31 January 2021

Redbridge - ridiculous PCNs in Barley Lane IG3

Readers may have seen Mr Musatrd's tweet about Mr Audi and his pavement parking PCN. Mr Mustard was a bit busy when he told Mr Audi not to leave his car on the pavement, hadn't studied all the facts, didn't anticipate that Redbridge Council would have completely lashed up but the advice he gave that roads are for cars and pavements are for pedestrians was generally sound. He told Mr Audi not to put his wheels on the pavement unless there were marked bays. He has now had to add 'or signs'.

Here are all the blue footway parking allowed signs on Mr Audi's side of Barley Lane.







This is the sign as it appears in the law

So now you have to ask yourself how & why 3 cars in a row where ticketed one after the other and there was a blue pavement parking allowed sign adjacent to the boot of one of the cars, the traffic warden can hardly have missed it and has probably, on his scooter, passed half a dozen signs along Barley Lane to where he stopped. This is one of them


One option is the traffic warden is new and missed the signs.

More likely in Mr Mustard's opinion is that the traffic warden thought the cars were too far onto the pavement due to the layout, you see tarmac at the kerb rather than slabs. When called to out of the window the traffic warden sped off on his scooter and didn't ticket numerous other cars which were similarly parked.

You cannot be given (well not legally) a PCN for failing to comply with a requirement that is not communicated to you although as pavement parking in London is against the law (except where it is allowed) you are deemed to know that. If Redbridge Council want to limit the extent to which you put your car on the pavement then they need to get their paint brush out and paint bays, like this one outside Mr Mustard's favourite bakery in Enfield (an old photo as Mr Mustard wanted to show you clear markings, the shop is now a lovely shade of light blue).

Unfortunately, three motorists have now been put to the trouble of making challenges on line and Mr Mustard has drafted a complaint about the traffic warden.

If pavement parking is permitted where you are, please leave ample room for a wheelchair to get by.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

27 January 2021

Is this car parked in breach of a loading ban?

 



This car belongs to a blue badge holder, you can't see the badge but just accept it is there for the purposes of this question. You can see a PCN.

Is the car parked in defiance of a loading prohibition?

In case you don't know blue badge holders can park for 3 hours on double yellow lines unless loading is banned, which is conveyed by double marks across the kerb (the sign although a useful reminder is not legally necessary).

27 January 2021 - Time for Mr Mustard to tell you what he thought about the situation.

23 January 2021

LTNs - diversionary tactics

In an effort to reduce the number of cars committing a contravention in Warwick Road, N11, or perhaps partly because Mr Mustard won his tribunal case when there was only one low sign, there are now 3 signs in Warwick Road; that helps, provided you know what the sign means in the first place.


Now, let us suppose you are not simply a commuter trying to take the quickest route and finding that Brownlow Road (the B106) is backed up so you take the convenient alternative but someone who has good cause to be in the Warwick Road area, you might be visiting elderly family with a food parcel or a friend in Union Rd (your bubble) or you are a home delivery driver, collecting a sick person for a day care visit to the hospice or even dropping off a skip like the one in the picture, you just have to visit the northern part of Warwick Road.

You get there, you understand the signs and now you have a problem. A diversion isn't posted. Mr Mustard has highlighted in yellow the two alternative routes, to the west and the east. These routes are ones which you can take without having to make a u-turn as on busy London roads they are more dangerous than mostly left turns (which would be Mr Mustard's preference) or mostly right turns

Here is the area in question:

The yellow highlighter shows the ridiculous routes you have to take in order to get to a point just 1m from where you were 20 minutes previously. The green lines are ones you can take in order to avoid the no left at Bounds Green tube as by taking them you are going straight over, not left. Better to use the longer one as the short one is narrow and may be used by drivers coming up Brownlow Road who aren't allowed to turn right so they may take this route.

Mr Mustard cycled them both as if he was in a car so (apart from using the pavement some of the time, whether shared use or not, as he was respectful of the rights of pedestrians) he followed the signs as applicable to motor vehicles (except at the end when he went between the no motor vehicles signs). His camera didn't have a long enough recording time so part of the eastern route got recorded over, here is the western route via Arnos Grove tube station.

 

 

 

As it happens Mr Mustard lived in Warwick Road over 40 years ago.  He was in a  bedsit, he bought a BSA B40 from the milkman, a milkman who would now have to go on a huge round trip in order to put a pint bottle on the step.

Mr Mustard is both a car driver and a cyclist and thus neutral on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods so this blog post isn't intended to start a bunfight between car drivers and cyclists but is simply to highlight the problems caused by the lack of a posted alternative route. It would be of great benefit if the alternative route was posted to help those who do have business in the street. The council could start by exempting 'for access' and putting every resident in this block on the 'white list' so they don't get ticketed by the cctv camera and can take the shortest route home, avoid traffic jams and cut their pollution contribution.

Mr Mustard thinks there are better ways of fixing the cut through problem, he doesn't like the pejorative 'rat run' label, if the road is open, everyone is entitled to use it.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

22 January 2021

Barnet Council staff mostly not from Barnet

A huge amount of data hits Mr Mustard's desk every day about Barnet Council. He only has so much free time so has to be a little selective about what he spends time blogging about. Years ago Mr Mustard had thought that having, for example, staff (or tax avoiding consultants) with Peterborough or Hampshire addresses was really not necessary as with a population of over 300,000 the council ought to be able to find sufficient home grown talent without going outside the borough except for the occasional specialist role. Clearly someone else is interested in the topic as they asked under the Freedom of Information legislation and here is the answer they received:

You can readily see that exactly 40% of the staff live within the borough of Barnet. It isn't good for staff to have to travel a long way to work (although many people are now working from home, which would be an interesting follow up question) and it is bad for the planet.

What struck Mr Mustard is that none of the really senior management team, 13 staff with grades 1 to 5, live within the Borough. Mr Mustard can't help but think that they would feel the impact of their decisions more, and perhaps not take some of them, if they lived in and experienced what the borough is actually like to live in, they don't know.

Please make your own comments in the box below.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

20 January 2021

Haringey Council - short of yellow paint, common sense and good manners

 

Followers of Mr Mustard on twitter (@_MrMustard) saw this photograph back in October when Mr Mustard suggested the kerb marks were not substantially complaint i.e. not good enough for the legal issue of a PCN. A blue badge holder missed the one very worn pair of lines across the kerb and got ticketed for their pains. The rules for these transverse marking is they should be every 3m (but can vary from 2m to 4m so they are evenly spaced) so that there will always be at least one alongside the car.

It was wrong of the traffic warden to issue a PCN in the first place as no reasonable person would think, even if they saw the one faded pair, that the loading (and hence blue badge) restriction was still in force when you contrast the transverse marking with the pristine double yellow no waiting lines. Why weren't they repainted at the same time?

So here is the chronology with relevant extracts from the documents.

18 October - PCN placed on the car.

20 October - Informal challenge made.

The kerb marks which indicate ‘no loading’ and thus no blue badge parking are all but gone in stark contrast to the perfect double yellow lines. Given the lack of substantial compliance and thus the failure to adequately inform me of the restriction, the PCN should be cancelled (and the kerb marks repainted in order to not catch out disabled motorists).

22 October - Challenge rejected.

24 November - Notice to Owner issued.

26 November - Formal representations.

The kerb marks which indicate ‘no loading’ and thus no blue badge parking are all but gone in stark contrast to the perfect double yellow lines. Given the lack of substantial compliance and thus the failure to adequately inform me of the restriction, the PCN should be cancelled (and the kerb marks repainted in order to not catch out disabled motorists).

30 November - Notice of Rejection

8 December - Appeal started. Hearing date set for 13 January. Evidence must be served no later than 3 clear days beforehand.

The kerb marks are not substantially compliant.

31 December - Charge Certificate issued.

8 January - Extra ground added to the Appeal.


11 January - Haringey email the evidence (when postal service had been stipulated).

It contained the following:


Mr Mustard doesn't usually let an untruth go unchallenged in a case summary so his skeleton argument included the following:

(EA = Enforcement Authority = Haringey Council)

Here is what the independent adjudicator made of it

Haringey Council said the law wasn't what Mr Mustard said it was and then got told by the Adjudicator that the law they said they hadn't breached was precisely the one they had breached. Did they not understand? or did they think they could bluff Mr Mustard and more importantly the Adjudicator?

(The state of the kerb marks didn't even need to be considered as the council's case was dead in the water the moment they issued the Charge Certificate in error).

If a motorist make the tiniest mistake councils, like Haringey, pounce on them and relentlessly purse a penalty charge.

If Haringey Council make a serious error they want it to just be ignored. How can that be equitable? It certainly isn't justice, it is an abuse of their powers and bad manners. If Mr Mustard sent a demand in his old day job of debt collection to the wrong party, as he did a couple of times, and it was pointed out to him, he sent a fulsome apology to the wronged party.

