28 July 2016

Direct Debit - Council Tax - Capita - what a whopper

Mr Mustard decided to take up the entitlement to pay his Council Tax bill by 12 instalments instead of 10. Thank you Uncle Eric (Pickles).

He emailed the council tax department of Barnet Council, which is contracted out to Capita, on 12 April. I wish to pay my council tax by 12 instalments. I have today paid £128.65 Notification of the payment amount was so that the council could calculate the correct balance.

He received the following reply on 16 May 2016 (another month having already passed!)

Thank you for your email dated 12 April 2016.

I note you are requesting to pay your council tax over 12 instalments, the 12 monthly payments is only available if you are paying your tax via direct debit.*

With regards to payment by direct debit kindly visit this link where a form can be downloaded and completed or contact the office to set the direct debit over the phone on 0208 359 2608.

Please do not hesitate to contact the Office on the above telephone number if you have any queries.

Yours sincerely

Name Redacted by Mr Mustard
Local Taxation Officer
Barnet Council

Mr Mustard did have a query which was that he had read the guidance about paying by 12 instalments and he knew that it could not be linked to the method of payment. He queried the requirement for direct debit (Mr Mustard can't find this email, it's probably in a PCN file somewhere). Answer came there none but a revised council tax bill spread over 12 months did arrive.

Mr Mustard emailed again on 19 July.

You have now sent me a revised council tax bill spread over 12 instalments but not answered the email I sent before that asking which law required me to pay by direct debit or if this was a council regulation or one of Capita's.

I would still like an answer please.

Thank you

This time, Capita knew the game was up and remaining silent was not an option. He received the following frank reply on 26 July.

I write to advise that the email of 16 May 2016 from name redacted is not correct and apologise for the error. Payment of Council Tax can be spread over 12 months from April to March and there is no requirement for that to be paid by direct debit. Please accept my apology for this error.


Mr N xxxxxx

Barnet Council Tax

Well done Mr N xxxxxx.

So now we know a trick that Capita play (surely they didn't only try it out on Mr Mustard?) on unsuspecting (not Mr M!) council tax payers. they tell them a whopper of a lie so that they collect earlier. If you were told the same untruth please do let Mr Mustard know (email mrmustard@zoho.com)

Mr Mustard urges all council tax payers not to pay by direct debit as why would you give someone else the ability to take money out of your bank account when they want, you should control it.

Mr Mustard further suggests that if you currently pay by 10 instalments that you ask to switch to 12 to even out your monthly finances. Just email local.taxation@barnet.gov.uk and ask in the same simple terms as Mr Mustard did. Remember to quote your council tax reference and/or the property address.

What other whoppers are Capita telling people?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

* The whopper 

3 August 2016: An explanation arrives. A one-off error, just as luck would have it to one of Barnet's bloggers.

Prior to the change in legislation enabling customers to request payment over 12 months we did encourage direct debit take up by allowing 12 instalments, This I believe is an isolated case and has been addressed with the staff member and further re-iterated to all staff.

19 July 2016

Not the real Registered Keeper

Imagine this. You do not own a car, you are usually driving your aged mother  in her car to bingo and hospital appointments etc. so don't need one and you don't really have the spare cash. Your mother hasn't been well and so you stay over at her place for a few weeks to look after her. You pop back home to pick up your post and it has the above documents within it, with the sum of c. £2,000 outstanding. (There have been more PCN since this sorry saga started). 

It turns out that someone, thinking they will be clever, has registered your name and address on a car purchase, not the sort of mistake you could easily make. The guilty party then parks their car adjacent to Bounds Green tube station most days and gets a PCN for not paying and probably laughs at how they have beaten the system.

The innocent party gets a copy of the V5 that was sent in with the new owner's details. The handwriting is not his nor is the signature (and Mr Mustard compared it to the innocent party's passport) and therefore the insertion of the innocent party's name and address is reported to the police as a fraud.

The innocent party is worried about the police stopping him (they wouldn't have) and his mother's car being seized (it can't be). PCN are a civil matter, not a criminal one.

Mr Mustard ponders the best solution. He has a eureka moment. He emails Haringey Parking.

A number of these PCN seem to be at the Charge Certificate stage and doubtless your policy is to uplift the vehicle as soon as there are 3 outstanding PCN at that stage. Please can you do this in order to stop the unending stream of PCN. It looks like the vehicle is usually parked without payment in the mornings near Bounds Green tube station.

Your assistance in this matter would be greatly appreciated

If it was your car you wouldn't invite the council to impound it. If and when they do so, they will not release it until every outstanding PCN is paid which is well on the way to the value of the car. The guilty party wasn't as smart as they thought they were. The system usually wins.

A week later this message lands in Mr Mustard's inbox:

Thank you for your email.

I have investigated your concerns and I can confirm our records have been updated. Mr Innocent will no longer be contacted about this vehicle.

Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused.

I hope that this is helpful and please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any further assistance.

Well done Haringey Council. Somehow you were able to stand up Mr Mustard's story, you have moved reasonably swiftly, you have apologised when you have done nothing wrong and you have indeed been helpful.

Mr Mustard hopes this sort of nasty trick is never played on you.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Mr Mustard quite enjoyed this novel problem although Mr Innocent was quite agitated about the whole thing. 

10 July 2016

No entry - no penalty (perhaps) in London (only)

Mr Mustard does not approve of people driving through no entry signs but sometimes they can't be seen very well as in the above location, Temple Mill Lane, in Newham, where their unmarked camera car is partially blocking the view. It is for use in such situations that Mr Mustard is going to tell you of a recently developed loophole against PCN for failing to comply with a no entry sign.

In the 2002 edition of the Traffic Signs Regulations & General Directions (TSRGD) the No Entry sign (sign no. 616) was listed as a scheduled section 36 traffic sign.

On 22 April 2016 the 2016 edition of the TSRGD came into force. In that £65 tome of 547 pages section 36 signs were identified in Schedule 3, part 2 by a number '1' in column 6 which meant that the Provision in Part 4 applies:

'Section 36 of the 1988 Act applies to the circular sign'.

The team that drafted the new TSRGD forgot to put a '1' in column 6 which means that until someone at the Department for Transport corrects this omission, the No Entry sign isn't a section 36 sign.

A PCN issued in London (it is a police matter outside of London) must be issued on the following basis:

The wording that many councils used for contravention code 51 was, in list 6.7.3 from 2 April 2015, this one:

This does not talk about failing to comply with a prescribed order as above but instead talks about failing to comply with a sign and to meet with the legislation that has to be a section 36 traffic sign & it no longer is one since 22 April.

The basis therefore of your challenge is that the PCN does not set out the alleged contravention in line with the requirements of the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003 and so the alleged contravention did not occur (or is a nullity).

The escape route is being plugged by London Councils, who create the contravention code wordings on behalf of all councils (and these wordings are not law but only standard practice and might still be found not be adequate if challenged at adjudication) who have changed the wording to this one in list 6.7.4 effective from 10 June 2016.

This is the wording which London Councils sent with the updated PCN listing.

Good morning

The new updated TSRGD 2016 has thrown up an issue regarding contravention code

51 ‘Failing to comply with a no entry sign’.

The latest version includes an error where the specific no entry sign (number 616) has been excluded as a section 36 sign under the Road Traffic Act 1988.

This in effect means that the contravention description in failing to comply with the sign is incorrect, as the failure to include this sign in section 36 means enforcement is only applicable for contravention of a traffic order.

For details please see Part 2 paragraph 4(5) of the LLA and TfL Act 2003 attached.


In light of this I have amended the description in the revised contravention code list above (version 6.7.4) to the following.

51 'Failing to comply with a no entry restriction'

Please ensure that you amend you description to this contravention code otherwise you will potentially have enforcement issues. This error is in the public domain.

DfT have stated that they will be rectifying the issue in due course, but this may take a couple of months. As soon as we have been made aware of the amendment then we can review the code again (if required) accordingly.

Please not that this revision is not applicable for authorities outside of London but has been forwarded for information.

I hope this makes sense

Many thanks

Mr Mustard hopes this helps you.

For any experts who are reading please go to the key cases section of the London Tribunals website and look at the Loomis case which went over similar ground some years ago. Mr Cooper is still adjudicating today.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

6 July 2016

Lyonsdown School zig zags - be a courteous driver & get a PCN in the post!

Mr Mustard's client needed to drive along Richmond Rd, EN5. She was not collecting or dropping off children on the zig-zags. She came around the corner and could not proceed through the centre of the road because of oncoming traffic. She was there at least 10 seconds (the cctv finishes before she moves off - what a surprise) and where else can you stop your car except on the left hand side of the road where the keep clear (zig-zag) markings are?

Enforcement at this location is by automated camera. The selected cctv footage is then supposedly reviewed by a staff member to check it before a PCN is issued. Something tells Mr Mustard that the council (or NSL) aren't checking to see if you were stopped from proceeding by oncoming traffic. Mr Mustard will request a procedural change with the parking manager to try and prevent stupid PCN being issued i.e. a longer clip of footage needs to be reviewed. In the clip Mr Mustard has seen the driver's hand is still on the wheel and no-one gets in or out of the car. A challenge to that effect has been rejected by the council. Mr Mustard will see them at the tribunal.

Mr Mustard will in the meantime drive down this road during the operative hours, with his crash cam running, to test the system.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard 

Update: 7 July 2016

The parking manager responded very quickly to Mr Mustard's missive.

Please see below (the innocent trap problem was explained by Mr Mustard) – it does look like this is a problem which could be easily fixed if the yellow lines were extended further up the road.

Do you know whether this issue has been raised previously as from the current layout of this section of road I suspect it happens on a regular basis.

Could you review and respond to Mr. Mustard please.

Another parking employee then said this

I have spoken to colleagues within this section and it was agreed that there are circumstances due to the road layout, that may cause this type of stopping to be a course of action for a driver. I have since requested that the CCTV footage be extended ( should be completed today) and have requested that Highways look at the current layout of the yellow lines to see if they could undertake to extend the DYL (on the opposite kerb) and install a SYL from the SKC* going east.

I have also requested that on this occasion that we close the case due to mitigation although this will not set a precedent for this area as each case will reviewed on a case by case basis.

Mr Mustard is pleased to see such a speedy and positive response. Credit where it is due.

*SKC = School Keep Clear markings.