.

3 September 2021

Great Expectations in Rotherhithe - pay what you can afford (£5+) or free


 


Keep left means don't go right

Mr Mustard cycled down Palmerston Rd, Palmers Green, London n13 not all that long ago. It has been redesigned to be less of a through route as it is parallel to Green Lanes, an A road which is the natural and intended route for through traffic.

Looking at the image below there is a cctv camera on the black pole to the right of the cyclist. There is also a cctv camera warning sign which doesn't have to be near the camera itself, just dotted about the borough generally.


Mr Mustard wondered what the point of the camera was as surely no-one would be caught by it doing anything wrong at all but it was Mr Mustard who was wrong which he found out when he saw the multiple PCNs for Mr Klass. A further search revealed multiple PCNs for the same contravention by Mr Cimen.


What these two gentlemen did, as the decisions explain, is to go to the right of the centre island in order to turn right. You can legally turn right by going past the bollard, turning around and then going left but that takes a whole minute longer. Saving one minute 5 times has cost one of them £650 and the other one £520.

Here is the adjudication decision in the case of Mr Klass.


In a parking case the adjudicator has the power to recommend the council cancel a PCN or moderate the liability. They don't have that power in moving traffic cases and thus the adjudicator made a suggestion. It is the council who hold the power in such a situation as only they have the legal power to exercise discretion which they are on the whole very reluctant to exercise. 

In this particular location turning right isn't dangerous as the road you enter is one way. On the other hand there are multiple cynical refusals to follow the rules of the road and the unexpected is dangerous if another vehicle appears, perhaps a cyclist as this is a good route south for cycles from the North Circular.

Mr Musatrd doesn't suppose that deliberate contraventions will be committed by either gentlemen ever again but enforcing one PCN would have been enough to achieve the traffic management purpose without Enfield Council deciding to seize the opportunity to fill their coffers.

You have been warned.

Mr Mustard

2 September 2021

Time travel in Kensington & Chelsea

You probably don't know that Mr Mustard likes the Harry Potter books and films as he hasn't chosen to mention it before and as broomsticks don't get PCNs. It has however become relevant as time travel is apparently possible by traffic wardens within Kensington & Chelsea. If you have read or watched you will know that Hermione (pronounced her-my-oh-knee not her-me-own) Grainger once tried to be in two places simultaneously:


Hermione wasn't actually in two places at once, she rewound time and then performed the second set of tasks she wanted to do, using a Time Turner.


It is rumoured that all of the devices were destroyed but clearly one has avoided that fate and is used for the very important work of maximising the number of PCNs which can be issued by one person.


Coming up is a decision about two consecutive PCNs issued by one traffic warden who claimed two over-lapping periods of continuous observation of two different vehicles. The eyes can only focus on one thing at a time. 

Here are extracts of the two PCNs.


Had the PCNs said 'at x and y times' there could be no complaint but the usual argument of council back offices when rejection loading/unloading claims is that the traffic warden was there throughout (relying on the to and from times) and didn't see any unloading and so it wasn't happening. Firstly, that wasn't the truth and secondly, you can't always get the removals vans to the door. Here is what the adjudicator decided for one PCN (the other one being decided earlier by the simple way of accepting that loading was taking place).

Well spotted by the adjudicator that there was an inconsistency in the recorded times, they are all ace at that sort of detail, and agreeing that the two observations couldn't have been continuous, which wasn't helped by the traffic warden leaving the location between the stated from/to times as the data recorded on his hand held equipment recorded! (this data was demanded by the Appellant's representative for use at the hearing).

When two liveried removals vans are together at a location perhaps the logical thought isn't to scurry back and forth hiding behind trees or street corners (to function as an imaginary invisibilty cloak) but to ask yourself if someone really is moving in or out and give a much longer continuous observation (a real one) or to pop by 3 or 4 times to see if furniture really is on the move.

The back office don't escape criticism either. The furniture of residents in Onslow Gardens is more likely to be antique than Ikea (other cheap furniture shops are available) so leaving the van doors wide open doesn't strike Mr Mustard as the best idea and given that the loading was from the sixth floor it would take time so there will be periods of apparent inactivity.

