Dear Ms Wharfe Penalty Charge Notice ("PCN") : AGxxxxxxxx Vehicle registration : xx00xxx It is with great sadness that I have

to write to you at some length today. As this email is going to be copied to all councillors I have sent you the attachments separately in order to preserve the identity of the lady motorist who lives a little way outside of the borough. I copied the email to the daughter of the lady so that you can check that I am entitled to write in this matter but the mere fact of having the correspondence is sufficient to show that I have been consulted. This is what the lady wrote in an informal appeal: To whom it may concern I was beyond shocked to receive the enclosed notice. (a PCN) My mother died at the North London Hospice on Friday xx August and on xx September I had to pick up her death certificate from the Hospice. My brother was also in the same hospital dying from prostrate cancer. My car was parked in a road opposite the Hospice. I have never ever parked incorrectly. I parked in a space where there were no yellow lines, outside a big hedge and I believed it would be perfectly OK there on a Saturday morning. I still do not understand why I should not have parked where I did. I was not altogether in my right mind it is true but I am suffering enough at the moment so I would ask if on this one occasion you could kindly cancel this time. If you would like to see a copy of my mother's death certificate I will send it to you (name of deceased supplied). I would appreciate your consideration in this matter. Yours sincerely I would hope Ms Wharfe that you are now as moved as I was when I read this letter, even without having seen the reply. Maybe your life, or that of the NSL employee who wrote back, has not taken you to any dark places but mine has and if I were making the decision I would instantly cancel the ticket and spend some time on a sensitively worded reply. What did NSL write? This (I have added paragraph numbers): Dear Mrs A B XXXXXX Traffic Management Act 2004 Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) : number Date of service of this notice : xx/09/2012 1. Thank you for writing to us.

2. We have carefully considered what you say but we have decided not to cancel your Penalty Charge Notice. 3. There is a sign where you parked that explains that the bay you parked in is for people with a permit. 4. You were given a Penalty Charge Notice for parking without a permit that was both valid and clearly displayed. Even if you have a permit, you have to display it so that a civil enforcement officer can see all its details. 5. One street can contain different types of parking bay, for example Pay & Display on one side and residents' parking on the other. A sign on the opposite side of the street will refer to the opposite side only, where different rules may apply. 6 Streets that form a boundary between two parking areas (perhaps called Zone A and Zone B, for example) may have parking for Zone A permits or Pay & Display tickets along one side of the street and parking for Zone B permits or Pay and Display tickets along the other. The signs will show this. One street may have different types of bay in it to cater for different needs. 7. If you park where you are not allowed to, civil enforcement officers can give Penalty Charge Notices straight away: they do not have to wait. Drivers do not have a right to park for just a few minutes. Where loading or unloading in allowed, civil enforcement officers check for any loading or unloading before giving Penalty Charge Notices. 8. You have these choices: * You can pay the discount charge of £55.00 if your payment reaches us within 14 days of the date of this letter. * You can pay £110.00 within 28 days of the date your Penalty Charge Notice was issued. * You can formally challenge your Penalty Charge Notice by using a Notice to Owner form. The vehicle's owner will automatically receive the form if the Penalty Charge Notice has not been paid within 28 days of being issued. The form offers you the chance to formally challenge your Penalty Charge Notice or pay the full £110.00. If you decide to formally challenge your Penalty Charge Notice, please do not write to us again but wait until the Notice to owner form arrives. 9. How to pay * online at http://barnet.gov.uk/online-services/online-payments.htm. * by phone 08453 010 206 (24 hours) * by post Please make your cheque or postal order payable to 'London Borough of Barnet', write your Penalty Charge Notice number (see above) and vehicle registration on the back, then send it to: Barnet Parking Services, PO Box 4894, Worthing, BN11 9WT. We do not accept cash, post-dated cheques or payment in instalments. Yours sincerely

