30 November 2023

PCNs generate a small fortune & clearly don't work

Next Thursday there is a meeting of a select number of local councillors, from every borough, at London Councils, at which the proposal to increase the value of a Penalty Charge Notice was going to be considered. It now appears that the necessary survey analysis has not been completed so we have to wait. it is fortunate as Mr Mustard planned to attend and he had a diary clash with, ironically, a full slate of tribunal PCN Appeals.

Mr Mustard has started to look at how much money councils are raking in from parking and moving traffic PCNs. It is vast and self evidently not the solution, except to budget shortfalls.

The story so far and note that each borough records their income slightly differently:



29 November 2023

Harrow Council - band of thieves

Harrow Council are hedging their bets. They are going to apply to London Councils to change from band B (outer London rates) to band A (inner London rates) but if London Councils own attempt to increase the value of all PCNs is successful they won't do it (for now anyway). Their website had a explanation from which Mr Mustard has extracted the most relevant parts.


Mr Mustard completed the survey. Questions 1 & 2 were about who he was and the postcode of his home.

Question 9 was how Mr Mustard had heard about the survey and Q10 as to whether or not he had completed the London Councils' survey.

Mr Mustard thought that this was the least useful survey he had completed for some time. (Please ignore the spelling errors in his responses, you get the gist).

Mr Mustard was also unimpressed with the FAQs which the public were intended to read and digest before answering the survey itself. Mr Mustard decided to ask some more penetrating questions and today he received the responses which are now followed by his commentary. Feel free to add your own at the end.

The only factor considered before bringing forward the survey (it can't count for anything before it has taken place!) is the bare number of PCNs issued. That is unconvincing as a justification.

The bare numbers of PCNs issued do not show a direct relationship between value and the number of PCNs issued. If there was such a direct relationship the numbers would surely be more or less constant?

There is your proof. If you don't know in advance what a PCN will cost you how can your behaviour be affected by not knowing? (it can be £60 or £80, £110 or £130).

Mr Mustard has the data as it is published by London Councils each year. 
In the year ended 31 March 2013, Waltham Forest issued 70,623 PCNs. 
On 1 April 2013 they increased the penalty levels by £20 per PCN. 
In the year to 31 March 2014 WF issued 69,082 PCNs a decrease of just 2.2% which Mr Mustard would suggest is not statistically significant (and isn't 3.3% which wasn't material either).

Oh dear, Harrow failed to notice, or chose not to notice, that in the year ended 31 March 2016, WF issued 88,767 PCNs, an increase on the base year of 2013 of 25.7%. The price increase was a disaster, it didn't work, clearly. Mr Mustard recalls from his secondary school days his maths text book which had a chapter  headed 'Lies, damn lies and statistics'. He didn't understand the heading back then but he sure does now.

Harrow were being wilfully blind in not taking a wider view of the PCN statistics of the last 20 years which are freely available to the public. They have cherry picked a small but convenient fall. They know nothing about the true experience in Waltham Forest.

No it isn't, it is a question of what you, Harrow Council, know about why the numbers of PCNs issued by WF have gone down slightly in one convenient year and shot up rapidly in four subsequent years.


Again Mr Mustard was asking what information Harrow Council held, clearly none at all.

Perhaps the time has come for an undergraduate or a professor of statistics to study this topic.

What is clear to Mr Mustard is that any report presented to councillors, which probably won't contain much more useful information than has already been given to the public, won't really contain a proper basis for an informed decision to proceed with the re-banding.

Mr Mustard doesn't know how Harrow Council works and isn't a resident of Harrow so doubtless has limited hearing rights at any council meeting, but you the reader can play your part.

Please ask the hard questions, complain if you don't like the answers and go to any relevant council meeting and have your say.

This survey is just laying the ground for revenue raising.

The end.

19 November 2023

Haringey Council - liars

Mr Courteous (not his real name) is a licensed Private Hire Driver. He had a booking to pick up a fare in The Broadway, Crouch End and take them to Heathrow. He was issued a PCN whilst picking up. He made his own challenge (if you want Mr Mustard to help you it is best you come to him at the start so you don't queer the pitch - luckily Mr Courteous hadn't as not only is he courteous he is smart and truthful).

Here is the vehicle.

Note the no loading kerb stripes, they do not forbid boarding of passengers, nor do single or double yellows.

Here is the sign.