Whoever rejected the representations, the person who then decided to fight the Appeal as well as the traffic warden all deserve a spell in Azkaban.

Mr Mustard

29 August 2021

The London Borough of Wallet Foragers

 

Mr Mustard's wandering eye sometimes leaves Barnet when he is reading the register of the independent adjudicators who consider PCNs about parking, bus lanes etc. If he sees multiple cancelled PCNs for one person, he will take a quick look at the decision. The case of Kayley Clarke was one such case. Here is the reasoning for three cancelled PCNs.


Mr Mustard noticed the remark about the sign so he went to google street view to see if, by chance, the camera car had been down there recently, the PCNs having been issued on 16, 17 & 18 March 21. Mr Mustard was in luck, the google image was from December 2020 and the single sign for the 4 car length bay was like this:


Now you are completely gob-smacked. A PCN has to contain the following 

'the grounds on which a civil enforcement officer serving the notice believes that a penalty charge is payable' 
(emphasis added by Mr Mustard)

There is absolutely no basis for such a belief when there is only one sign from which absolutely nothing can be gleaned.

That was objectionable, unreasonable, predatory behaviour by the traffic warden who probably also ticketed three other cars if the bay was full, as it usually is looking back in time on google. 

Worse still, given the location in question, Snowberry Close E15 is a cul de sac not on the way to anywhere, the CEO may have deliberately come back to target this bay and issued all three PCNs when the car probably hadn't moved and that would only have given rise to one contravention.

The back office must have received at least one representation (possibly two, informal and formal) the one against the Notice to Owner and someone, who must have x-ray vision, rejected the representation and Mr Mustard would love to read whatever cooked up excuse they dribbled out to refuse a cancellation. They doubtless offered the discount again so the innocent Kayley could pay a mere £195 for doing nothing wrong. Instead they had to risk £390 at the tribunal. Mr Mustard hopes they think to ask for costs for wholly unreasonable, if not vexatious, behaviour on the part of Waltham Forest council.

If you know Kayley Clarke do please ask her to email mrmustard@zoho.com as Mr Mustard would love to see the correspondence.

The council seem to have forgotten their duty, so they are even further in the wrong, hard though that is in this case.


Given that the sign was defaced for at least three months the council are failing motorists.

Many people think that traffic wardens have targets (which they don't but don't go back to the depot after an 8 hour shift not having issued a single PCN if you want to keep your job) but you do have to wonder what the imperative is to issue needless wrongful PCNs. There can only be one answer.

It's all about the money.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

16 August 2021

Brent Council - zero common sense

Mr B had the misfortune to have his car broken into and his blue badge taken. His car is over 20 years old so after having spoken to his insurers he decided to pay for his own repairs as it was, taking into account future premiums, the most economical solution. He reported this to the police who issued a crime reference number but said they don't send a written confirmation.

The day after the theft, Mr B received a PCN outside his home because he didn't (couldn't in fact) display a blue badge and the arrangements for such an instance aren't helpful as they involve a long wait for a replacement. Mr B ended up paying for a residents permit for 3 months. Mr Mustard has to make enquiries of Brent to see what policy and procedure they have for this kind of case, sadly all too common, which complies with their duty under the Equality Act. They seem only to have punishments and not much help.

Mr B (acting by a family member) made a challenge over the internet, which is beyond Mr B's capabilities, but got rejected, twice, and the miserable letter from Brent Council contains the following.


The challenges made prior to that letter included the following statements:

I did not claim the glass replacement via the insurance as I was advised that this would significantly increase my insurance premium

and

The Crime was reported and I was given a Crime reference number CAD****, I contacted the police and was informed no documents are provided, just a CAD should suffice.

What did the car look like when the CEO photographed it, the day after the theft? Like this:

Why do Brent Council need any paperwork at all, they have collected evidence of the car windows being smashed in for themselves?

Why also do they ask for proof in the way of documents that they have already been told are not available?

Why are they so unhelpful to a disabled person?

Why do they not make due adjustment under the Equality Act?

Why do they fail to serve the public? Could it be that they want to help themselves to money out of the wallet of a poor, disabled pensioner?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard