22 August 2017

PayByPhone - not so quick sometimes

Barnet Council imposed PayByPhone on everyone in Barnet who wishes to pay to park their vehicle with, in most places (500 cash parking meters were latterly replaced by 50 card only machines) and no other practical alternative for those who want to use cash. Being able to pay is dependent upon you having a mobile phone with some charge in it and a phone signal which although more reliable than 10 years ago can still be variable for certain providers in certain locations. There are also unexplained delays in the PayByPhone system responding to texts sometimes. Barnet Council always try to put the blame on the motorist for any failing in the PayByPhone system which is unfair as the motorist has no choice in the chocie of mobile payment system. A recent adjudication at the tribunal saw, in decision 2170163808 in May 17, the following result

This PCN was issued for the alleged contravention of being parked in Watling Avenue Car Park at 3.14pm on 5 January 2017 without payment of the parking charge. It is not in dispute that Mr M's car was parked without payment of the parking charge. I am, however, allowing this appeal because it is clear from Mr M's evidence that, in the period between parking the car and the issue of the PCN, he was actively and continuously engaged in the process of attempting to make a payment to park by phone. The evidence shows a series of text messages sent from the phone and it appears that the correct information was being transmitted by Mr M. A motorist is allowed a reasonable period on parking to make the payment to park. A period of 25 minutes would ordinarily be regarded as excessive but I am satisfied from the evidence that Mr M was prevented from making payment through no fault of his own. I therefore find that the alleged contravention did not occur.

The council can provide evidence of everything you did with your phone to try and effect payment. If you are sure of your ground you can demand this be disclosed to the tribunal. Don't though see you have just been issued with a PCN and then start to effect payment as you will look like a cheat, which you would be.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

18 August 2017

Lewishan the internecine Council

Mr Mustard keeps an eye on the results at London Tribunals each day. He sees odd things sometimes.

Here Lewisham Council have refused representations from themselves four times and taken themselves to the PCN tribunal four times at a total cost in tribunal fees of about £120. At that point they have decided to not contest their own arguments.

Bonkers or what?

Interestingly they chose to fight the 5 motorists who weren't the borough themselves, perhaps because they stood to actually raise some revenue from them, but even then they only won 2 out of 5 of the cases and so should collect £260 in due course but have paid out about £150 in tribunal fees (not recoverable) and probably spent about 7 - 10 hours in getting the evidence packs ready for the tribunal & on pursuing the PCN generally.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

17 August 2017

Cooker - for charity or community.

Mr Mustard has decided to replace his twin oven cooker. It was purchased in October 05. He always found the top oven, non fan, a bit slow being a man always in a hurry. Conversely the bottom oven was always too hot and burnt pizza to a crisp in minutes. At least it did until last week when it tripped the breaker and now there isn't a fan.

The four rings work perfectly and rather than send it for recycling Mr Mustard thought that there might be a charity who could use it if they mostly use the rings.

It is a Smeg Opera A42-5 and is 70cm wide (measure any gap it needs to fit within).

If your charity or community group would like it, email mrmustard@zoho.com and it is yours for free.

If an individual wants it for their own use then that is also possible in return for a donation to the North London Hospice.

Bus fare?

Mr Mustard keeps an eye on decisions at London Tribunals and looks at anything out of the ordinary. This decision, number 2170244830, was unusual:

I have to deal with appeals against a large number of PCNs issued by this Enforcement Authority to a number of the Appellants’ buses, alleging in each case that the vehicle entered and stopped in the box junction at the junction of Castelnau and Trinity Church Rd. when prohibited. Mr. Claridge attended on behalf of the Appellants with Mr. Johnson representing the Enforcement Authority. I am grateful for the assistance each provided.

Mr. Claridge does not dispute in any of the cases that the bus entered and stopped in the box junction but he criticises the particular box junction which he argues does not serve the purpose of facilitating traffic turning right onto Castelnau. He states that it is company policy to require their drivers to pay penalty charges or face disciplinary action. When the Appellants began to receive PCNs from this location they were paid as usual. However, given the large number of PCNs received, and having spoken to their drivers and made their own assessment of the particular box junction, they took the view that enforcement was unfair. Mr. Claridge points out that there is a bus stop beyond the box junction which services up to 50 buses during morning rush-hour. He says that 8 of these buses terminate here and therefore tend to need longer than at a through-bus stop. Mr. Claridge states that the bus stop is capable of serving 3 buses at a time but that the design dictates that the driver of the first bus must stop short of the end to enable passengers to board or alight. He says that when 2 buses are stopped at the bus stop there is insufficient remaining available space for a third bus to clear the box junction. He points out the box junction follows an ‘at any time’ bus lane and argues the only vehicles in the inside lane should be buses. He indicates that he has had negotiations with representatives of the Enforcement Authority and Transport for London with a view to relocating the bus stop.

I initially considered a group of 46 cases which relate to this box junction. In each case the enforcement camera DVD appeared to show a clear example of the contravention, with the bus entering the box junction and having to stop wholly or partly in the box junction due to the presence of stationary vehicles. In 24 cases the situation presented the classic problem identified by Mr. Claridge, with 2 buses stopped at the bus stop leaving insufficient space for the third to clear the box junction. In the remaining cases there was either one bus or another type of vehicle which prevented the Appellants’ bus clearing the box junction.

I have had the opportunity to question Mr. Claridge and consider his submissions and I am quite satisfied these appeals are advanced in good faith. I accept that for some reason the Appellants’ drivers find this box junction particularly difficult to negotiate. However, I have not identified anything unusual about this box junction in any of the enforcement camera footage. I am satisfied that the box junction is substantially compliant, clear and adequate and therefore enforceable.

I am not satisfied that the Appellants have established anything in any of these cases which goes beyond mitigation. The Enforcement Authority may cancel a PCN as a matter of their discretion but Adjudicators have no power to direct cancellation on the basis of mitigating circumstances.

Having considered all the evidence I am satisfied that the contravention occurred and that the PCN was properly issued and served. I am not satisfied that any exemption applies.

The penalty charge in each of these cases has always been £130. The Enforcement Authority must accept half of this amount in full and final settlement if received within 14 days beginning with the date of the PCN. Outside this period the Enforcement Authority may accept the reduced amount in full and final settlement but this is entirely a matter of their discretion. An Adjudicator has no power to direct that they do so. It follows that in this case the Enforcement Authority are entitled to insist on payment of the full penalty charge. However, the Enforcement Authority have indicated that they are in each of these cases prepared to accept the reduced amount of £65 in full and final settlement. This must be paid within 21 days of today or the full penalty charge will fall due.

Mr Mustard doesn't see anything to quibble over with the decision.

Mr Mustard has often wondered if buses just weren't given yellow box junction PCN as he had rarely seen obviously bus company names in the tribunal register. Well, that has all changed now. Don't be at all surprised if other boroughs, their parking manager having spoken to the Richmond manager at a quarterly meeting, decide to go after bus companies for easy money in order to improve road safety and traffic flow.

This has cost the bus company 46 * £65 = £2,990

Mr Mustard observes the following:

1. Given that the yellow box is within traffic lights it probably isn't needed. With suitable phasing both roads could get a fair share of the available road space.

2. It is harder for a bus, about 11m in length, to get clear of a yellow box, but in this case they have a bus lane in advance of the box so do not have fight with more nimble cars for the exit space.

3. Similarly, if the box waited short of the box they would not be in conflict with other waiting traffic, which is in lane 2.

4. The road is the route of the 33, 72, 209 & 485. One of them seems to terminate there on 8 occasions during the rush hour. The location is a bus stop not a bus stand so buses should not be parked there, only stopped for passengers to board and alight, for up to 2 minutes. (Any bus experts are welcome to correct this if wrong).

5. As can be seen from the photo the alighting point has not been placed at the end of the bus stop but further along. That needs to be changed.

The trouble with discretion being entirely at the judgment of the enforcement authority who will receive the income if they reject your representations is
'Nemo judex in causa sua' which means 'no-one should be a judge in his own cause." It is a principle of natural justice that no person can judge a case in which they have an interest. The rule is very strictly applied to any appearance of a possible bias, even if there is actually none: "Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done". This wasn't. As the problem became apparent it would have been the mature approach for Richmond Council to have sat down with the bus company and resolved the matter without penalty.

As it happens Mr Mustard has just sorted out his own bus related yellow box PCN in Barnet. Here is the scene.

The black car, fully in the box, stopped where they were thus leaving the junction clear but could, in Mr Mustard's opinion have cleared the box so they chose not to, they were not stopped due to the presence of a stationary vehicle, the bus. The PCN was at the charge certificate stage as the PCN itself had not been received, i.e. £195 was being claimed. If you look like getting completely stuck, take a left turn down Ravensdale Avenue instead, or turn right into Avenue Road, or even reverse out, do a u-turn, crawl forwards at half a mile an hour, anything, just don't sit there like a sitting duck.

Mr Mustard was going to go down the witness statement route at the TEC, to obtain a fresh PCN, once the Order for Recovery had been issued, but instead he looked up the PCNs which had been issued at that location on the day in question, as Barnet Council publish them without personal data. There wasn't a PCN for the bus (based upon the contravention time) which was fully in the box. The parking manager tells Mr Mustard he likes to be fair. Mr Mustard suggested that sending a PCN to the car but not the bus was not fair. The PCN was cancelled, whether for fairness or because arguably the car did not commit a contravention, was a source of no concern to Mr Mustard. The PCN has been cancelled which has saved both sides a whole load of work and the council may have saved themselves a £30 tribunal fee.

Mr Mustard has no objection to Barnet Council not issuing PCNs to the buses who are trying to get to their stop as their exit is usually free and they will otherwise lose out to vehicles coming out of Ravensdale Avenue

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

14 August 2017

Enforcement authorities duel it out

Great use of the public purse? One publicly funded authority defending themselves against another one. Whilst you might think Hackney Council lost, really the tax payer did as they paid for both sides to fight.

Completely fair of TfL though to not show any favouritism, they are happy to take anyone's money.

Going to the tribunal to argue the discount is a waste of time as the adjudicator must apply the law & not use discretion. Hackney would have opposed such an argument if used against them.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

11 August 2017

Greggs - Ballards Lane, Finchley Central, London N3

Mr Mustard had to meet a lady about her PCN & car tow away in Brent and as she lived nearby they arranged to meet in Costa in Ballards Lane N3. Mr Mustard was stood outside as he was, as per usual, early. He heard shouting from across the road. He saw an apparently homeless man sitting quietly minding his own business on the pavement at the left hand edge of the Greggs shop and to the right, next to the open front door, a female Greggs employee with a mop & bucket. She was washing the black frontage. She shouted at the homeless man to 'go away' more than once. Mr Mustard, who used, once upon a time, to volunteer in the Crisis at Christmas homeless shelters, felt very uncomfortable with this. Then he sadly realised what was going to happen when the man didn't move, which was that the employee sloshed her bucket of water onto the ground in front of the shop, just to the left of the front door.

Now you can't drop a bucket of water on the floor without it spreading sideways in all directions and it duly reached where the poor homeless man was sitting and it caused him to move pretty sharpish. At this point Mr Mustard took to Twitter as he didn't have time to get further involved.

Mr Mustard has now got back to his office and had time to have a quick look at the social responsibility pages on the Greggs website, which includes the following snippets,

Clearly at senior level Greggs have the right idea but the message has not reached to one member of shop staff.

Firstly, why didn't the employee simply say to the man 'Please could you move for a few minutes as I want to wash the shop front?' as an innoffensive homeless person is deserving of as much decency & politeness as customers of Greggs; remember he was simply sitting there minding his own business. If he was being uncooperative then maybe you just wait and wash the shop front later?

The second thing is that the pavement fronting onto Greggs appears to be the public highway so she had no right to order him about, she would not have done it to Mr Msuatrd if he had stood there on his mobile phone. The homeless man is not a lesser being, he is a human being, in a lesser state at the moment. The pavement is his home. Homelessness is not, in a way, our, society's, problem, it is the problem of the homeless themselves. Once you hit rock bottom, no home, no job, no money, no food, no doctor, no shelter or safety, no toilet or shower facilities, no friends, no family, no health & no prospects, what you don't need is to be shouted at and splashed with water (luckily it is a warm sunny day but getting wet is one of the biggest problems to face the homeless) but some help, a place of refuge, some help fixing the drink &/or drug and/or mental health problems which may exist and then perhaps some work may be possible, is the solution that is needed and an advanced society's duty to assist.

Mr Mustard can easily appreciate how no food business would want a person camped out outside their shop making it look untidy & perhaps innocently sending customers elsewhere (30 years ago Mr Mustard lived in Potters Bar and the local tramp was no fool, he used to sit quietly on the wall near the cashpoint and the bakers where people fed him and gave him money) but the misguided actions of this one employee (Mr Mustard is assuming this event was a one off unless you know better, residents of Finchley Central) are not the answer. Mr Mustard does not want the employee to be sacked (as losing your job can lead to losing your home) but to be educated about her attitude, manner and behaviour.

Greggs have got far more financial resources than most and perhaps could help in London by working once again with charities and local authorities to try and get some of these people off the street with a helping hand rather than trying to get them washed away.

Moving on the homeless is not the answer, the street is their home. You wouldn't want to be there.

Mr Mustard started the day at 7am the happiest he has been in a long time. This unfortunate event marred his morning & made him sad. Hopefully Greggs, who will be tweeted a direct link to this blog and will hopefully update us as to what they have done about this member of shop staff, will become part of the solution rather than be a problem. Don't just think of the PR aspect Greggs, think what you can do to help as that will naturally bring benefits to you & make Mr Mustard happy again.

Now, back to parking tickets.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard