17 October 2017

TfL - Turn fractionally Late = PCN

If there was ever any doubt that those public servants who have been given huge big brother power have let it go to their heads, here it is. At a badly signed no right turn from the Upper Richmond Road into Dryburgh Rd the vehicle arrowed started to turn before 7am when the restriction starts and can be said to have made the turn when this still was taken, at 2 seconds past the start time of the no right turn restriction. Does this really deserve a PCN for £130?

The odd thing is that if the vehicle had been entering the congestion zone it would not have been ticketed within the first or last 2 minutes of the zone hours. Only TfL know why they don't apply the same sensible discretion to the use of their powers at timed banned turns.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

11 October 2017

Indifferent Islington Council

More than a tweet required in Islington
Mr Mustard has been consulted about a PCN debt problem in Islington. A vehicle owner was being chased for £662 for 4 PCNs which had all been registered as debts at the TEC (Traffic & Enforcement Cetre located at Northampton County Court) which is always followed by bailiffs being instructed.

He decided to find out what the theory was in order to compare it to actual practice. This was it as obtained under Freedom of Information legislation.

This is what Islington Council were told about the debtor (the vehicle owner & also the driver on the 4 occasions in question) by a concerned family member (Mr Mustard isn't certain they had any authority to get involved). Let us call the vehicle owner 'C'

- the address the council have for C is out of date by many months
- he moved to another borough for a while
- he was made homeless
- he slept in his car for some weeks
- he slept on the floor of a church charity for a while
- the car has been scrapped
- he is mentally ill
- he has paranoia & psychosis
- he was sectioned for 4 weeks
- he is not yet fully recovered.

Islington Council were asked to 'look into the matter'. You, dear reader, faced with this awful situation would either close the PCNs if you believed the account or if sceptical you would ask to see a hospital report to evidence the sectioning and then write off the debt, would you not? Well, you might, but Islington Council didn't.

They said:

- all statutory notices were sent to the known address as per the DVLA.
- they made offers to settle at the 50% rate which were not taken up for one PCN.
- none of the letters for the other 3 PCN were returned
- the comments were noted
- all the PCNs were correctly issued and must be paid in full
- £452 will be accepted in settlement (100% + £8 for each PCN)
 - this is the very last opportunity
- if unpaid after dd/mm/yy bailiffs will be instructed
- further fees will be added.

You will be shocked and appalled by the callous inhumanity and indifference shown by the council but sadly Mr Mustard isn't. He sees this sort of thing all the time and is inured to it but hopes that one day the repeated exposure in his blog will do some good and bring about change. He can't of course suggest putting the affected people in the newspapers as their medical condition makes it unfair on them.

He advised the family member thus:

- it is not their debt so do not pay a penny
- the bailiff will search for the car & not find it
- goods are rarely taken and C will not have any in any event
- the bailiff will not find C
- just forget about it and/or ask Islington Council what they are playing at.

The rather vague policy of Islington Council that each case will be decided upon its merits is just empty words & they wouldn't 'expect' to sent the case for warrant collection (i.e. to a bailiff) means they would expect to. The utter futility of Islington Council suggesting the use of bailiffs is obvious but what they are hoping for is to get some income from the concerned family member which is why they offered a reduced sum.

It really is all about the money in parking. PCNs are more important (to councils) than your mental health.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

10 October 2017

Nasty Newham Council

Mr Mustard has a client who doesn't like bothering him so tries to sort out parking tickets themselves and this sometimes goes wrong and the odd PCN ends up with a bailiff. That isn't too bad a problem as the car belongs to Motability and is used to transport a disabled person so cannot, in law, be removed by a bailiff (although they will threaten to remove it to bully you into paying). The physical needs of the disabled person are clearly quite severe as they qualify for a Motability car and their mental needs are such that they have a litigation friend under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Newham Council have ended up with a PCN at the bailiff stage against the Litigation Friend as that is the name recorded on the V5 registration document rather than the disabled person. That record will be amended.

Newham have their own bailiffs who work under the umbrella name of OneSource which is a shared service company (OneSource Partnership Ltd has filed dormant accounts) owned by the boroughs of Havering, Newham & Bexley.

To ensure the life of the disabled person was not disrupted by the wrongful removal of the car Mr Mustard emailed OneSource as follows:

As you know, a Motability car cannot be clamped or removed by you for two reasons. The first is that it is not the property of A (the litigation friend) or B (the disabled person). The second is that a car used for the transport of a disabled person is exempt, and a Motability car is patently such a vehicle & is so used.

What came back, after a bit of email ping pong, was this:

We are aware that Motability vehicles cannot be removed. Please be aware that under the standard terms and conditions of the Motability scheme the registered keeper of the vehicle is liable to pay all outstanding penalties and fines and failure to do so is likely to be regarded as “breach of contract” and may lead to the cancellation of the agreement and/or to you being refused Motability finance in future. oneSource Enforcement Services will notify Motability of all cases where we believe the scheme is subject to misuse and a refusal to pay has been identified.

As Mr Mustard was writing as a representative the use of 'you being refused' clearly points to this being a standard wording. Mr Mustard had heard of such threats before but not seen them in writing. The 'paramount' privacy statement and the threat of disclosure seem somewhat at odds with one another?

He was unhappy with the proposed actions so he emailed OneSource again.

You are hereby cautioned not to intervene in a private contractual arrangement to which you are not a party and in which your proposed actions would amount to a Data Protection Breach. I would suggest you consult the borough's in house legal team / information experts before you take such a step.

This email has been copied to my solicitor.

That was 2 months ago and no further email has been received by Mr Mustard which is the usual modus operandi of an authority caught in a compromising situation - go quiet and hope the problem goes away.

One bailiff letter has been sent since threatening that they will take control of goods but they have no right of forced entry to premises and as both the disabled person and the litigation friend are in receipt of state benefits they are unlikely to have anything worth the costs of seizure and sale.

The whole way in which councils go about chasing debts due (& there is one here although there is an 84% chance Mr Mustard would have beaten the PCN if given it at the beginning) from the disabled and/or mentally ill is just wrong, it is based on the blunt use of force. There needs to be nuance and finesse and a tailored approach. Offering time to pay to people who don't have the money now would be a much better solution for both parties but councils rarely offer instalments and the bailiff approach of pay it all or else leads to resistance to paying anything. 

What it probably needs is one council to analyse current results for all PCNs involving the physically or mentally disabled (this will show up by the nature of the contravention i.e. blue badge slipped off dashboard cases) and then try a new approach of inviting instalments, arranging a meeting with the vehicle owner if there are multiple outstanding PCNs to both try and stop further PCNs being issued and to see what arrangement can be made about current ones or to establish if the financial situation of the person is so hopeless that writing off the debt is the only logical step. What the council are meant to do is to make 'due adjustment' for the disabled. It isn't greatly in evidence.

Councils automatically increase unpaid PCN values by 50% as soon as they possibly can. They do not have to do so. The regulations say 'may' increase not 'must'.

Sadly, Mr Mustard thinks that in a year's time, nothing will have changed.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

9 October 2017

Up the junction in Enfield

Is this a valid yellow box junction? Needless to say Enfield Council are still issuing PCNs here, at the supposed junction of Southbury Road and Eaton Road but clearly there isn't a junction, so there isn't a need to keep the area clear, although most people where, but the light blue car owner was sent a PCN.

A 'box junction' (at this locale) means 'an area of carriageway where the marking has been placed and which is at a junction between two or more roads'. 

That is the case normally whilst Eaton Road is open to traffic but Mr Mustard would argue firstly that if you can't drive down enter or exit Eaton Rd then temporarily there is no junction and there is, of course, no traffic management purpose to any PCNs issued whilst the side road is coned off. The only effect of leaving the camera running is to raise revenue.

Mr Mustard has been agitating for some time about the way that moving traffic systems work. The cctv computer controlled camera watches the footage 24/7 and selects clips which the computer programmer defines as a contravention and once a day a person is meant to watch the clips and come to a reasoned decision that a contravention did take place and that a PCN should be issued.

It is possible to automate the entire process of issuing such PCNs and Mr Mustard thinks that may be happening. Alternatively the people who watch the clips simply say yes to everything. There is no common sense. Mr Mustard thinks that operators assume the cctv is correct, of course the motorist is guilty, and ticks yes to a PCN.

This is the sort of immoral behaviour we have come to expect from the private parking sector, a local authority should be beyond criticism at all times.

Enfield Council - hang your heads in shame and pro-actively cancel all PCNs and refund monies paid for any PCNs issued during the days when access was not possible.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Enfield's response:

Parking Services were not made aware* of the closure of Eton (sic, Eaton) Road by our Highways Department and only found out last week.  We went through a process of cancelling all 247 PCNs which was completed on the 4th October.  We have received a communication from your neighbour which was logged on our system on 6th Ocotber. The case was reopened this morning to send a response to confirm that the PCN has been cancelled and case is now closed again.

*Parking must all use public transport to get to work then? Mr M.

Common sense has prevailed.

Plans for the Fern Room - 11 October 2017 from 16:30 to 20:00

As it happens Mr Mustard was at the meeting of the Cabinet Resources Committee on 4 April 2012 when this property was agreed to be sold.

What do we see here? Firstly, the property was sold for the sole purpose of extending the Spires Shopping Centre. That is not now happening on this site.

