18 February 2024

Councils can't afford to be kind

When he gets a fresh PCN Mr Mustard often has to warn people that, more likely than not, the council will not look kindly on the reason why they received the PCN. The council want your money, most of the time, and whilst they have a wide discretion, councils can cancel any PCN for any reason, the adjudicator cannot & must strictly apply the law. Adjudicators can only recommend that a council think again although Mr Mustard has seen them bend the law in order to excuse an error.

Here is a classic example of a situation in which Mr Mustard thinks the public would expect leniency to come into play but he wasn't at all surprised when it didn't. This is a situation which, other things being equal, will only happen the once.

The informal challenge submitted to Lewisham Council:

and the relevant part of their response:

This is a Catch 22 response. There is no evidence that the writer thought about exercising their discretion. Their explanation is that because the contravention happened, which was already conceded by the motorist, the council won't cancel because the contravention happened.

What should happen is that Lewisham Council should consider the mitigation put forward, decide if it has the ring of truth (why would you stay in a hotel in SE13 when you live in SE6?) which it does and then consider whether or not to cancel the PCN. There is no revenue loss to the council which didn't instigate an automatic refund of a payment for which no value was given (once you have a PCN you cannot get another the same day, unless the rules of the bay change, if you don't move).

The rejection letter should explain why discretion is not being exercised, like one of these responses:

a    your proof is not credible

b    we don't think the mitigation is sufficient as you could have paid the night before (if you can, although the driver might have been intending to get up early, buy flowers and attempt a reconciliation)

c    we want your money so won't cancel

d    we are venal and rapacious. (* copyright another PCN expert, Incandescent).

The law assumes that a public body endowed with absolute power will exercise that power in a manner which is fair in all the circumstances. Although this appeal for clemency can be argued both for and against what is apparent from hundreds of PCNs that Mr Mustard has seen is that in many councils heartlessness and ruthlessness are the order of the day (He does have good experiences, he recounted one with Islington Council on twitter last week but he sees far more bad than good).

The problem is that councils are not routinely monitored or inspected for the way they go about the issue and enforcement of PCNs. We need an outside body which referees the whole system and can visit councils and encourage best practice and fairness. There are 7 million PCNs issued in London every year. Councils are out of control in their quest for revenue.

Time to create OffPen.

The end.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for referring to my expression "venal and rapacious". There certainly does need to be a regulator with powers to enforce against bad practices. Will we see one ? I doubt it


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