16 February 2017

Enfield Council in time travel trouble.

Mr Mustard complained about the use of the non-statutory pre-debt reminder to Enfield Council on 26 January. He had previously complained about it in November and was told that all his points were valid and the reminder would be changed. The revised version was so similar that Mr Mustard didn't notice the subtle differences, he having expected radical change & possibly withdrawal of the use of the reminder as Haringey Council decided at about the time that Mr Mustard complained to them.

This is what Mr Mustard wrote on 26 January:

Dear Mr Parking Manager

Nothing has yet changed with the pre-debt reminder?

I don't think the contravention description is substantially complaint (sic) as looking at the meter on google streetmap it looks to have the red dash sticker on it. That means that payment could have been made by phone, which is not part of the alleged contravention. Surely this should have been a code 11, parked without payment of the parking charge and your PCN is unsustainable?

In the circumstances you could please cancel EF00123456.

Many thanks
Mr Mustard

There then followed a game of email ping pong which culminated in Mr Mustard's complaint being sent from parking to the complaints department from where it will end up with the Ombudsman who, his recent report Fairer Fines shows, is currently concerned about the fair treatment of motorists.

As there had been a pre-debt reminder Mr Mustard knew that a charge certificate had been issued. His client had not received the Notice to Owner and was awaiting the Order for Recovery so that the process could be rewound to the Notice to Owner stage.

On 27 January Mr Mustard's client sent him a copy of the Order for Recovery. Mr Mustard duly submitted his client's witness statement to the TEC the very same day.

On 9 February the council, as they were perfectly entitled to do, issued a fresh Notice to Owner.

On 15 February Mr Mustard's client sent him a copy of the fresh Notice to Owner and on the same day Mr Mustard went on-line to the Enfield Council computer and made representations that the PCN had been issued for the wrong contravention code.

Imagine Mr Mustard's surprise when he received a Notice of Rejection on 16 February which had been written on 14 February and which contained the following:

The order set out in the legislation is simple, it goes like this:

1 - Notice to Owner
2 - Representations against the Notice to Owner
3 - Notice of Rejection (or Acceptance) of the Representations
4 - Appeal to the tribunal (done!)

Enfield Council have decided to make Mr Mustard's email of 26 January which pre-dated the Notice to Owner of 9 February into a document which was issued 2 weeks later after the Notice to Owner.

In the four years that Mr Mustard has been fighting PCN he has never seen such a blatant procedural impropriety. They are defined as a failure to follow Parking Regulations but you could simply think of them as a council blunder.

He know has an Appeal pending which technically he shouldn't have but which he has no doubt will be allowed if it reaches a hearing which it probably won't as Mr Mustard will be filing a further complaint with Enfield Council. Mr Mustard will be making a claim for costs, which is very rare for him, as the council have been wholly unreasonable.

Mr Mustard doesn't suppose, or rather hope, that Enfield Council are playing guessing games about the representations that ordinary members of the public intend to make on a future date. If they are though, the public don't know the correct procedure like Mr Mustard does.

What the council's actions do disclose though is an indecent haste to reject Representations not yet made by Mr Mustard.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

15 February 2017

NSL over egg their importance in Lewisham

The distinction between private and public parking enforcement is hard enough for many people to fathom without NSL making out that they are issuing council PCN 

'in Partnership with'

Lewisham, and that assumes that you know that the crown icon with Lewisham underneath means the London Borough of Lewisham which Mr Mustard's client, a man from Edgware, does not know.

Thought you would phone Lewisham about your PCN, don't!

0845 numbers are 11 to 18p a minute. What does the Local Government Ombudsman think about 0845 numbers?

It looks like Mr Mustard will be complaining to the monitoring officer.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

13 February 2017

London Tribunals - new PO Box

Since PATAS became London Tribunals in mid 2015 Appeals have been sent to PO Box 530, SALE, M33 0FP

Mr Mustard recently noticed a new address and the tribunal have confirmed that the address should now be used and the Sale address can be disregarded.

The address to send Notices of Appeal to is now:

London Tribunals
PO Box 10598

even if it says Sale on the form itself.

Doubtless the new address will slowly start to percolate onto forms being issued by enforcement authorities.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

10 February 2017

Give Postman Pat lots of PCNs

Mr Mustard notices things. In late 2016 he noticed that the Royal Mail, whose liveried vehicles he thought had a countrywide exemption (which he can't find) for parking on double yellow lines were being issued with PCN by Barnet Council at a fair old lick. He went to the parking tribunal website and searched 2016 for all Appellant company names which started with 'Royal Mail'. He found 68 entries across London. There are 32 London boroughs along with the City + TfL who dish out PCN so you would only expect 2 or 3 of those 68 to emanate from Barnet Council. How wrong he was. 32 of the PCNs were issued by Barnet Council which shows a clear indication that the council and/or their agents NSL Ltd had decided that the Royal Mail were fair game.

Mr Mustard has copied the Barnet decisions for you.

The first thing you notice is that there were no parking tickets issued from January to June. Did Royal Mail van drivers suddenly individually decide to change their parking habits? No, it is probably that someone instructed traffic wardens to issue PCNs to them. Mr Mustard will ask the parking manager to reverse that instruction.

This idea of targeting the Royal Mail has been a right royal waste of time for the council. Every PCN issued leads to a small fee of just under 47p that they have to pay to London Councils and each Appeal to London Tribunals entails a fee of £33.32 (it will be £29.90 once Barnet Appeals can be started on line rather than by a form sent off in the post).

Let us suppose all the PCNs were at the £110 rate. If Royal Mail rolled over and paid them all Barnet would have gained £55 a time or £1,760

However they didn't as Royal Mail contested them all so Barnet Council had to pay out £33 for each PCN = £1,056 in fees. Out of the 32 Appeals, Barnet Council only managed to win one so they netted £110 for that leaving them nursing a net loss of £946. They have also wasted a lot of driver and management time and NSL's and their own and the tribunal's. Had Royal Mail only provided proof of a parcel being delivered in the case they lost, they would also have won that one.

What deeply concerns Mr Mustard is that on 24 out of 32 Appeals the council offered no evidence (which you find out when you click on the case number on the left on the public tribunal register but Mr Mustard knows that a blank location means the Appeal was a "Do not Contest" case). In every case Barnet Council (and/or NSL) will have rejected representations (possibly twice) made by Royal Mail and then suddenly decided when their bluff is called to cancel the PCNs after all. Mr Mustard does not know how many other PCNs there were which were cancelled at earlier stages.

Mr Mustard thinks it is an abuse of process, and a breach of the council's general duty at law to be procedurally fair, to use the PCN enforcement system in this cynical way.

Your parking reputation is in tatters Barnet Council and is it any wonder?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

9 February 2017

a 2 second penalty

Can you beat this. A PCN only one second into a no parking period?

How did it even get to Court?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

8 February 2017

Some councils are making it harder to challenge PCN

A public body has a general duty at law to be procedurally fair. They should not therefore add further stages into a process which is enshrined in law. Mr Mustard has noticed some councils (not Barnet) make you go through several extra input screens before you can actually state your challenge, this will exhaust some people whose attention span or determination is not as great as Mr Mustard's (Mr Mustard has been prompted to write this blog post because a gentleman who has asked for advice about an Ealing PCN did not know what his contravention code was. You have to know where to look as it is in tiny type).

You only need the 52 but having tested the system Mr Mustard has discovered that you can type in any existing code number and see what 'sage advice' is being given for that particular contravention code.

On the home page of Ealing Council (they are not the only guilty party, Southwark is the same & there will be others) you find this car icon to roll your mouse over

That changes the box to this one, click on 'Manage & View'

That takes you to this screen which you think will be the place where you make a challenge or representation (a challenge to an on street PCN or a representation to a postal PCN, Notice to Owner to Enforcement Notice - documents with similar purposes, to notify the vehicle Owner of a contravention)

Having chosen 'Challenge a parking ticket' you get to enter your PCN number and contravention code (a number from 01 to 99) in the boxes
Click continue and you then get offered some reasons to choose from. At this point Mr Mustard ignores the proffered options and simply clicks 'continue' as he does not need to read any partial, misguided advice.
However, for the purposes of the blog he duly clicked. He found he was only allowed to click 4 reasons so he pressed F5 and could then click the rest. Why would a council want to limit the public's search for information?
For funerals a council could ask for more information or they could take account of the tone of the challenge and perhaps decide that the person is telling the truth. They do not have to check, it is an option. Why should the public trust a council which does not trust them?

The phrase 'the PCN remains valid' is misleading. It was certainly validly issued but it wasn't valid if it contained an error in the street name or bore the wrong registration number or if the traffic warden put it back in their pocket having not served it for some reason. Don't rely on non-service as a reason to challenge, find some other ground of representation. Mr Mustard is merely pointing out here the misleading language which councils use in an effort to get you to give up and pay (Mr Mustard doesn't do that).

Ealing Council seem to have omitted all sorts of other possible reasons, such as 'I was not the Owner of the vehicle' which is a statutory ground so this is very poor of them.

A sign that prohibits all vehicles (including cycles except if pushed) has no words. It is a round white sign with a red border. (Hardly anyone seems to recognise that sign). The flying motorbike sign (a motorbike on top of a car) does not mean that motorbikes and cars are prohibited but all motor vehicles and so Ealing's explanation about picturing the type of vehicle is just plain wrong.

I'm a visitor, I wasn't aware of the rules (which is a naughty way to try and get you to implicate yourself) could have the explanation that the rules were not properly signed.

You could live in Ealing and still be the victim of cloning.

The advice that Ealing are giving needs to be clear, comprehensive, accurate and meet with the Regulations & any Court decisions; it doesn't.

Loading; if you were moving home and unloading your possessions then you won't have loading paperwork but you might have a new rental agreement which it would be better to produce. If you are helping a friend then a letter from them is the best thing to produce.

Not everyone uses a breakdown emergency service. If you break down and your partner is handy with mechanical things, they may have come out to help you, or a friend or neighbour. Best to produce a letter from them explaining what happened. 

There is not a 24 hour limitation. If the breakdown was following an accident after which you were hospitalised for 48 hours that would be a reason beyond your control and grounds for cancellation.

If you do as Mr Mustard does and ignore all the peripheral nonsense and simply click continue, then you get this screen. Ealing are not helpful, they make you enter your registration number again. Really, Ealing, anyone would think you were trying to make it difficult for the motorist.

Would you like to cut out the cr@p & go straight to that screen, then simply click here.

Mr Mustard then thought he would make a quick comparison of the sage advice being dished out by Southwark for code 01 to see if it was the same, it wasn't.

Their loading explanation is better except that you don't have to have multiple items so a single trip is fine, unlike what Southwark say. A fridge, new or used, is one item and it is usually bulky &/or heavy so counts as a load. You do not have to provide official paperwork as you might have an old fridge which you are lending or giving to a friend as you have purchased a new one.

To cut the cr@p in Southwark, use this link.

Local authorities, eh, what can you do with them.

Mr Mustard's conclusion is that some councils don't really want you to challenge your PCN, just to pay it. That process has of course been made really easy.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard