25 April 2023

Islington blunder but recover well

Mr Mustard has a regular client, let us call him Mr L, who, due to working all over London collects a few PCNs. If Mr Mustard can find an angle, he fights them. Every PCN won is £50 to the North London Hospice. This time Mr L, who is good at paperwork, said he had received a Charge Certificate but not the postal PCN for driving where he shouldn't have. Mr Mustard knows that Mr L and his secretary are well organised so he could believe what they said.

The charge certificate was dated 8 March.

The PCN was supposedly sent on 9 February.

The above explanation was wishful thinking. A Charge Certificate can only be served if 28 days have elapsed from the service of the PCN, if a PCN has not been sent then the Charge Certificate isn't lawful and is good grounds for cancellation of the PCN. Islington looked like they were trying to get away with it but were forced to change their minds by circumstances.

Mr Mustard made a challenge, it was a simple but effective one:

The PCN value was quietly set to zero without a formal Notice of Acceptance (Mr Mustard checks balances weekly).

Mr Mustard also made a request for information and that has been responded to, as follows:

Islington cancelled once the extent of the problem became clear, they couldn't cope with their phone lines melting.

The end.

23 April 2023

PCNs should not be more important than everything else in life.


The image is of a Cone snail. Slow moving but highly venomous and used here to represent Ealing Council.

Councils all over London now make huge amounts of money from issuing PCNs and they are run as semi-automatic, relentless, unforgiving, money making machines. Humanity, common-sense, proportionality, good manners all often go missing and PCNs take on lives of their own. To council staff and their outsourcing agents they are just numbers on pieces of paper, real lives don't get considered.

Mr Mustard receives requests for help from all corners of London and via various methods; personal recommendation, prior assistance, a chance conversation, via people's work colleagues, because he was on the TV once and as he contributes to web forums. One such case came his way on 12 April when he read of a PCN issued in May 2021 which was still rumbling along. He offered to deal with the matter and was instructed on 13 April. The motorist had kept everything even though they would have been entitled to throw it all in the bin on the grounds that Ealing Council appeared to have abandoned the PCN.

Here is the history.

3 May 21: The driver, let us call them Mrs X, drove past a 'no motor vehicles' sign. Mr Mustard has some arguments about signage but this was one location which Ealing Council has since abandoned, along with many others, because of resident backlash so there hadn't been many tribunal cases to assist Mr Mustard with winning arguments.

19 May 21: A £130 PCN was sent by post but not received.

5 July 21: A Charge Certificate was issued for £195. 

6 July 21: Mrs X wrote in saying she had not received the PCN.

1 December 21: A standard 'you are too late' non-reply was sent along with a number of Frequently Asked Questions and their responses which leaves Mrs X to try and answer her own question. It is lazy and unhelpful. The letter said that if she hadn't paid within 14 days the council would register the PCN as a debt at Northampton County Court. This when they knew that the PCN had not been served so they were taking advantage of Mrs X. Every document is based on the presumption of the previous one having been served, which they knew had not happened.

The year 2022: Nothing at all was received by Mrs X. Any reasonable person would think the matter was at an end. The council are under a duty to act with reasonable expedition. Doing naff all for a year isn't reasonable but to the council a PCN is as good as cash and they want it.

15 February 23: Ealing sent another standard letter which was in similar form to the one of 15 February 23. Again, it said they would register the PCN as a debt debt in 14 days if still unpaid. These letters also mention bailiffs. They do not contain a clear explanation of the Statutory Declaration procedure.

Did Ealing wait 14 days? No.

18 February 23: Ealing Council registered the PCN as a debt. Mrs X asked for help on the PePiPoo web forum

21 February: Mrs X swore a Statutory Declaration at Willesden County Court.

27 February: Northampton County Court, who deal with all PCN debt registrations, rewound the process to the start.

9 March 23: Ealing wrote to Mrs X saying they were going to send a fresh PCN. They couldn't resist poking her in the eye about sending another charge certificate and registering the PCN as a debt at Court if she did nothing. This is outrageous bullying, the lady has not been in a position once to exercise her right to make representations, except out of time which Ealing could have considered but wrongly said they were 'unable' to when they meant 'unwilling' to.

10 March 23: Fresh PCN issued by post.

17 March 23: Mrs X challenges the PCN on the grounds of unreasonable delay on the part of the council and mentions the oft quoted case of Davis v Kensington & Chelsea which adjudicators usually follow the logic of. She wrote that she had no recollection of 3 May 2021 (nor does Mr Mustard as it was the May Day bank holiday. He went for a walk at Ashridge the day before and helped move furniture the day after as they are in his diary, but for that day nothing. Mr Mustard suspects that almost no-one would know what they were doing unless it was a major event).

Note: When a motorist starts quoting previous adjudication decisions at a council that council ought to stop and realise they are facing a motorist who is well informed and likely to take them to the tribunal. Not their way, Ealing Council want the money too much so reject perfectly reasonable representations.

6 April 23: Ealing reject the representations. They waffled on about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (missing the irony that they took most of them out, including this one). They claimed they had to be fair, correct and consistent and cancelling this PCN would set a precedent. That was absolute tosh, each PCN has to be considered on its own merits. Adjudicators are not bound by their previous decisions, let alone councils.

13 April 23: Mrs X instructs Mr Mustard as her representative on the usual basis that eh charges absolutley nothing for his help and if the PCN gets cancelled a donation is made directly to the North London Hospice.

15 April 23: Mr Mustard started the Appeal to the independent adjudicator. Here are the simple grounds he started with:

Ealing Council have now incurred the £25 tribunal fee.

