25 June 2013

Saracens monster CPZ - a review - who knew?

Here is a link to the page.

Tell the council it is overly large, excessively enforced and that a 1 hour restriction would be enough.

The council with their usual rigour have managed to publish two different email addresses on different web pages, one of which misses out the dot and it is a pretty stupidly long email address in any event.

It should be this one eando.consultation@barnet.gov.uk

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

PATAS appeals surge



At the Contract Scrutiny committee meeting of Barnet Council on Tuesday (Mr Mustard watched the film afterwards, and well done to the Barnet Bugle for being there once again) a council officer had to explain away an excess over budget of £40,000+ for extra appeals filed at PATAS. Each one cost £44.46 in the year in question. His answer was that this was not down to (and Mr Mustard will have to paraphrase from memory here as he really can't take watching it again) more incorrect tickets being issued (do try not to laugh) but rather to the plethora of free advice sites which help people to challenge their parking tickets, or exercising one's democratic right to challenge as Mr Mustard prefers to call it.

The answer will inevitably be more complicated than a single reason but the timing is interesting in that the surge in appeals broadly coincides with the appointment of NSL on 1 May 12. There is a time lag of generally 3 to 6 months before cases reach PATAS. Websites offering advice wouldn't exist unless there was a demand for them and it is Mr Mustard's view that the public are fed up with being used as a cash cow and strongly object to tickets that they see as unfair of which plenty of examples have appeared here, on the Miss Feezance blog, on Pepipoo and on lots of other websites, and are now fighting back. The more they find out how easy it is and how many mistakes the council makes, the more the appeals will rise.

Here are the numbers of appeals for which payment is made to London Councils (and 10/10 to them for providing an answer to Mr Mustard's request within 24 hours, just as they did last year and no stupid redacting - take note Barnet Council how information should be provided) who have responsibility for PATAS.

So that is fantastic work by you all and Mr Mustard thinks that a similar increase will be seen in 2013/14.

If you want to understand the appeal process, download the guide which is to the left of this blog.

Questions about that scrutiny meeting's effectiveness are why NSL were not asked to send a representative so that they could be questioned about day-to-day matters and where was the parking manager? Putting forward Directors who spend much of their time in meetings, and for whom parking is only one of their areas of line management, isn't going to lead to effective scrutiny.

Once the council realise that issuing parking tickets at the margin is uneconomic they will stop as it is money which motivates them.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

24 June 2013

Crossovers - crossed wires


Back in February 2013, Mr Mustard asked Barnet Council about the issue of parking tickets at crossovers (outside of CPZ areas) where the home owner had not asked for an attendance by a traffic warden, viz:

Are PCNs being routinely issued at dropped kerbs outside residential premises or only in response to a request from the occupier?

The answer he got was:

After some reiteration to NSL months ago I am not aware of recent problems where PCN's are being routinely issued at dropped kerbs outside single residential properties without a call or face to face request for help from those resident at the property.

What this response told Mr Mustard was that NSL were running riot at the start of the contract and supposedly aren't any longer. Hmmm.

Now let us look at a decision by the independent adjudicator at PATAS of 8 March.

The appellant denies the contravention. She states that she parked alongside the dropped kerb in front of her own driveway for the purposes of loading and unloading and therefore falls within the exceptions provided by the Traffic Management Act 2004 S.86(3) and S.86(5.

The local authority have not addressed these representations but incorrectly state that it is still a contravention to park outside their own driveway in direct contradiction to the legislation which require a complaint to be made by the owner of the residential premises.

I am therefore not satisfied that the contravention did occur and allow this appeal. If the appellant wishes to pursue a claim for costs she should send in an itemised note of the time and disbursements incurred in defending this appeal.

Costs were considered on 18 June and the adjudicator said:

The appellant has now applied for an order for costs and expenses to be made against the local authority on the basis that their conduct in failing to address her representations or the legislation to be "extremely unreasonable"

Under Regulation 12 of the Road Traffic (Parking Adjudicators) (London) Regulations 1993 it is provided that an Adjudicator shall not normally make an order awarding costs and expenses but may, subject to hearing representations from the party, make such an order against that party if he is of the opinion that the party has acted frivolously or vexatiously or that his conduct in making, pursuing or resisting an appeal was wholly unreasonable. Additionally, an order may be made against the local authority where the Adjudicator considers that the disputed decision, (the decision by the local authority to reject the appellant's representations), was wholly unreasonable.

I find the local authority complete lack of even an attempt at addressing the appellant's representations or checking the legislation despite being placed on Notice by the appellant, and in clear breach of their statutory duty, makes the disputed decision wholly unreasonable.

The local authority have not made any representation as to why a costs award should not be made.

I therefore award the appellant costs in the sum of £62.15 made up as follows:

1) £60.00 for time spent in excess of 5 hours which would be the maximum amount a litigant in person would be able to recover in the Small Claims Court under the Civil Procedure Rules.
2) £2.15 disbursements for the cost of a stamp and recorded delivery.

So now you wonder why the case was allowed to go all the way to PATAS at the very time that Mr Mustard was asking about this problem and why the council don't know as much about the tricks that NSL get up to as Mr Mustard does? The council have wasted £44 of your money on an unnecessary hearing and then had to fork out £62 on the expenses of the resident.

One day, one hopes, the council will become sensible and boring and exhibit some common-sense. Until then, Mr Mustard will keep an eye on them.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

2 caveats

1. Inside a CPZ there will probably be a single yellow across your dropped kerb so even the householder cannot park there during the zone hours. Sometimes there will be a parking bay across your dropped kerb which means, Mr Mustard thinks but this is a complicated area, that the householder could park across their own dropped kerb but no-one else should as a question of courtesy although you could argue you have explicit permission to do so during zone hours.

2. If you have a shared drive neither resident can park across the dropped kerb as it has to be left for access by the other neighbour at all times.

21 June 2013

Tomorrow evening at The Library (Friern Barnet, of course) 22 June 7pm


The Friday Joke - Activist!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

True activists
Mr Mustard does not think of himself as an "Activist". He doesn't even bear comparison with 1% of the achievements of the true Activists on the link above. What Mr Mustard is sure of is that he is opposed to the reckless gamble that is the One Barnet programme, but that doesn't make him an "Activist", it makes him someone who has carefully studied all of the paperwork he can lay his hands on and make as considered a decision as he can in the circumstances. He certainly doesn't expect to be branded when he makes a relatively minor planning enquiry.

At the bottom of the garden this monstrous carbuncle was built without planning permission, which it turned out was required.


Mr Mustard leapt into action.


24 May - email to the planning officer, copied to Councillors Rams, Longstaff & Joanna Tambourides as she is the Cabinet Member with responsibility for planning.

This isn't your fault (so I am not complaining about you but about the system) but it was some months ago that I pointed out to the council that sending out planning alerts before the documents are on the system is not the most helpful way of going on. When one receives an email one wants to deal with it there and then, not to have to set up a reminder. To properly consider a planning application looking at the drawings is essential. The council's alerts say that documents will be on the system in up to 5 working days which is a week basically. By that time the matter can be forgotten about.

Either you need to slow down the planning alerts by 5 working days or you need to get documents scanned & onto the system more quickly. Please pass this email up the management chain to whoever can make a decision that will enable residents to immediately put themselves in the picture upon receipt of an alert and can then take a greater part in the planning process.

Can you also please email me the documents for the above case.

A response was received the same day.

Thanks for copying me in to your email. I am checking in to the point you make and will contact you again shortly.

Cllr. Joanna Tambourides
East Barnet Ward
Cabinet Member for Planning
London Borough of Barnet

Mr Mustard only had to wait until 28 May for the further contact and here it is, with emphasis added by Mr Mustard:

With regard to your original query, we have now been able to establish that our Planning Alert software does not allow us to wait until all the documents have been uploaded before sending out the alert. As soon as the application is logged on the system, it automatically triggers the alert. Perhaps this might change in the future, but at present we have to work with the system as it is. Even with its faults, it is a very valuable system to residents and activists like yourself across the Borough.

You could always “flag” the alert email, or put it to “Unread” as a way of reminding you to return to it again after a few days when all the documents will have been uploaded – this is what I do all the time.

We always adhere to the national policy about consultation. In many cases our officers will often be more generous in our consultation where there is marked public interest, and on large applications this can and does work out at several thousands of letters (with consequential administrative costs). In this particular case it was confined to those most directly affected, as you have mentioned.

Thank you for your comments.

Cllr. Joanna Tambourides
East Barnet Ward
Cabinet Member for Planning
London Borough of Barnet

Mr Mustard has never spoken directly to Mrs Tambourides and his only contacts with her has been that she is one of the 63 councillors who get the same round robin letters that Mr Mustard sends on his own behalf now and then, or sometimes on behalf of the famous five Barnet Bloggers, so it isn't like there is any history which would colour her judgment.

Mr Mustard is known for his dogged determination and so he emailed back on 29 May

Dear Mrs Tambourides

Thank you for your suggestion as to how I might better organise myself. I don't believe in writing lists of things to do unless I really have to. I am a "doer" rather than a "to doer". This might be an area where some fat could be stripped out of the town hall, getting staff to do things rather than write lists, or set reminders, about them.

I don't see why you need to label me as an "activist", rather than merely a resident, when I can see the monstrous carbuncle of the ugly rectangular box dormer from my dining room and thus I wrote as a local person who is concerned for the built environment and the lovely Victorian houses of my street & environs.

I am presuming of course that you are labelling me as an activist as a pejorative term because I oppose the extraordinarily risky punt in the dark that is otherwise known as the One Barnet programme which is irrelevant to my perusal of a local planning issue. That is not to be an "activist" but a rational long-term thinking resident who is concerned that he will have to pay for any mistakes made by the Cabinet whose members couldn't even be bothered to read the massive decade long contracts that it is railroading us into.

Now that caused some consternation as that afternoon he received a response:

I am not labelling you at all. You have read all sorts of things in to my use of a word. Nothing pejorative was meant at all, I assure you.

Cllr. Joanna Tambourides
East Barnet Ward
Cabinet Member for Planning
London Borough of Barnet

29 May and Mr Mustard emailed again

Dear Mrs Tambourides

Do you regularly write to residents and call them activists then in response to local planning matters?


Since then it has been rather quiet and nothing further has been received. Evidently the answer is that Cllr Tamboruides does not normally label residents and Mr Mustard suspects that she will be doubly careful not do so in the future.

Mr Mustard has asked about the costs of the email alert system, you can sign up for it here, and cost and terms of scanning the documents but as the council are suddenly finding his innocent enquiries to be vexatious again it might be some months before he gets a reply.

If you have been written to in an unfortunate manner by your councillor, do please share.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Barnet Alliance for Public Services - 1 July 2013

BARNET ALLIANCE FOR PUBLIC SERVICES

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 

Monday 1st July, 7 pm 
Greek Cypriot Centre Britannia Road N12 9RU 

This will be an opportunity to join BAPS as a member or renew the membership and contribute to the community campaign to defend and improve public services in Barnet. 

The business part of the AGM will be followed by a talk by Gerald Shamash,  Maria Nash's solicitor in her Judicial Review: 

'One Barnet' - A Council On Trial 

Refreshments provided

19 June 2013

PCN's cancelled for issue period April 11 to March 13

So here we have a report in which the cancellation of lots of parking tickets is formalised.
Individually they are not large but they do add up somewhat and this is the first report of this kind that Mr Mustard can recall seeing.
There is no data available of the £2,798,473 written off for 2009 to 2011 but the appendices did list out the parking tickets cancelled of those issued from April 11 to March 13.

The pdf format in which the council presented the data wasn't very helpful and Mr Mustard has put it into a spreadsheet for you so that you can look up to see if your old ticket is there and then you can breathe more easily.

The listing is currently in AG number order and you can download the whole listing if you wish and sort it in date order instead by using the filter box at the top of date and then selecting the ascending date sort option.



18 June 2013

Verrus - PayByPhone - Not a bargain


You go abroad for a few days and you come home to an unexpectantly high bill or you let your child have your iPad and suddenly you owe £thousands; that is just like getting Verrus to supply a cash free service for parking (cash free not cost free).

Let us wind back to Cllr Brian Coleman's delegated powers report of August 2011, DPR 1375, entitled "Cashless Parking July 2011" which is reproduced for you here in all of its glory (gory?)



What gems did this DPR contain?

para 3.2 - ‘Pay by Phone’ or ‘Cashless’ technology is inexpensive to set up and administer.

para 5.1 - Estimated costs for the necessary signage work would be approximately £160,000

para 5.2 - In addition, the removal of machines including making good the footway would entail civil works estimated in the region of £80,000

para 5.4 Savings


(£) Cost / (Savings ) Full Year
Pay by Phone fees (additional cost) £80,000
Pay and display maintenance costs -£200,000
Pay and display running costs -£20,000
Cash collection costs -£220,000
Staffing costs (E&O) -£100,000
Totals -£460,000

So moving to PayByPhone was meant to save bundles.

Para 8.10 - To date pay by phone transactions account for nearly 50% of all pay-at-time-of-parking transactions (Mr Mustard might just have to check this statement for veracity).

Let us see what we saved. Here are the PayByPhone costs for the year to March 13

Date Invoice Month PbP on £ PbP off £ Paypoint £
11/07/2012 12958 May 26,504.52

09/08/2012 13325 June
2,706.74
09/08/2012 13326 June 21,114.32

09/08/2012 13327 July 23,146.21

09/08/2012 13328 July
2,926.98
17/09/2012 13755 Aug 20,094.95 2,623.79
30/09/2012 14046 Sept 22,671.82

30/09/2012 14047 Sept
3,013.97
08/11/2012 14521 June

188.15
08/11/2012 14521 Sept

302.36
08/11/2012 14521 July

305.60
08/11/2012 14521 Aug

308.60
13/11/2012 14572 Oct 24,178.39 3,426.97 358.76
10/12/2012 14917 Nov 24,847.25 3,406.22 448.66
11/01/2013 15314 Dec 22,295.72 3,273.92 337.83
12/02/2013 15759 Jan 23,666.62 3,127.11 108.81
13/03/2013 16255 Feb 23,420.68 3,086.34 491.98
29/03/2013 16598 Mar 24,902.20 3,274.27


Totals 256,842.68 30,866.31 2,850.75

which gives a total paid to Verrus/Paypoint via NSL of £290,559.

Amounts paid to park in the year were £2,945,682 so after allowing for a few sales of vouchers by shops we are looking at 10% of all parking income going to Verrus/Paypoint. It seems a lot for simply accepting money that people willingly want to pay. Mr Mustard is a debt collector and doesn't usually earn more than 10% of sums paid by debtors who don't want to pay willingly! Did Barnet Council negotiate fees hard enough? Do they even understand commerce?

The Verrus payments in the year ended March 2011, before parking meters were removed, was £58,221 and so the extra amount has not gone up by £80,000 but by £222,000 which wipes out all of the saving of the cash collection team.

It cost £240,000 to change the signs, remove the meters and repair the pavements afterwards so that means the net saving from this change for a whole year was a mere £80,000.

Now the businesses Mr Mustard has spoken to have suffered a drop in trade of a conservative 30%. We have 20 or so centres of shopping all with 50 to 100 shops. Let us suppose a typical shop has a turnover of £100,000 (again there will be many which were much higher). So the value of trade lost to the High Street by the bonkers policy of not having cash parking meters (and do see my post of yesterday about the prevalence of cash as a medium of payment) is

20 * 75 * £100,000 * 30% = £4,500,000 which is probably a massive under estimate.
Barnet Council exists in order to serve its residents and businesses. It is serving only itself by the policy of cashless parking.


By worrying about the cost of the service and not taking sufficient account of the value of the service the council have saved a small amount of money and badly hampered many businesses.

Much as Mr Mustard would be delighted to see the signatory of this DPR, Cllr Brian Coleman, leave the council and take up a post in the real world, Mr Mustard can't bring himself to write a reference that would help. Brian isn't solely to blame as no officer appears to have stood up and said what a bonkers policy it was and the "leader" of the council, Richard Cornelius didn't step in and stop the obvious madness.

