4 August 2021

The Truth, not the whole truth & nothing but the truth

Mr Mustard was approached by a motorist (let us call him Mr R) who had paid £2.56 at the parking meter but didn't receive a receipt to put in their dashboard. They phoned the number on the meter which is there to report such problems but it wasn't answered by a person, it merely offered Mr R the option to PayByPhone but he had already paid (the transaction showing on his bank account online) so he wasn't going to do it again.

Once Mr R returned to his car it was adorned with a PCN for not paying to park. He challenged the PCN on line on the grounds that he had paid to park and provided the relevant part of his bank statement. His informal challenge (the name given to the first objection to an on street PCN) was rejected and contained the following statement, which Mr Mustard found to be rather curious:

Mr Mustard took a look at the machine. It is a Flowbird machine. Mr Mustard did some research into the company and found they have a marvellous all singing all dancing piece of back office software called Cale Web Office, or CWO, that tells you all you need to know. Here is a little flavour of the functionality.

Mr Mustard emailed one of the parking managers and queried whether the highlighted paragraph was, in effect, the whole truth and the answer, after a bit of nudging, was that it wasn't and that 

The matter you have highlighted regarding the comment in the letter of refusal 09/07/2021, has been raised with the officers supervisor as you aware that certain information is retained by the council for payment and audit purposes. They may mean that the actual P&D machine does not retain information (which would be correct), but would like to establish exactly what they were referring too and ensure that this officer is assessed for any additional training requirements that may be required.

which tells Mr Mustard, between the lines, that the manager wasn't really happy either. As it happens the PCN isn't being cancelled as the other wrong, which the motorist didn't tell Mr Mustard at the start, was that he over-stayed the time he had paid for on the rather weak grounds that he didn't know when the time expired. He had the time he phoned up about the meter and knew that he had paid for one hour so Mr Mustard isn't happy with his client either. As it happens the PCN isn't for over-staying and the manager & Mr Mustard don't agree if the alleged contravention stated on the PCN is applicable or not. An adjudicator will end up deciding this one. Mr Mustard doesn't think the adjudicator will warm to the council based upon what they have written.

Mr Mustard didn't query this paragraph but it is equally dubious.

On what day are the machines at the location in good working order, the day of writing or the day of the problem. Why is the writer referring to machines when the only matter of importance is the one at which payment was made. Has the writer produced the fault log? No, of course not. These machines can probably tell the council if a receipt was actually printed or not, it warns them when the paper roll will run out soon.

According to the council Mr R must stand at the machine until a 'ticket' (receipt) is dispensed. That would now be 37 days, doesn't seem like very sound advice. Wait a minute which would seem like an eternity and then phone the help line which the council didn't bother to answer is what happened, that is reasonable behaviour. If referring to guidelines the council should produce them.

Well this is outsourcing for you, management, who are not criticised as they always reply civilly to Mr Mustard, are completely in the dark about what gets written in their name some 550 miles away in another country. Not likely to be able to drop in and do a spot check of back office processing without a 3 day trip.

Mr Mustard did think about popping in, with permission, to see the folk who write so often to him when he was cycling from Land's End to John O'Groats but it was a tough day, 60 miles in the rain that day & it is really steep climbing out of Dingwall. Mr Mustard was fortified by a new comestible for lunch in Deas tearoom in Dingwall, a macaroni pie which is macaroni cheese in a hot water crust pastry, perfect for that day's cycling and it got him up the huge hill without pushing.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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