18 April 23: The tribunal register the Appeal and notify Ealing Council.

20 April 23: Ealing Council throw in the towel and cancel the PCN. 

Even in their response they have to poke Mrs X in the eye twice more, once about it being a contravention (that has not been tested, it was still an alleged contravention if an adjudicator had not considered it) and secondly that a two year delay didn't set a precedent for cancellation for any similar or additional PCNs. (Ealing have Mrs X's vehicle registration and so know if there are any more PCNs. They know full well that any other moribund PCNs are more likely than not going to be expunged by an independent adjudicator).

22 April 23: Mrs X was delighted with the outcome. Her daughter had been helping her and this is what she emailed to Mr Mustard.

Mr Mustard is always pleased when the people he has helped make donations to the Hospice and/or to PePiPoo in grateful thanks and that is all the reward he needs.

Council staff need to think a bit harder about what they are doing to people. If they had to sit at a desk opposite people, real human beings, and tell them that their representations, perfectly reasonable ones, ones with track records of success, were being refused they would struggle to do it and the miserable, mercenary, monstrous, machiavellian maladministration which the general public currently has to endure, would abate.

Think about it council parking staff, you are dealing with real people. You may behave like automatons but you are affecting real lives.

The end.

17 April 2023

Making up the rules in Bexley & Bromley

The Lord Chancellor went to a lot of trouble to write Regulations (laws) which define how the issue and enforcement of Penalty Charge Notices are to be processed. 96% of local authorities have moved onto this civil enforcement system which started in 2004. The Regulations include circumstances in which a PCN can be registered at the County Court as a debt and enforced by a certificated bailiff.

What the Regulations don't include is any role for Solicitors (apart from acting as a representative & without legal costs being payable except very rarely) in the process. Indeed, adjudicators undertake the judicial role of deciding if a PCN is payable or not, should you wish to contest a PCN.

This makes for a streamlined, well known and cost effective system of issuing & chasing millions of PCNs each year. The tribunal system in particular is quick and there is only a maximum of £30 in fees for the local authority to pay per PCN, about £5 less if they do everything on line. The county court would take longer, cost more and be less motorist friendly. Currently any motorist can take their argument to the tribunal (in person or by phone or on the papers alone) and not need to know any law as the adjudicator is independent and will cancel the PCN if the rules have not been followed e.g. if signage is not good enough.

It was at the end of March that Mr Mustard's attention was drawn to a letter before Claim by Gladstones Solicitors (who are well known for issuing Court claims for private parking charges which are correctly enforceable in the County Court) sent to a motorist who supposedly owed the London Borough of Bromley £129 from a PCN issued in August 2021. From the balance we know it was an £80 PCN to which a 50% uplift had been applied and then the £9 fee to register the debt with the County Court which allows for a warrant to be issued to a bailiff. Mr Mustard has the email address of a manager at Bromley Council so he fired a few questions at him and they got turned into a Freedom of Information request. The answers will be out early in May at the latest (hopefully).

One of the questions was if Bromley knew of any other council doing the same. He didn't have long to wait as another Gladstones letter crossed his desk. This time on behalf of Bexley Council which wasn't a surprise as parking is a shared enterprise across the two councils. Again the balance was £129 but this time Mr Mustard was instructed to act so he has more facts.

The PCN was issued on 8 October 2019

It was issued to a Romanian lorry.

Not many people know that the combination of letters and numbers is the same in England and Romania. Mr Mustard knew this from a previous case which was blogged about here.

(Bexley recorded the vehicle as a MANN)

There was, as luck (bad) would have it a DVLA registered vehicle of the same registration at that time. It was a Fiat Punto but was scrapped in November 2019.

The keeper lived in Tameside and had not been to Crabtree Manorway North (in Belvedere within the borough of Bexley) which is a road which serves industrial premises, the lorry being parked there is understandable.

In addition the keeper had not received any correspondence from Bexley Council and has not moved address since the date of the PCN.

Mr Mustard has asked Gladstones for a copy of their instructions. Mr Mustard also told Gladstones that any claim would be defended on the grounds of chasing the wrong party and as an abuse of process.

Mr Mustard has also asked London Councils if they know what Bromley and Bexley are up to.

Mr Mustard has also asked Bexley Council some searching questions. They have turned them into a Subject Access Request as they relate to a particular PCN rather than PCNs in general. Mr Mustard also asked Bexley to cancel the instructions to Gladstones Solicitors.

Having sent that request on Friday Mr Mustard checked the balance on Saturday and it was zero on the Bexley Council computer.

Mr Mustard would be delighted to act for anybody who has received a letter from Gladstones Solicitors on behalf of a council in London.

Mr Mustard does not act in private parking charge cases, only council, TfL etc.

The end.

11 April 2023

Spot the car - easier than Spot the ball, except in Barnet

Here is a parked car (the driver was enagaged in assisted alighting i.e. helping someone to the car who can't walk alone but the reason for parking is irrelevant if the PCN is factually wrong).

Here is the sign you can see in the background

Now part of the allegation shown on the PCN

The challenge made by Mr Mustard to the PCN (there are two more chances later in which the same argument will be advanced)

Simple and obviously correct.

Barnet Council say not.

The council also had their own photograph taken from behind the car at which the line between Sheridan Walk and Temple Fortune Lane is clearly shown.

Wilful blindness shouldn't be council policy but the desperate urge to collect a Penalty Charge at any cost leads to dishonest and dishonourable behaviour.

Many motorists would believe a council and pay up but Mr Mustard knows they lie their socks off for money and isn't easily put off. See you at the tribunal Barnet Council if you are dishonest enough to reject again at the next stage.

The end.