If only traders had been consulted. Oh, they have been in North Finchley, Chipping Barnet, Edgware and East Finchley and all have asked for cash parking meters and the council are deaf to their pleas.

Cllr (Dean) Cohen rules out the return of cash machines

The time has come to listen.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

17 June 2013

Cash is King (not bling)





Thank you to the British parking Association (not something Mr Mustard types very often) for bringing to his attention a press release from the Payments Council trailing their lovely £750 report. Mr Mustard wonders if bloggers count as journalists so that he can have a free copy (how about it Bugle Dan?). Actually he doesn't need it as what he needs to know is in the press release.





Oh dear Cllr Brian Coleman, your adventurous (another word for foolhardy) decision in mid 2011 to remove cash parking meters was pants (moist gusset variety)(Mr Mustard apologises to anyone who now has an image of BC in his pants)

and Cllr Dean Cohen you need to get Officers to take another look at their/your stubborn refusal to countenance cash parking meters. We need them, there is demand. Bring them back and businesses across Barnet will sing your praises (and remember you in May 14). It is a mark of a great leader that they recognise duff decisions and correct them. We now have meters which will take cash, they have had the slots covered!

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

14 June 2013

The Friday Joke - In the wrong place






An avid reader has kindly pointed out a hilarious programme on Radio 4 this morning - Tom Wrigglesworth - who Mr Mustard is a big fan of.

Enjoy a happy half hour

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00y2sdt

for the next 7 days only.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

11 June 2013

Traver's talks


There is a museum dedicated to Magritte in Brussels which friends of Mr Mustard have just been to & he would like to visit. He hasn't seen Andrew Travers in a bowler hat but it is what senior civil servants used to wear years ago. Now to what Andrew has just sent to the staff (do they all know who he is?) about the JR along with, in red, Mr Mustard's comments.

From: First Team
Sent: 10 June 2013 10:55
To: AllStaff
Subject: Judicial Review update

The First Team update on Tuesday set out the provisional dates set for the Appeal Court hearings of 7 and 8 October. True.


Since then we have continued to explore with the Court whether those dates could be brought forward, but so far to no avail. What I haven't told you is that Maria Nash's lawyers have been available since they submitted the appeal and it is the council's QC Monica Carrs-Frisk who is busy on another trial so the delay is entirely down to the council's decision to stick with her. 

We are looking at the possibility of instructing a new QC in the hope that could lead to an earlier date for a hearing, although this is still dependent on the Court listing. A new QC won't lead to any consultations being found as they don't exist.

We remain confident that permission to appeal will not be allowed and that the benefits to our residents will be delivered. Is it possible to read the mind of appeal Court judges with their superior brain power and extensive legal knowledge? This is guesswork or possibly based upon the advice of Trowers & Hamlins who would say that wouldn't they.


When this is confirmed we will sign the NSCSO contract. A.s.a.p.

The transfer of staff to Capita would take place shortly after. We can't get rid of staff quickly enough. Contrast with "continuing commitment" below.

The One Barnet programme is designed to protect and enhance our ability to serve our residents through an unprecedented period of austerity. The words "to protect" are not needed as they are followed by "to enhance" which aren't true anyway as One Barnet includes service cuts. We are not "our residents". You on the other hand represent "our council" except it has gone rogue on us. Mr Mustard thinks that some reading about the Great Depression is in order to question the use of "unprecedented".


The NSCSO contract will improve the quality of our services and will save an average of £12.5m per annum. Ask Mr Mustard if this is true in 2023.
 
This is £12.5m which would otherwise come largely from front-line service reductions. Well that is one choice. Getting every consultant & interim out of the North London Business Park, reducing the number of councillors from 63 to 21, not paying anyone more than £100,000 p.a., flattening the management structure and starting again with zero based budgets and becoming a boringly efficient organisation would be another way.

The DRS contract will improve the quality of our services, will save an average of £3.9m per annum which would otherwise largely come from front-line service reductions, and will create a growing Barnet-based business. Will other boroughs really agree to let Barnet make a profit out of providing services for them which would otherwise represent a saving in their own budget? For every winner there will be a loser. If having a Barnet based business is such a good thing why did you let NSL transfer the parking back office to Croydon?

Cabinet has carefully considered and approved these arrangements at all stages. So carefully that they haven't all read some or all of the NSCSO contract. Mr Mustard emailed all of the Cabinet as to how many pages they had each read. We know Richard Cornelius didn't read it as he said so and so his cabinet team are unlikely to have bothered; none responded to Mr Mustard's email (hello Cabinet member, it isn't too late to tell Mr Mustard you have read it all - what is that, oh an empty inbox).

The legal action pursued by the claimant is designed to delay or prevent these arrangements coming into place. It is designed to seek justice.

 
The initial application for Judicial Review was not allowed by the High Court and permission to appeal was refused. The claimant has, nevertheless, sought permission direct from the Appeal Court. This is called following due process, unlike the missing consultations.
 
The council deeply regrets this. Officers are not the council, they are its servants even if that doesn't appear to be the case. Is this remark on behalf of councillors? Richard Cornelius said "everyone has a right to speak to the Courts" (except when it buggers our cunning plans up of course).

I am acutely aware of the challenges of continuing effective service delivery during this period of uncertainty which is not of our making. Who started this pig in a poke that is One Barnet then, as it wasn't the residents?

I remain very grateful for the continuing commitment of all staff affected by these projects. Why would anyone want to TUPE transfer out such a committed workforce? If this is the case why has £167,000 been committed to Capita to cover for holes in the staffing? see Mr Reasonable's blog here.

We will be putting additional measures in place to support the continued delivery of services during this period, and more information will be available shortly for the affected areas. Can't wait. Crisis, what crisis?

Andrew no longer a Town Hall Tax Dodger Travers


10 June 2013

One Barnet - buying a Pig in a poke


The expression to buy a pig in a poke is quite interesting; will Barnet Council get what they think they are paying for or will the council tax paper get roasted?

Mr Mustard was hearing conflicting information about whether the decade long NSCSO contract was going to be signed regardless of an October 13 appeal date for the Judicial Review. He took the bull by the horns and emailed the Leader of the council, Richard Cornelius. Unlike some of his harder questions which are stuck in Richard's inbox (the one about the NSL contract now working which has not yet been answered as it is impossible) a reply came the same day, quite late at night in fact, perhaps Richard is losing sleep now over One Barnet, as he should do:


Sent: 09 June 2013 20:28
To: Cornelius, Cllr Richard
Subject: buying a Pig in a Poke


Dear Richard
I don't like to rely on gossip and presumably you know what officers are up to?

Was an undertaking given to not sign the NSCSO contract until after an appeal which we now know will be in October?

Is the contract going to be signed this month?

Thank you

Mr Mustard


From: Cornelius, Cllr Richard [mailto:Cllr.R.Cornelius@barnet.gov.uk]
Sent: Sunday, June 09, 2013 11:41 PM
To: Mr Mustard
Subject: RE: buying a Pig in a Poke

Dear Mr Mustard


The date is not yet confirmed by the clerks

Richard

Sent: 10 June 2013 07:16
To: Cornelius, Cllr Richard
Subject: RE: buying a Pig in a Poke

Dear Richard

Thank you for your email. I am not sure if you mean the date of contract signing or the date of the appeal?

Is the council still going to wait for the outcome of the Judicial Review appeal before signing?

Best regards

Mr Mustard

It is the date of the hearing. The courts do not sit August and September and both QCs have cases in July. The court is also very congested. I do not feel that we could in any way sign a contract without an exit clause should the court order a re-run of part of the the decision making process.

regards

Richard


Note that Richard didn't quibble with the email header "buying a Pig in a Poke". It can't have been seen as far wide of the mark then? The title was chosen to make sure Mr Mustard's email stood out in Richard's inbox, mind you, an alarm bell is probably set as a rule in his inbox for when any blogger email arrives.


Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

7 June 2013

Beer o'clock



The second Monday of the month is nearly upon us and so it is time for another social gathering.

Have a beer, a glass of wine, coffee or tea or a soft drink, whatever you like,

hear about the latest news in Freedom of Information from across the land (Mr Mustard's questions are no longer vexatious, could this be in any way related to Barnet Council being on the ICO's naughty step), or, 

if you have a parking ticket problem, bring all, and I mean all including the envelopes, of your paperwork along to be scrutinised in fine detail. If that is done the parking ticket probably won't be up to the challenge. If you have had a parking ticket in the Saracens Event day zone then Mr Mustard really does want to meet you. If you have had a parkignt icket issued in really awful circumstances and want to be filmed talking about it then come along of if you can't send an email to mrmustard@zoho.com and Mr Mustard will see if his contacts at the BBC are interested in it. There needs to be a good story though, preferably an ongoing one.

If you just want to soak up the atmosphere of being with eccentric individuals in a good pub and discuss the rights and wrongs of the world, or talk about books, theatre or film, starting a blog, growing vegetables on your allotment or anything else you like, including sex, politics or religion, do please come along.

If you don't have time for dinner at home before coming along, the Bohemia do proper food.

The Antic Bohemia is situated at 762-764 High Rd, Tally Ho, London, N12 9QH which is right across the road from that well known café, Café Buzz.



a good place for breakfast at any time of day.

Until Monday then, 10 June from 7pm until about 9pm as Mr M. has to go then, but you can stay until closing time.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

The Friday Joke


Today's joke is from a friend and reader of this blog.

Five surgeons are discussing who make the best patients to operate on.

The first surgeon says, 'I like to see accountants on my operating table because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered.'

The second, responds, 'Yes, but you should try electricians! Everything inside them is colour coded.'

The third surgeon says, 'No, I really think librarians are the best, everything inside them is in neat order.'

The fourth surgeon chimes in: 'You know, I like construction workers...

Those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over.'


But the fifth surgeon, shut them all up when he observed: 'You're all wrong.

Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There are no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains, and no spine...

Plus, the head and the arse are interchangeable.


Mr Mustard does like some of his local politicians, but not all that many! You know who you are. If you need to ask...

4 June 2013

NSCSO JR appeal




News reaches Mr Mustard that a provisional, although highly probable, set of dates for the appeal of Maria Nash against the NSCSO Judicial Review judgement is 7 & 8 October 2013 (Mr Mustard will see you in court!)

The delay is in no way attributable to Maria Nash and her legal team who are ready to roll today.

Thus I don't want to hear Councillor Richard Cornelius droning on about how the delay is costing taxpayers £1m a month because:

- Mr Mustard is a council tax payer and would rather the appeal goes ahead

- many of the "savings" are only aspirational and in the fullness of time might just be shown to be smoke and mirrors

- the JR and the appeal have only been necessary because the council failed to consult

- the delay is entirely the fault of the council.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Well trained traffic wardens?

The parking enforcement contract with NSL requires every traffic warden to have a City & Guilds or BPA qualification. Mr Mustard thought he would take a look at the qualification to see how high a level the bar is set at. He found a sample City & Guilds examination paper for course 1889-501 of 40 multiple choice questions (4 answers to each) for which 60 minutes is allowed. Even without a list of PCN codes Mr Mustard was able to answer 28 of the questions correctly.

Here is a sample question:

24. Which make of vehicle does the badge pictured belong? (Mr Mustard thinks the word "to" has been omitted in error)

a   Chrysler
b   Volkswagen
c   Land Rover
d   Alfa Romeo

and another

39. Which one of the following best describes how a Civil Enforcement Officer should conduct themselves?

a   Politely.
b   Informally.
c   Persistently.
d   Leniently.

If "d" is followed your job as a CEO will not last very long.

Oh go on then, a final question, you are on 100% so far are you not?

1. A vehicle is parked on a double yellow line, under Civil Enforcement which of the following would be issued?

a   Notice of Intended Prosecution
b   Excess Charge Notice
c   Penalty Charge Notice
d   Fixed Penalty Notice

to which the blindingly obvious answer is "c" a PCN.

You are now as well qualified as the typical rookie traffic warden (yes, CEO, I know) which is not really very qualified at all. (There are some good ones but they tend to be the older, wiser, more experienced ones).

The level of knowledge that the contract requires is astonishingly basic. It is little wonder that so many doubtful parking tickets are issued.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard