12 January 2018

Barnet Council - Saving money at any cost

Copyright: Save Barnet Breastfeeding Support Service
Barnet mums to protest closure of breastfeeding support service

Local mums are campaigning to save the award-winning Barnet Breastfeeding Support Service, which is under threat of closure this April by the council. They will be protesting at the Hope Corner Community Centre 10:30am - 12:30pm on 18 January.

The comprehensive breastfeeding support service offers one-to-one support for mothers at groups in Barnet every day of the week and through home visits, phone and email support. There is a small team of highly trained breastfeeding peer supporters who provide emotional and practical help for new mums.

The service has helped 1500 mums to breastfeed since it opened in 2014, and in 2016 it won the NHS Trust’s “Team of the Year” award.

An online petition started by local mum Natalie Wilson has already attracted 1365 signatures https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-barnet-breastfeeding-support-service, with many mums saying they would have given up breastfeeding without the help provided by the service.

What local mums say about the service
“Without their support I would never have been able to breastfeed my premature twins” - Jennifer B.

“Without this service I would have given up trying to breastfeed. Cutting it will have a negative effect on breastfeeding rates locally and also a significant effect on the mental health of new mothers desperately trying to breastfeed their babies.”- Vivien L.

“This will be a huge loss to families in the borough and it’s a very short-sighted decision by Barnet Council. Healthcare professionals do not have time to support new mothers in the way peer supporters can. Breastfeeding support is becoming a postcode lottery, and the council will depriving its residents of this valuable service where mothers in other boroughs have the opportunity to access support.” - Crystal M.

“Barnet breastfeeding support helped to diagnose my baby's tongue tie and were able to visit me at home when I wasn't up to getting out and about yet. A brilliant and much needed service!”- Ilana W.

The UK has among the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, and Public Health England has emphasised the importance of peer support in helping to raise rates. Unicef UK say the NHS would save millions of pounds if more babies were breastfed as they get ill less often and are less likely to visit the GP or go into hospital.

Yet Barnet Council have said that they are closing the service in order to save money. They have not said what will replace the service and there has been no public consultation about the proposed cut. The consultation on the proposed council budget says there will be no cuts to spending on public health, which includes breastfeeding.

PROTEST


When: Thursday 18 January 10:30 - 12:30
Where: Hope Corner Community Centre, 185 Mays Lane, EN5 2DY

News coverage:
Hendon and Finchley Times - 29 November 2017

10 January 2018

Barnet Council not considering discretionary cancellation



Mr Mustard has long suspected that the parking department at Barnet Council just say 'no' to the public as most give up when faced with an obdurate opponent. Mr Mustard ignores such game playing and just plods through the process until the moment of real truth, when arguments are properly tested, by an independent adjudicator at London Tribunals.

Here is a tribunal decision where Barnet Council get put straight.

Ms Y did not attend the hearing listed today. I decide the appeal on the written evidence of both parties.

The Penalty Charge Notice was issued when the appellant’s car was parked in a parking bay in Golders Green Road. The car was parked in a bay with location 5882. No payment had been made to park the car in that bay. Ms Y had inadvertently paid to park the car at location 5879 a parking bay on the opposite side of Golders Green Road. Ms Y argues that she did pay to park the car in Golders Green Road and that the London Borough of Barnet has received £4.30. In representation made in response to the Notice to Owner Ms Y stated ‘ it does not seem fair or equitable to punish me for making an innocent mistake, especially when the LB of Barnet has suffered no loss.‘

The Notice of Rejection states ‘it has been noted ..that you had made payment for a different bay at the same location and I do empathise (like hell do they - Mr M) however I must advise although you stated that the incorrect bay was paid for it is up to the motorist to make sure the correct details are entered and as such no exemption to the outstanding charge can be made

Regulation 4 (2) of the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) Representations and Appeals Regulations 2007 allows a representation against a Notice to Owner to be made either on the basis of specific grounds set out in Regulation 4(4) or under Regulation 4(2)(b) ii ‘that whether or not any of those grounds apply there are compelling reasons why in the particular circumstances of the case the enforcement authority should cancel the Penalty Charge Notice and refund any sum paid to it on account of the penalty charge.’

Regulation 5 clearly states that the local authority is under a duty to consider representations made under Regulation 4(2)(b) ii.

In the case summary the local authority states that it considered the mitigating circumstances. This is not apparent from the Notice of Rejection. The Notice of Rejection clearly states that no exemption to the outstanding charge can be made. This is not correct. The local authority always has a discretion to cancel a Penalty Charge Notice. If Robin Moorwood who wrote the Notice of Rejection believes that there is no exemption to the outstanding charge it follows from this that discretion not to enforce the Penalty Charge Notice cannot have been considered.

One of the grounds of appeal set out in Regulation 4(4) is that there has been a procedural impropriety on the part of the enforcement authority. Procedural impropriety is defined as a failure by the enforcement authority to observe any requirement imposed by the Traffic Management Act 2004 and the Regulations issued under that Act.

I find that the local authority has failed in its duty to consider representations made under Regulation 4(2)(b) ii. Therefore I find that there has been a procedural impropriety and I allow this appeal.

The council like to make out that once a PCN has been issued they are powerless to do anything other than pursue it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The council can cancel any PCN, even one which has been correctly issued, as it is their PCN as the issuing enforcement authority.

Mr Mustard likes what Ms Y wrote about being punished when Barnet Council have their money for parking. If the council wanted the PCN paid and to ignore the payment for parking they should, in Mr Mustard's fair opinion, refund it automatically. Anything else is trying to have your cake and eat it.

The council are greedy like that. They want cake and lots of it. Don't let them have yours, fight over it.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

For experts: case 2170548427

9 January 2018

Recently widowed? Barnet Council don't care

Computer says no
Here is another adjudicator's decision which you might find displays a surprising (shocking?) and miserable attitude on the part of Barnet Council.

The Penalty Charge Notice was issued when the appellant’s car was parked in a resident’s bay. The civil enforcement officer noted that there was a resident’s permit in the car that had expired on 7th November 2015.

Mrs X states that she was issued with a virtual and that she received confirmation that the permit was valid until 29th November 2017. I have seen a letter sent to the appellant on 22nd November 2016 confirming that the application was processed and a permit issued until 29th November 2017.

In the case summary the local authority states that the application was made by phone and that payment for the permit was not made because the payment system was down. The local authority states that the appellant would have been fully aware of this and that Mrs X would have known the permit had been cancelled despite the email confirmation that she received.

Mrs X states that her husband was very ill in hospital in November 2016. He died on 13th January 2017. The appellant states that she had no idea that she did not have a valid resident’s permit.

The local authority’s computer record shows that a permit was issued with a start date of 30th November 2016 until 29th November 2017 and that it was cancelled on 21st November. The local authority does not supply any evidence of the phone call with the appellant. The local authority does not explain why an email was sent to Mrs X on 22nd November informing her that a permit had been issued when it had apparently been cancelled the day before.

I allow the appeal. I find that the appellant was sent an email informing her that a permit had been issued. She was entitled to rely on an email from the local authority. I am not persuaded on the evidence I have seen that Mrs X was aware that the email did not mean what it said.

The starting position is that the council failed to provide a payment system and then wants to penalise a recently widowed lady, with a record of paying annually for her permit, for her failure to pay when she couldn't. In the council's eyes everything is your fault, even when it isn't.

The council confirmed that a permit had been issued and yet they expected the widow to be doubting the email they had sent. Perhaps she thought they would take the payment from her card later once their system was working again. Given that you can renew instantly on the day that renewal is due the council must provide a system which is fit for purpose and if that system fails they must have an alternative available. That is called providing good service.

One of the drawbacks of virtual permits, as the DVLA have found for road fund, is that more people fail to renew and this is almost certainly inadvertent. If you have a piece of paper in your windscreen, a tax disc or a resident permit, then you can be reminded every time you get in your car by glancing at the details. Even better, road fund discs were colour coded by month and there was nothing to stop resident permits from following that system.

The council are obliged to consider mitigation when they receive such pleas for mercy and you would think that the council could let one PCN go for a widow but they find the PCN revenue very attractive and Mr Mustard thinks this blinds them to the correct exercise of discretion. If they reject a challenge they get money. If they accept it they don't. The council is the judge in their own court, as the saying goes.

The council claim to 'put the community first' but that mantra is simply empty words on a piece of paper. Frequently it is not borne out by their actions, which are often heartless, unreasonable and motivated by revenue raising.

One day the penny may drop and council will realise why the perception of the parking department is that it is atrocious (Mr Mustard's view of a satisfaction rating of 24%).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

8 January 2018

Barnet Council can't see the nose on their face

One of the tactics, whether conscious or not, is to wear motorists down by repeatedly refusing challenges as only 1% of the public can be bothered to take the council to the tribunal (a situation that Mr Mustard intends to do something about). Here is a tribunal case which illustrates why you shouldn't take what the council write to you as necessarily being correct:

Mr G attended today. The issue in the appeal is whether he had paid to park his car in the Broadway on 17th May 2017.

Mr G provides evidence of a screenshot showing texts sent to the text number of the cashless parking service at 10:07 and 11:32 on 17th May. At 10:07 a request for 90 minutes parking was made and at 11:32 a request for a further 60 minutes. The appellant’s security code number was input. The details of the credit card are already recorded by the pay by phone company. Mr G states that he had carried out all steps to pay to park. He did not immediately receive a text in response but he states that this is not unusual in the London Borough of Barnet as it can take 30 minutes or more for a reply to be received. Mr G provides his credit card statement showing two payments made to the local authority of £1.50 and 85p for a transaction on 17th May. These payments would be consistent with the two periods of parking requested.

The local authority states that it has no record of any payment made on 17th May. Its records show that a request was made at 21:49 on 17th May to park the car until 09:00 the following morning. No charge was made because the bay was not operational during this time. Mr G states that he was at home in Kent when this transaction was processed and that he did not make any request to park his car in a bay at a time when parking restrictions were not I operation. I accept this evidence.

I accept the appellant’s evidence that the request to park was made when he parked and before the Penalty Charge Notice was issued at 10:31. I accept the appellant’s evidence that the payment to the local authority shown on the credit card was for parking on 17th May. I allow this appeal because I find that a payment had been made to park the car at the time that the Penalty Charge Notice was issued.

Interesting points from this are that this motorist reports a customary delay in having his text payment confirmed (and yet the council say that you should stay with your car until payment is confirmed - parking meters confirm your payment in seconds which is why Mr Mustard recommends you use them whenever possible - which would mean you standing around waiting for a text for 30 minutes, which might be the amount of parking you have paid for!) 

and that clearly payment has been made but the back office staff either can't see them or don't want to (Mr Mustard has complained about such an oversight in the last few months).

Even more odd is the system generating parking sessions which didn't take place

The decisions of parking adjudicators are public and entered on a register but Mr Mustard usually leaves the name out of his reports. Experts will find this decision under ref. 2170458153.

Councils - you can't trust them with the amount of PCN power they have been given. Do not take any nonsense, like this, from them. If you are correct, forget about the discount, and fight the council all the way to the tribunal. There you will get a fair hearing from an adjudicator whose pay is not dependent upon you paying for a defective PCN.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

5 January 2018

Accident in Haringey = PCN opportunity

It is bad enough that you have an accident in the company delivery van but you then have to tell the boss that whilst it was waiting for the tow truck to take it to the garage, a PCN was issued to it.

You have to wonder if we are in a PCN target driven world (and not just within Haringey) when a traffic warden can't look at a vehicle like this and walk on by for a day or two to see if the van gets recovered.

Luckily this miserable PCN will bite the dust pretty quickly as the traffic warden mistook an X for a K and so has issued a PCN to a vehicle registration which does not exist and hence the PCN is a nullity. How Mr Mustard laughed as this is a shoe-in for cancellation.

Mr Mustard is a big fan of Haringey Council's parking department. They met 13 times in 2017 with the score being 12-1 to Mr Mustard (the one loss still hurts as in front of a different adjudicator he would also have beaten that PCN but never mind, he can charitably spare one PCN).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 January 2018

New Year's Resolution - 2018

Things have got to change. Mr Mustard is now very busy in his professional life with work + travel exceeding 55 hours a week. There just isn't time for 30 hours a week of parking paperwork on top and any sort of private life.

In 2013 Mr Mustard's record shows that he fought 102 PCN to the end and only lost 3 of those. (That was before the advent of Moving Traffic & Yellow Box PCNs in Barnet which are much harder to beat).

In 2017 he fought 345 PCNs and lost 51 times so not at all shabby a performance (won 84%). The average citizen wins 50% of the time so it is always worth fighting as winning 50% of the time is the same, in the long run, as paying up at 50% all of the time.

As you will appreciate the amount of time spent helping you with your PCNs has quadrupled. This at a time when, since mid-October, Mr Mustard with his credit consultancy hat on has been collecting in more than £10,000,000 from 6,000+ debtors. The Administrator he has been working for (similar to a liquidator) has noticed the rapid progress made on debtors and put Mr Mustard in as part of the team for the next job. Thus Mr Mustard predicts that he will be very busy professionally in 2018. During December due to the pressure of work Mr Mustard became very slow at answering parking emails and was at times a week behind. Although he was lucky not to miss a deadline anywhere he very nearly did and this discomforts Mr Mustard.

The answer that Mr Mustard has come up with is to limit the number of PCNs that he manages. This will be achieved by Mr Mustard fighting the PCN, or offering advice, only in the following circumstances:
  • you are mentally ill
  • you have a physical disability or a blue badge
  • you are old*
  • you are impecunious i.e. living entirely on pension or benefits
  • the council have blundered~.
(*Some people are old at 65 and others who he has met aged 91 & 92 would give youngsters a run for their money. You need to feel old as well as be old to ask for help please).

(~You will be surprised how many blunders one council can make and keep quiet about. They will feature in a blog once fixed, anonymously if required).

All PCNs that are currently in progress will be completed. For example, Mr Mustard has 
6 tribunal hearings on 3 January 18 followed by 
8 on 10 January and 
5 on 17 January.

There will sadly be a consequent drop in PCN related donations to North London Hospice. Mr Mustard asks all of his readers to donate to them anyway, to gives goods to the shops & to volunteer within the hospice or the shops if you have free time.

Don't just give in from now on and pay up. Assume that for PCNs stuck on your car the council will reject the first challenge and make the second one again once the Notice to Owner is received. If you think you are in the right then go in person to the tribunal, it can be fun, and argue your corner. You will win 50% of the time and the more you fight the better you get. You can get help on this excellent website, with a silly name, Pepipoo.

Mr Mustard would like to wish all of his readers all the best for 2018.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 December 2017

Revaulting decision by Barnet Council

One day Mr Mustard hopes that he won't have to read stupid, immoral, money motivated and unreasonable council arguments in the parking ticket tribunal register. He suspects he always will.


So let us be clear here. You have parked your car legally before the restrictions started at 4pm. You have been held up in the bank behind a locked door, whether due to a mechanical failure or a robber waving a gun around we don't know, but whatever the reason you could not leave the bank to move your car.

Mr Brown will have made formal representations to that effect and Barnet Council, assisted or not by their contractors NSL Ltd, have refused the representations and made you take your argument to the tribunal where the adjudicator will have struggled to curtail his incredulity and judging by the shortness and simplicity of the written decision, it was arrived at very easily.

Barnet Council, in common with many others, simply have too much power. They are required to exercise their discretion in situations such as these without thinking about the money represented by the PCN. They simply aren't independent enough and are swayed by the prospect of receiving £110 from a motorist without the guts or time to fight. Luckily Mr Brown had principles & could be bothered to fight. Mr Mustard salutes you.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

p.s. The PCN register is a public document.

Mr Mustard can spell revolting.