You can see from the time of the photographs that we are within the no waiting and no loading times but they are irrelevant to picking up a passenger as is the suspended bay sign which didn't apply on the day in question.
Mr Courteous expected that if he provided proper documentation his PCN would be cancelled and so this is what he wrote:

Hello, I received this PCN whilst working. I am a registered TFL PCO driver and I was parked there only to pick up a client. I went to knock on the door as the customer phone number was not working. I saw the traffic warden who issued the ticket and he just said I have to appeal as it had already been started. As a licensed PCO driver I am allowed to drop off and pick up customer s in restricted bays, red routes and Bus lanes. So I am unsure why this was issued. I humble be ask you to review this PCN. I attach a copy of the PHV license and a copy of the booking as proof.

Anyone who has much experience of council parking departments will know that they reject the first challenge without a second thought, as they duly did.

Mr Mustard has highlighted sections which he does not believe to be true.
If Haringey Council had carefully considered what was written they would not have said the driver was not seen as Mr Courteous has reported a conversation and in addition told me that the 'traffic warden' appeared out of a shop (was he 'hiding' there or perhaps just having a coffee or using the loo?). The usual problem is, Mr Mustard thinks, that after the traffic warden has closed the PCN on his handheld equipment he cannot add further notes and he must have already noted 'DNS' (driver not seen) whilst issuing the PCN and that became an out of date entry he could not correct (Mr Mustard will send for the notes).
The 'our evidence' statement is probably only meant to be read as their evidence is that the driver was not seen, there is no reason to believe they know anything in the back office about the passenger as the traffic warden won't have made notes about them. This is, of course, a standard sentence, a poor standard as it starts with 'And', because it refers to 'picking up or dropping off' when the council has already been told this was an arranged collection and were sent an unredacted copy of the booking.

The council either don't know the law or are pretending they don't in order to induce the motorist into paying up. This is what the judge said in the case of Makda, a key case on the traffic adjudicator tribunal website:

The council's traffic order contains this exemption

An adjudicator won't strictly apply the 2 minute time period as they recognise that sometimes the passenger may not be quite ready, they want a final visit to the loo perhaps, they need to check they haven't left the gas on, closed all the windows and double checked they have their passport, tickets and money. They may also live on the third floor, there isn't a lift and they have two 20kg bags which have to be slowly carried down. The driver is the servant in this relationship.

Looking at this particular collection, the passenger did not answer her phone and so the driver had three choices. The first was to drive away but it is only 9:27 on arrival (the council's first photo shows) so the driver was slightly early which Mr Mustard regards as being on time and driving away leaves the passenger in danger of missing their flight and the driver £105 down on the deal.

The second is to sit there and see if the passenger appears and the third is to do as he did and go and ring the doorbell. A private hire driver really can't be expected to have all of his passengers waiting on the pavement for him, come rain or shine, because the public will find another driver if that is how they are treated (it is fine for local Uber journeys) the concept of delivering the ordered service seems to have escaped the parking department at Haringey Council.

What is clear from the Makda decision is that time spent looking for your passenger is exempt time. In the Makda case he hung around for a short time and then left but the way in which adjudicators interpret the judgment is like this, which relates to a Barnet council PCN:

Mr Mustard will be making representations in due course against the Notice to Owner and if Haringey Council reject those he will be off to the tribunal and will be hopeful of gaining a cancellation.

There is a duty on councils as expressed by Lord Mustill

Where an Act of Parliament confers an administrative power there is a presumption that it will be exercised in a manner which is fair in all the circumstances

Unfortunately over the years as more and more parking enforcement powers are sub-contracted out to commercial companies, rather then being the sole province of civil servants, there has been a  steady drift away from the concepts of service and the principles of the Nolan code (which include itegrity and honesty) into one of writing absolutely anything you like, whether a truth or a lie, because there is very little in the way of adverse consequences for telling a lie as in this case.

We need a PCN ombudsman to drive up standards of honesty.

The end (for now).

8 November 2023

Harrow Council want your money

Harrow Council want to change their PCN value banding from Band B (Outer London) to Band A (central London) which would add another £20 to each PCN ('parking ticket').

You can make your views known here. Harrow Council insist that you register with them which is a bit of a pain but they don't collect much data. You could have your account deleted later.

Mr Mustard registered and completed the survey which is refreshingly short. The main basis of the council's reasoning is that the number of PCNs has not reduced much so they aren't working. That is bogus reasoning, the number of factors will be multiple ones. The situation in Harrow has already improved over recent years.

Mr Mustard has completed the survey and here are his answers complete with his spelling errors.

You have until 12 November to respond.

The end.