Secondly, an offer was refused from a private developer and since that time, the ownership of the Spires itself having changed, this plot was offered to the highest bidder. If Barnet Council had put the plot up for sale to developers Mr Mustard thinks they would have got a better price, a monopoly buyer won't overpay.

The Land Registry tell me that property was sold on 23 May 17 for £1,100,000 so someone thinks they can squeeze enough properties onto the site to make a profit.

Mr Mustard couldn't find the sale price form 2012 and he wonders if anyone at the council thought to include a clawback clause to recover any future gains from change of use? Why the council sold it in the first place and didn't use it to build social housing is a question that occurs to Mr Mustard.

The other question is why the developers need a big PR firm to present an exhibition for what should be a sympathetic build, perhaps that tells us that some egregious & hideous looking over-development is planning. Mr Mustard predicts another featureless rectangular flat roofed block.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

5 October 2017

Oktoberfest - N12

This sounds like fun, get yourselves a ticket before they sell out.


Mr Senf

3 October 2017

Councils kick themselves

One of Mr Mustard's regular readers kindly looked through the on line register for more instances of when councils took themselves to the tribunal to force them to pay themselves for a PCN. He found far more than one would expect.

Each case is a tribunal fee down the drain to prove a point or to move money from one council budget to another one. It doesn't really matter if they won or lost as they were both the victor and the vanquished at one and the same time.

Seems crazy; surely there is a better solution?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

29 September 2017

Haringey Council got greedy & lost the lot

Haringey Council lifted and removed the car of a friend of a friend of Mr Mustard. To see what sort of experience it was Mr Mustard went to the pound to see the car recovered. It is a tense & unwelcoming place.

In order to get your car back you have to pay the removal fee, any per night storage charges and 50% of the PCN value. That 50% is what the council will accept in full settlement within 14 days.

This is what the PCN says

This is what the balance was on the council website

That is clear then, there is nothing owing for the PCN.

The representations for a refund being refused an Appeal was made to London Tribunals. The council's case summary contained this shocking demand:

That is to move the goalposts after the full time whistle has blown and claim a penalty.

The adjudicator was not amused. This is what he said.

Asking the authority (Haringey Council) to research more thoroughly is lawyer speak for wake up & don't try that trick again.

It wasn't a ruse that Mr Mustard had ever seen before and it was never going to work for three reasons:

1. The council have a general duty at law to be fair and demanding extra payment at the Appeal stage is outwith the Regulations and manifestly unfair.
2. The council had the car and so could extract the penalty that was properly due on release of the car.
3. Contract law defines a contract as containing an offer, acceptance and consideration which all existed in this case.

Haringey Council have been ordered to refund the £65 PCN payment and the removal fee of £200. Three times in the last 3 months Mr Mustard has challenged their vehicle removals, twice they refunded of their own volition (which is rare) and this third time they have been ordered to do so. Mr Mustard just loves Haringey Council.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 September 2017

Yellow box junction - quiz 2

Watch the cctv and the black car which exits to the left hand lane but does not quite leave the box.

Leaving aside the moral question of whether a car minding its own business & not causing any delay to anybody should be sent a ticket, Barnet Council thought the driver (car owner receives it) deserved one (or perhaps just their computer did even though Mr Mustard is assured that all cctv is checked by a person before issuing a PCN, an assurance which he doesn't have much faith in) the question is

'Was a contravention committed?'

Here are the Regulations:

The prize for getting this correct is that you won't get PCNs in the future (mean Mr Mustard!).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

26 September 2017

Barnet Council parking are getting better - at apologising

A good apology is a thing of beauty and Barnet are getting better at them but then they do have to send Mr Mustard quite a few.

Mr Mustard checks the on line balance of every PCN he handles every 10 days or so. When he then sees a balance increase by £8 he knows that, in theory, an Order for Recovery has been issued. It turned out that Barnet had been increasing the balance when they asked the Court to approve the debt registration rather than when the Court responded. He is told that this was due to human error but Mr Mustard thinks it was the way the system was set up.

The event which confirmed that the horse was before the cart was when Mr Mustard, having seen a balance increase by £8, submitted a witness statement in order to get a debt registration cancelled and the TEC (the relevant part of the Court) told him that the PCN had not been registered as a debt. That was a procedural impropriety (blunder) on the part of the council.

You can keep an eye on your Barnet PCN balance here

Note that the fault was down to NSL who are meant to be PCN processing experts. Mr Mustard wouldn't want to deal with amateurs if this is what experts are like. Mr Mustard has been described as a professional lay representative which is, of course, an oxymoron. It is harder to get your contractors to do the right thing than manage your own staff doing it as they are within your sight. This is one of the prices you pay for outsourcing, loss of control.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

25 September 2017

Lambeth Council - dropped footway = lowered standards

Sometimes the public end up knowing more than the functionaries who are punishing us. That is often now the case for Mr Mustard. He was sent the above PCN and he said straightaway to his client that it would not stand up to scrutiny at the tribunal. The reason being that the correct wording for code 27 is longer, and funnily enough Lambeth almost know that as they have fuller information on their on line system

and here are the officially approved words

Here is what the legislation says

Now Mr Mustard will show you what the kerb looked like where his client's car was parked:

That is not a garage or driveway to facilitate vehicle entry.
There isn't a cycle track there.
Is it for pedestrians to cross the road? Here is the opposite side
No dropped kerb there so no contravention as not especially for pedestrians to cross the road & no dimpled pavements to alert the blind.

On 11 September Mr Mustard told Lambeth that the words on the PCN did not amount to a contravention and that a contravention had not occurred in any event as the black doors look like they lead to an equipment store.

On 21 September they rejected his argument:

The response is wrong because parking against every dropped kerb is not a contravention; parking across your own private drive outside of cpz hours is ok (as long as the drive is not shared). Parking in front of a pram store or equipment room is also not a contravention. In addition the Highway Code does not exactly reflect the law (not Rule 217 either but Rule 240 and/or 243 and then it refers you to the relevant laws in red after the Rule) and not adhering to the Highway Code isn't necessarily a contravention and certainly not in this case.

The council haven't appreciated that Mr Mustard's client did not breach parking regulations so really shouldn't send such sanctimonious responses.

The decisions of the adjudicators are not binding but they are persuasive and here is an extract from a relevant one

We are in a situation in which the motorist will still be worried, despite Mr Mustard's assurances and where we now have to wait for a month and then go through the formal representations and doubtless get rejected again and then make an Appeal to the independent adjudicator at London Councils at which hearing the matter will be wrapped up in a couple of minutes and Lambeth Council will have burnt the £30 hearing fee.

If you have a dropped footway PCN in Lambeth, you now know what to do. Make representations that the PCN does not state a contravention.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

24 September 2017

Welcome to Hounslow Civic Centre - that will be £60 please

The tribunal does throw up some corking decisions sometimes & Mr Mustard only loooked at this one because of the words 'civic centre' which he finds to be a magnetic draw.

Mr Mustard doesn't understand why photographs taken at 10am are dark as for safety the car park should be well lit indoors and/or the council could activate the flash setting on their cameras? One lesson to learn from this decision is the wisdom of keeping all those little vouchers in an envelope behind the sun visor or in the glove box, just in case (especially as somehow the PCN went missing).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

22 September 2017

Pull the wool?

You've got to be good to pull the wool over Mr Mustard's eyes.

His client paid to park in the Golders Green Road, she forgot she was driving her husband's car and so paid for her own one. Needless to say she received a PCN. She challenged the PCN and then the Notice to Owner on the not unreasonable grounds that the council had not lost out. She was rejected twice.

For the tribunal appeal Mr Mustard's help was sought. He filed an Appeal which was partly on the grounds that the bay sign did not tell you that you could use a parking meter, at which it is impossible to pay for the wrong car as a registration number is not required (and you are unlikely to place the machine receipt in the wrong car!).

Here is the relevant section of the council's case summary:

PbP = PayByPhone
and here is the plan they produced of the area showing the parking restriction signs

No parking meters on that plan.

Mr Mustard went to the council's maps and extracted another version just a little further down the road and oh, guess what, there is a parking meter which was just off the page in the council's evidence to the tribunal.
ooh, a parking meter at the other end of the bay.
A coincidence, an outright lie or just an unfortunate oversight? Mr Mustard will be filing a complaint with the council that he has been lied to.

The other interesting fact about this PCN is that the motorist paid £2.10 to park for an hour (including the optional 10p text reminder which Mr Mustard does not opt for as it is poor value being 5% of the parking charge) and then extended for 30 minutes at a cost of £1.10 (a 10% uplift to receive a text!) and the council had not refunded the charges paid to park although that would be the obviously fair thing to do.

This time, once the case hit the tribunal stage and Mr Mustard argued that it was procedurally unfair (a general law requirement for enforcement authorities so to be)  the council refunded £3 (not the 20p you note) in order to see if they could hang on to the £60 PCN. That looks unlikely given that they have either mislead or lied to the tribunal and to the Appellant (the motorist making the Appeal). There are dire warnings on council paperwork that motorists risk fines of £5,000 if they tell porky pies; Barnet Council need to get their own house in order.

If you are in the same boat and going to the tribunal do ask for a refund of the parking fee that you paid.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Barnet Council have now been in touch with Mr Mustard, apologised for the inconvenience and cancelled the PCN. It was just an error, not an attempt to deceive.