When did it become acceptable in council PCN back offices to not show basic decency? An apology goes a long way.

The other question is: what lies are the council telling to motorists who don't have Mr Mustard's detailed knowledge of PCN law which leads them to pay a PCN which should really be fought?

Until councils don't have a vested interest in PCN income, they are usually going to be biased towards upholding PCNs no matter how dodgy as they want to keep the cash flowing.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

14 January 2021

TfL - South of the River - no chance


A friend of Mr Mustard's received a PCN in the post. Let us call her Miss A. Here it is, suitably redacted.

Where is Borough Road? Not far from Elephant and Castle, clearly south of the river. Miss A was confused, she knew she had been a bit lost but she never crossed The Thames being on her way to the Barbican and not having realised that the congestion charge now applied from 7am to 10pm every day except Christmas Day. Now she may have been guilty of straying into the congestion charge zone in north London but that isn't the alleged contravention so Mr Mustard assured her that, in the end, she wouldn't have to pay and not to drive into town again without paying the charge first (she was taking a friend with poor mobility with her so needed the car).

After a little research Mr Mustard found this tribunal decision for Borough Road from August 2019 and it wasn't the only time the location had been queried:

Mr Mustard made the formal representations to the effect that the car never went south of the river that day hence the contravention, as alleged, didn't occur.

He also noticed this legend at the top of a photograph

so here we have a camera that isn't fixed but can be moved about, all it needs is for someone to update the camera database as to the location.

Instead of either accepting or rejecting the representations, TFL sent a letter, to assist them i.e. to hinder you!
 


Mr Mustard wasn't born yesterday and certainly wasn't going to have Miss A file a false affidavit that she was not within the zone at the time, although she didn't know where she was at that precise minute, the vehicle wasn't cloned and he didn't have proof that the vehicle was at a different location so he sent the following, there being no legal obligation to reply at all, an inconvenient fact that TfL forgot to mention:

Needless to say a Notice of Rejection duly followed and here are some snippets from it:

What sort of witness statement is a person meant to provide except one that they wrote and signed themselves? Mr Mustard doesn't understand what TfL are saying here and merely notes that it would bother a member of the public who might think they have done something wrong and pay up.

TfL made the untrue statement that the photograph is in the Borough Road, they clearly didn't compare street view images to their own ones. The cctv probably also includes latitude (TfL don't give you any latitude) and longitude.


TfL confirm their own evidential record is accurate when Mr Mustard knows full well that it isn't. People believe what enforcement authorities write to them about PCNs, it should be the truth, not clearly false.


TfL write far too much, most of which is irrelevant to the very simple representations. This would put most people off, Mr Mustard isn't most people. Amazing that they researched the optimum number and best locations for cameras but don't know where this one is! In addition, they claim the representation was about 'mitigating factors' which is not correct, it was a head on challenge to the facts i.e. the alleged contravention did not occur. TfL also claim to have fully considered all the circumstances - poppycock.

Mr Mustard started an Appeal to an independent adjudicator at London Tribunals (Road User Charging Adjudicators), he didn't hold back:

The 2001 regulations require that a PCN contains, inter alia, the following:

Which must include a statement of where, given the size of the zone, the alleged contravention took place.

TfL made the allegation that the car was in Borough Road.

When the location was challenged, rather than prove it, TfL required the Appellant to disprove it, which is rather to put the cart before the horse. Miss A doesn’t know where her car was at HH:mm except that it was somewhere in North London. She may well, in which case, have strayed into the zone but she doesn’t have to incriminate herself even if she knew where she was at the precise time of the allegation.

It is unhelpful of TfL to fail to make the cctv available, unlike pretty much all enforcement authorities in London, until the tribunal stage. Had the cctv been available I might have been able to work out the location but from the rather poor still photographs it simply isn’t possible.

It is wrong of TfL to refuse to accept a ‘self-signed statement’ as a witness statement. I have no idea what they find unacceptable given that the witness statement contained a statement of truth and written falsehoods are liable to liable to prosecution and a fine of up to £5,000 (I think TfL’s PCN is wrong on page 4 where it says, in terms, that a fine upon conviction will be £5,000 not up to £5,000 which seems more likely. That is to put unfair pressure on the signatory.)

TfL state that their camera did correctly capture the vehicle in Borough Rd. I note that the photos are headed with ‘LEZ Transportable CAM T794’ and what I surmise has happened to this transportable camera is that it was transported to another location and no-one updated the camera location database. This hypothesis is supported by the decisions 9190468543 and 9200039172 in both of which the vehicle was found not to have been in Borough Road. TfL’s system is clearly not reliable.

I question the legality of TfL’s whole approach in this case. The Regulations require that they consider representations (Regulation 13) and serve notice of acceptance or otherwise, there is no legislated right to engage the accused in correspondence and then dismiss it on grounds that were not advanced i.e. at no point was the question of cloning raised as all along it was thought that this was a camera location error.

The council are put to strict proof of the physical location of their camera on the date and at the time in question (which should be easy for them given they claim to have thoroughly researched the potential locations).

The Notice of Rejection is unfairly long for an Appellant acting without a representative. It contains many probably standard paragraphs of no relevance to the advanced representations. TfL claim their evidential Record is accurate but have not produced correlating photographs of Borough Road to show that.

The Notice of Rejection is also confusing in that in one paragraph it says ‘You should now make payment’ and in the next ‘If you wish to Appeal’ without making it clear that they are options.

TfL fetter their discretion and over-state their powers when they say they will apply to the County Court to recover the charges. TfL should follow the wording in Regulation 18 which means they should say they ‘may, if a county court so orders, recover the increased charge...’. Their approach is a bullying one, unbecoming of an enforcement authority.

13 January 2021

Newham Council - white paint shortage & other problems

A friend of Mr Mustard's, let us call him Mr L, received a PCN for being in a disabled bay, he isn't that sort of chap and was the victim of innocent error thanks to the paucity of the white lines.

He was parked at the zig zag end of the bay, the bay you can barely see:

This sign was alongside to the left but why would you look for it when you know you are within the PN zone as you live nearby (Portway E15)


Looking back on google street view we have these lovely pictures from 2015, the bay is pristine and was before the residents bays were introduced

Then by 2018, the lines had become worn away and pristine residents bays are in evidence (lazy and unhelpful not to repaint the other bay at the same time)
 

and here is the latest satellite view


which makes clear how unclear the separate bays are.

It is precisely this sort of unreasonable and predatory PCN which gives traffic wardens and councils a deservedly bad reputation. It is no consolation that there is a system of challenge, the PCN should not have been issued in the first place or a warning PCN for zero (you rarely see those) would have done the job of bringing the bay to Mr L's attention, the way the missing lines should have done. Mr L has had to waste an hour of his life getting photographs and emailing Mr Mustard who in his turn has spent an hour in research and making the informal challenge.

Until this sort of malicious nonsense PCN issuing stops the councils won't stop damaging their own reputations.

They won't stop, they need the money.

6 January 2021

PCNs in 2020 - PCNs cancelled once a tribunal Appeal was started

Mr Mustard calls this the towel throwing stage. You won't find that in the PCN Regulations.

What happens is that the enforcement authority, like say Barnet Council, have rejected the formal representations and served a Notice of Rejection. That opens the tribunal door to start an Appeal within 28 days. Mr Mustard starts most of his on line but for TfL they have to be sent by post which is a slight pain.

It seems to Mr Mustard that we are engaged on a game of bluff as having rejected the formal representations and without Mr Mustard adding any new arguments he suddenly finds an enforcement authority throwing in the towel, or getting cold feet, and filing a DNC form which is a notification to the tribunal that they 'Do not Contest' the Appeal and so it will be allowed automatically and the PCN will be cancelled. It does look cynical though for an enforcement authority to reject formal representations and then throw in the towel at the tribunal with the same argument being advanced. A game of bluff perhaps? but Mr Mustard doesn't bluff.

The fee for a tribunal case is about £30 and has to be paid by the enforcement authority even if they throw the towel in on day one. That is £900 burnt in fees instead of accepting Mr Mustard's representations at the formal stage.

Here is a list of the the grounds advanced by Mr Mustard in tribunal cases on which the towel was thrown in during 2020.

19 of these cases were for Barnet, 4 in Harrow, 2 for TfL and one each for Brent, Enfield, Haringey, Newham and Hackney.

It is nearly always the case that Mr Mustard will fight a PCN to the very end as he usually has something solid in the way of an argument. He could still have lost some of the cases if the enforcement authority had created an evidence pack, anything from 30 to 100 pages each time which must take between an hour and 3 hours to prepare.

Why enforcement authorities throw in the towel is a mystery to Mr Mustard but given that the Barnet contract is a fixed price if the contractor NSL doesn't produce the evidence pack they save time and thus money as they can employ fewer staff. Some of the time the case is abandoned because the enforcement authority know they are going to lose, other times because they are too busy in the back office and some are probably abandoned because the enforcement authority knows they are in for some robust argument at the hearing and/or they may not want a weakness in their paperwork to be set in stone by an adverse tribunal decision.

Today the towel was thrown in on a case just 90 minutes before the hearing after Mr Mustard had objected to an adjournment being granted. That will be a blog post quite soon.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

3 January 2021

PCNs in 2020 - challenges accepted at the formal representations stage

 

Formal representations, which can be scribbled on the back of an envelope as long as they contain the PCN number and the name and address of the person to whom the Notice to Owner or postal Penalty Charge Notice was sent, are those which are made in accordance with the stipulations of the relevant Regulations (the law).

Most councils like you to use their on line form, if they have one, or to email them but you should always be given an address to send an old fashioned letter to and in order to comply with the Equality Act a telephone number on which to make verbal representations (councils are very bad at fully embracing, or even at all, the needs of those who cannot, for whatever reason, write or use a computer.

Here are the arguments which Mr Mustard advanced and which were accepted, often with the council saying they didn't agree with him but had used their discretion and cancelled (as if to agree with Mr Mustard would cause them to turn to stone):

Barnet

- Notice to Owner sent to the old address after the council had been notified of a new one.

- Wording error in the moving traffic PCN (now corrected) * 2

- Car not within the suspended area in Mr Mustard's own road and this after an identically worded informal challenge had already, therefore, been wrongly refused.

- Notice to Owner sent a day early.

- Wording error in the Traffic Management Order when it comes to the definition of a loading bay.

- Blue badge was missed.

- Representations not proeprly considered at the informal stage.

- Could have exited the yellow box junction so did not stop due to a stationary vehicle.

- The contravention did not occur as on the opposite side of the road to the school keep clear zig zags (they can count in narrow roads as applying to both sides).

- School zig zags not at an entrance to the school, but at the entrance to a private road which laads to the back entrance.

City of London

- Signs at bank junction not compliant.

Camden

- Notice to Owner sent to the old address after the council had been notified of a new one.

Hackney

- The parking place was carriageway as opposed to footway.

TfL

- Unloading where allowed on a red route, proof supplied.

Haringey

- Formal rejection sent instead of an informal one so offered wrong choices.

- Traffic warden error.

- Had a visitor permit (it was badly scratched)

- Suspension for Covid was excessively long (maximum is 6 months).

Harrow

- The parking place was carriageway as opposed to footway.

- Delay in renewing the blue badge caused by the council itself. * 2

Lambeth

- Forced into the bus lane by oncoming traffic. One questions if the cctv footage was looked at before the PCN was issued.

Wandsworth

- Council cancelled of their own volition on different grounds to those advanced as they took over the legal limit of 56 days to respond, except there wasn't a limit and adjudicators would have allowed up to 90 days for moving traffic PCNs.

- No meter to pay at.

- Signage inadequate, as to where to find the meter.

So there we have it, just 26 cases, the majority of them being decided at the tribunal which you will hear about next.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

 

 

2 January 2021

Looking back at PCNs in 2020 - challenges accepted at the informal stage

The PCN issued in error (the bay wasn't a disabled bay at the weekend but, in effect, a free bay) which brought Mr Mustard into being.

Due to the pandemic Mr Mustard had a quiet year in 2020, with only 130 PCNs being fought by him, far fewer than the 349 he fought at his peak, whilst also working full time and travelling a lot.

Here are the challenges which were made in response to PCNs placed on vehicles, known as 'informal challenges', and which led to cancellations. As you can see, there are only 13 of them and yet the same challenge is usually made at the next stage, formal representations, and accepted. The moral of that story is to plough on if you think you are correct.

Barnet

- The road markings do not mirror the traffic management order.

- The voucher slipped down the windscreen.

- Was not parked within the area which was suspended (the council didn't know their left from their right when describing what was suspended)

- Permit system error

- Loading bay incorrectly defined in the Traffic Management Order

- Unloading

- Asked for kindness for a motorist with cancer.

- Boarding passengers

City of London

- Asked for kindness for blue badge holder who parked in the wrong place (even though blue badges don't apply in the City)

Camden

- First blue badge dispensation error near the hospital (blue badges don't apply in Camden south of Euston Rd)

Haringey

- No photographs of the vehicle

Harrow

Blue badge holder couldn't have been there 3 hours due to time of day so not displaying the clock doesn't matter.

Southwark

Problem with the PayByPhone system

The 50% discount is a thorough nuisance with more people worrying about losing that than whether the contravention actually occurred.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard