28 July 2023

Sweeping into the future


Mr Mustard is a customer of H Firkin & Sons and was delighted to receive this email from them yesterday. If you have a chimney that needs to be swept do give them a whirl, they do a very good job, are always on time, polite and tidy.


Please see this link to read more about our new bike.

This is just a quick update for our customers about a new addition to our fleet, to try to do our bit to ease congestion in London and hopefully make us more efficient when working in certain parts of the capital.

At H Firkins and Sons, we are the first chimney sweeping in company, and according to EAV the E-Bike manufacturer, the first trade company in London to invest in an EAV cargo bike (Others have been massive logistics companies like Amazon and FedEx). We purchased the bike a year ago now in July 2022, but we didn’t make much of a fuss about it as we wanted to first logistically get everything in place to make the most of it, and get used to using it and figure out how much quicker or slower it made our work in certain areas.

It has replaced one of our older, diesel non ULEZ compliant vans.

We have just one favour to ask. To make this work, we need to organise work in smaller geographical areas. If you can help us by booking in your chimney sweeping appointment as far in advance as possible so you can be as flexible as possible, we can keep jobs as local as as we can and go on our bike rather than van.

If we can get work booked far enough in advance and organised well, our hope is we can replace another van with a bike, and soon do the majority of our work using bike rather than a minority.

As a reference, over last winter, Josh Firkins (one of our family chimney sweeps) worked on average 3 out of 5 days on the bike. It wasn’t possible to organise it well enough at this point to fill 5 days for Josh with bike based work, nor was it possible to organise it for the other two vans we have on the road, run by Graham and Darren.

We hope you will support us in this major change to our business, and I hope it demonstrates our willingness to do our bit to invest in reducing the congestion on the roads, reduce our carbon footprint and improve local air quality.

If you wish to make an appointment, please either call 02088869420 or contact us online

Best wishes

H Firkins and Sons - Chimney Sweeps

25 July 2023

Barnet Council - losing track of time.

An interesting and worrying decision yesterday at the tribunal (Mr Mustard looks at random results when he has the time).

Hats off to J A Rattigan

It might have only been the one camera or it could have been all of them but this alleged contravention was a week after the clocks went forward so every single PCN had the wrong time on it and can be beaten. An honest council would go back and unilaterally cancel them all, and issue refunds, but somehow Mr Mustard doubts that will happen. This is why we need an ombudsman or similar who could direct an enforcement authority to behave morally and legally. There is no current mechanism to deal with this sort of error, it is up to each person and not everyone has Mr Mustard's willingness to fight petty officialdom.


24 July 2023

What is empathy?

Mr Mustard found the question harder to answer than he at first supposed. He has seen many letters from Barnet Council in which they say they empathise and then they mercilessly stick the boot in so he thought that the words were hollow.

He looked up 'empathy' in his Concise Oxford and the definition there means that the writer identified mentally with the motorist (and so fully comprehended their situation). Having so identified they then refuse the plea for mercy although Mr Mustard thought that having shown empathy they would have to be kind, it seems he is wrong about that.

Mr Mustard can't see the point of it anyway. The law says the council has to consider the representations (challenge) which was made and then say if they agree with it or not. There is no requirement to empathise, sympathise or show any feeling whatsoever.

Here is the challenge which was made.

Clearly difficult circumstances which could be verified if there was any doubt by a doctor at the surgery in question.

Here is Barnet Council's response.

There is needless repetition here. The motorist told the council that payment was made for the wrong vehicle so why do they tell him that? The council are correct that if the PCN goes missing from the windscreen it has been validly served. Years ago PCNs went missing a lot (Mr Mustard suspected traffic wardens were serving then removing the PCNs in order to prevent the discount being taken, then missing PCNs stopped and now it seems they have started again).

Barnet Council state that the PCN is valid. That wasn't doubted by the motorist. What was being requested was a goodwill cancellation. That has not been granted and the reasoning is because a contravention occurred, one which the motorist agreed had occurred, the PCN won't be cancelled, so this is something of a Kafkaesque refusal.

Mr Mustard found this explanation of Empathy.

If the council (and a body corporate doesn't have feelings so it must be the writer who we take to be a human being and not AI, although doubtless that is the future) have cognitive empathy they aren't distressed by what the motorist suffered and can reject the representations without feeling anything. That appears to be the only type of empathy that fits the refusal letter.
Mr Mustard doesn't think the council have emotional empathy because the motorist is regarded simply as a PCN reference, they aren't a real person, the writer and the recipient will never meet. All letters from Barnet Council are sent out in the name of a manager but he can't possibly write or even see them all so there is a distance between the writer and the letter in any event.
There clearly isn't compassionate empathy as that would probably lead the writer to cancel the PCN.
Having decided that, by definition, a type of empathy has been shown, but not the type that most readers of this type of letter would think, they would most probably think of sympathy, kindness and understanding which would lead to a favourable outcome, Mr Mustard thinks it would perhaps be better if this often seen standard phrase in Notices of Rejection was deleted from the library of standard responses. It is a word that clearly doesn't have a plain meaning.
Mr Mustard does have simple, easily understood words for what he thinks of the attitude of Barnet Council in this case, a council that has not had any revenue loss by the understandable error which was made.

The council is:







Feel free to add your own epithets.

Even though the motorist did make an error Mr Mustard has taken up the Appeal to an independent adjudicator at the tribunal. An adjudicator is not allowed by law to cancel a PCN due to mitigating circumstances, a fact of which enforcement authorities often remind motorists who are contemplating an Appeal, but they can for procedural impropriety. Mr Mustard is good at finding those, if they exist, and one does in this case. An Appeal has been started.


14 July 2023

Havering Council gives itself a pointless kicking

A 'school street' traffic order restricts access to this crescent in Harold Hill at school opening and closing times. That is because, Mr Mustard thinks, there is a rear access point to the school from this probably otherwise quiet crescent.

A Havering Council entered the crescent and was sent a PCN by, wait for it, Havering Council.

The council have redacted the vehicle registration but it is already in the public domain, so that was stupid and pointless.

Mr Mustard asked to see the formal representations and here they are.

Fire inspections could be planned around the banned times. An emergency plumber wouldn't be able to enter the crescent in a dire emergency because he can't obtain a permit in minutes. The emergency would have to wait. Clearly there would be no sympathy from the council if you were an emergency plumber. Stick your finger in the pipe Mrs until 9am and then I will be along! Similarly your home deliveries of food or groceries and parcels generally will have to be delivered at other times.

Mr Mustard doesn't see a 'block' in that crescent, just lots of semi-detached houses.

Guess what, Havering Council rejected Havering Council's representations as no proof was supplied.

The Notice of Rejection was improper in asking for proof to be provided at that stage. This is what an adjudicator held in a Redbridge case:

Havering Council had to make a decision Havering Council's representation as it stood when made. The Havering Council employee who received the Notice of Rejection did the right thing, he/she started an Appeal at London Tribunals which cost Havering Council a £25 fee.

Once received Havering Council discontinued the Appeal against itself as it sent itself further information. The reason was given as 'The evidence requested in the Notice of Rejection was provided to the tribunal.'

Mr Mustard thinks this whole episode was an exercise in futility. Had Havering Council won, Havering Council would have had to pay itself for the PCN.

Mr Mustard also asked the number of PCNs that Havering Council sent itself in the year to 31 March 2023. The answer was 110.

The council is 110 times stupid.

The end.

9 July 2023

Honesty and parking - words rarely seen in the same sentence.


Puller Road in Chipping Barnet is old. The cottages on the right date from 1869 when the horse and cart were transport of the day. You can find old photographs of Barnet here.

Mr Mustard has worked in High / Chipping Barnet since 1987 and his time here pre-dates the controlled parking restrictions in the town. He knows that 'traffic wardens' have a list of locations in which they do not issue PCNs for parking partially on the foot way / pavement. Mr Mustard is certain that Puller Road, Clifford Road and Sebright Road are such locations due to how narrow they are.

Needless to say a resident of Puller Road received a PCN.

Here is the alleged contravention (from the Notice to Owner)

The challenge to the PCN was duly submitted

A bang on correct challenge. Yes, it was rejected and in as sanctimonious a manner as is usual:

Supported and advised by Mr Mustard and other experts on PePiPoo the resident stood firm and waited for the Notice to Owner.

Once it arrived the formal representations were submitted by Mr Mustard:

Later on Mr Mustard realised that he had only seen the data for 3 months but the lack of PCNs for pavement parking was still evident, that manner of parking clearly being tolerated. Not though, according to the council, in their parallel universe:

Mr Mustard had an ace card up his sleeve and therefore an Appeal was started at the tribunal, the home of the independent Environment and Traffic Adjudicator. Pretty quickly the council decided to to do not contest the Appeal and the PCN was cancelled (after refusing to do so twice previously). What was it that caused a change of heart? Being right royally caught out, that is what. This document, obtained using Freedom of Information legislation ran a coach and horses through the council's rejections.

This response should be on the council website of FOI responses but isn't, goodness knows why, perhaps because it will cost them money if the public know the truth?

What you can glean from this blog post is that if the council think you don't know what they are up to they will happily feed you a load of old baloney in order to collect the money for an invalid PCN.

Don't just meekly pay PCNs, consult Mr Mustard by email at mrmustard@zoho.com and instead of giving your money to the council for nothing at all you can donate some to the North London Hospice for Mr Mustard's help when he gets the council off your back. Win, win.