Mr R Nisbet NPO

At the foot of the letter it says PD07 and Version 7.0 21.12.2010 Now I see two possible explanations here. Sent in error? The first one is that the wrong letter was issued by NSL and they intended to cancel the ticket but hit the button for the wrong standard letter. If so, then they have blundered. I do not know how NSL organise their handling of correspondence but it is probably organised to be at minimum cost and not to maximise the customer experience and the necessary checks and balances to prevent a serious error such as this one do not exist. I intend to blog about this matter as apart from the appallingly insensitive reply the PCN should not have been issued in the first place. You might want to take some action that puts the council in a better light. The lady who received the PCN is in mourning and the letter from NSL, which is on Barnet Council notepaper, had her sobbing her heart out. On another day she might have had the fight in her to write back but has been so stressed by the letter that she has paid the £55. Now I feel sure that you will want to rectify this appalling situation and immediately refund the £55. If a motorist makes a mistake they have to pay £55. If the council makes a mistake, which is the case here, then they too should make recompense for what they have done wrong, in this case to deal insensitively with a member of the public. I would suggest that adding an ex gratia payment of £55 to the refund is appropriate. Expressly sent? The second possible explanation, although very hard to believe or stomach, is that it was expressly sent. Incidentally I have checked the PCN cancellation policy and it does not seem to cover bereavement except of the motorist. My criticism of the letter that was sent, specific and general. For starters the name of the lady is wrong. It ends with and "s" and not an "r". The lady wrote her name in capitals under her signature. From this I conclude that correspondence is dealt with very sloppily by NSL. Then the name of the road is wrong and a 7 letter name has been used when 9 is correct. All that NSL had to do was to enter the postcode into google to get the correct spelling. This is doubtless how in other cases letters do not arrive and the motorist is left trying to convince the Parking & Traffic Appeals Service that that is the case. In fact if you google the postcode and house number in this case you discover the forename and surname of the lady. The NSL letter uses the salutation form "Dear Mrs A B XXXXXX" which is completely incorrect and should be "Dear Mrs XXXXXX". The software that NSL are using has been badly configured. Separate fields should be set up for the name to be used as part of the address and the one to be used in the salutation. Anything else is sheer laziness. I am unhappy with the heading in so far as it is headed "Date of service of this Notice". The case was at the informal appeal stage so this is not a "Notice" of rejection of a formal appeal but simply correspondence. This line should be removed from all letters rejecting an informal appeal. Now to the content, using my added paragraph numbers.

1. I think "I refer to your letter of ......." might be safer wording. 2. Patently untrue. NSL have not carefully considered the matter at all. 3. Not sure it is "people" with a permit. "Permit-holders" is the usual wording. 4. Having established in the heading that a penalty Charge Notice is a "PCN" it would be better to use the abbreviation throughout the rest of the letter. It is not used once and the letter would flow better if it was so used. 5. A statement of the bleeding obvious. What is the point of including this especially as it is irrelevant to the situation. This paragraph should only be used where the PCN came about as a result of a motorist paying by phone and then parking in a residents' only bay on the other side of the road as has happened twice to my knowledge in my road. "Pay & Display" does not exist in Barnet in 2012. It is Pay-by-Phone that should be referred to. 6. As it happens there is a change of parking restriction at the bottom of Woodside Grove, where the PCN was issued, but I doubt that the NSL employee knew that and it isn't the issue here. Again this paragraph should only be used when it is relevant. The danger of using standard letters is that they don't cover all situations. It is better to use standard paragraphs with the addition of bespoke text. 7. Blatantly untrue statement. Appendix 2 (Contravention Codes and Observation Periods) of the Parking Enforcement Specification sets out that an observation period of 5 minutes is required before a PCN is issued for the offence of parking in a permit bay without clearly displaying a valid permit. Are NSL not sticking to the wording of the contract? Evidently not when they write what they have. Why is there reference to loading? That has nothing to do with this case and probably 99% of all others. 8. The letter should read "discounted" not "discount". The £55.00 would look better if it was £55 - there are no PCN charges which are not an exact pound. In this case the time to pay £55 has been extended beyond the date on which the letter offering the chance to pay £110 (not £110.00 please) will be issued. This is confusing. It would be much better if dates were used and that is well within the compass of software in 2012. There is also confusing use of both "form" and "Notice" to refer to the same document. 9. The paragraph that it is all about, the money. If you type the exact address set out in this letter, with the full stop at the end then you get a page not found error. This is because the full stop should not be there. Once you remove the full stop the page resolves to www.barnet.gov.uk/pay which would be much easier to type. I do believe I wrote in a while ago suggesting the use of a shortened url. The /pay page takes you to a page offering a selection of items to pay one of which is parking. It would be better to have a shorter url which takes you straight to the civica payment page. The use of an 0845 number makes me unhappy. That costs more than it needs to. It would be much better to have an 030 number which are intended for non-profit making bodies e.g. councils. Isn't it bad enough that someone is having to pay a penalty without stiffing them on call charges. I don't think that the council can actually refuse to accept legal tender in the form of cash although if sent by post it needs to be in a registered envelope. I looked at two other London boroughs at random and they both accept cash. It would be helpful to residents if

other charges could also be paid in cash at offices around the borough, perhaps in libraries to make them more visited. I also bring to your attemtion paragraph 10.10 of the Operation Guidance to Local Authorites on Parking Policy & Enforcement says that the council should accept cash for payment of penalty charges. Postal Orders as an alternative to cash are not viable. There is a poundage charge of 12.5% You are discriminating against the unbanked unless the council starts to accept cash payments. Finally Mr R Nisbet puts the letters "NPO" under his name. What do they stand for? I think you will agree that the standard letter PD07 is not fit for purpose and needs considerable improvement. Non compliant lines & signs in Woodside Grove Now I will turn my attention to Woodside Grove where the ticket was issued. I have looked at the on-line photographs and they do not clearly show a parking bay, there are just some little dabs of lines. I visited the exact spot where the lady parked and took some photographs on Saturday morning. I will use # plus the number part of the photograph name to refer to them. Referring first of all to the on-line tickets it appears to be from the crumpled nature of the yellow envelope that the paper on the rear of the plastic wallet has not been removed. the plastic wallet has been tucked under the wiper blade rather than stuck to the windscreen. The legislation says that the ticket must be affixed to the vehicle. There has been a spate of appeals at PATAS where the problem is that the motorist never received the PCN and if not stuck to the windscreen it is more liable to be taken by a passer-by or blown away or if dark and wet become detached when the motorist first uses the windscreen wipers. I have such a wallet from a ticket recently issued in my road as evidence of the failure to remove the backing. This practice needs to stop. #29 is the location of the alleged offence with my tape measure attached to the pole. #30 shows the tape measure and so from the ground to the top of the sign is, within an inch, 9 feet. The average British woman is 5ft4" tall. I have looked at the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 as well as the Traffic Signs Manual Chapter 5 and there doesn't seem to be anything specific about the height off the ground except for when a sign has a yellow border added to make it clearer when it should have the bottom edge 1.5m to 1.7m off the ground. As 5ft4" equals 1.63m this seems entirely sensible. The council have a general duty to be fair and I don't think that a sign above a tall thick hedge is fairly sited. Looking on google streetview I see that this sign used to be sited at low level in the hedge and so a conscious decision must have been made to move it - the wrong decision. In my road we have had frequent visits from the hedge police (you probably call them Highways officers) and the merest piece of foliage overhanging the pavement leads to a card through the letterbox or a letter in the post telling you to cut it back. I think that this tall thick hedge needs to be cut back until it is within the boundary of the flats, especially with that large tree on the pavement also narrowing the footway. There are rules about the posts on which signs are mounted being of a uniform colour and this is presumably to make them easy to find. In this case the post is only visible at the very top and bottom so is not easy to find. I also popped around the corner into Woodside Avenue and took photograph #31 in the

bay opposite the Hospice. That road is inside a CPZ with only a 1 hour restriction and so I cannot see the point of having an all day pay-by-phone bay within it unless it is simply to make money. A 1 hour restriction stops commuters and this is nowhere near the shops and so only residents and hospice visitors are likely to want to park here. I'll bet that most people when faced with a sign showing the pay-by-phone hours think that the same hours will apply to the adjacent single yellow lines and not realise that for 23 hours out of 24 they can be parked on. Consideration should be given to changing the hours of the pay-byphone bay to match those of the CPZ. Incidentally as you drive down Woodside Grove you can't see the left side CPZ sign unless you look very carefully in picture #43 as it is obscured by the tree and the signs are close to the junction when you really need to be concentrating on the traffic and pedestrians who may be crossing the road. I think the signs need to be relocated to a more visible place. Looking up Woodside Grove in picture #33 you can see, or not as it happens, the bay markings. There are no markings that comply with diagram 1028 (I think that is the relevant diagram) and given the lack of proper lines and the excessively high placement of the sign this PCN should not have been issued. Now looking at the Parking Contract with NSL I see that para 4.2.1.1 of the Parking Specification says that CEOs should "Carry out a visual check of signs and lines to ensure that they are visible and enforceable. Any missing or damaged signs or lines must be reported to base with details of the exact location and with photographs where possible." Why is it that I doubt that any CEO ever does this? When I see a CEO on the street I observe them if I have a few minutes. I have seen them issue parking tickets at other obviously defective locations. How did the CEO in this case not notice the clearly defective lines? As well as this PCN I think that the council should go back and cancel/refund those PCN issued at this location since, say, 1 April 2012 as lines do not become defective overnight and they have clearly not been compliant for a long time. Picture #34 is a closer view of the bay in question for this particular PCN. Note the spanking new yellow line as a contrast to the non-existent white one. Picture #35 is further up the street. There should be a clear white line here, 60cm long by 5cm wide. Picture #36 is the bay on the opposite sign of the road. It is also defective. Picture #37 is further up the street looking back towards the hospice. Clearly the problem is all the way along this street. Picture #38 is as #37 but from the other side of the road. Picture #39 seems to be a parking bay across a dropped kerb. That is a curious arrangement of which there were others the same in the street, and needs a page of explanation on the council website as to who can park there and when. Picture #40 is at the top of the street. Can you see clear bay markings? The post for this supposed bay is in picture #41 and is, I think, the grey pole at the edge of the brick wall, there being no other one. This is a request to cease all enforcement in Woodside Grove until the lines are repainted

and the high sign is relocated. In summary: This is what I think should happen 1 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. A refund, a letter of apology and an ex gratia payment to the lady whose PCN is quoted at the top of the letter. An instruction to NSL to cease enforcement in Woodside Grove. An instruction to NSL to repaint the lines and correct or install signs so that they are all in accordance with the relevant regulations in Woodside Grove. An instruction to NSL that CEOs should look at every location carefully before issuing a PCN and if in doubt to check with a supervisor. A review of the times of operation of pay-by-phone bays near to the Hospice. A cancellation and refund, if necessary, of all PCN issued in Woodside Grove since 1 April 2012 or such other earlier date as the council knew lines were defective from. An amendment to the Cancellations Procedure so that the likelihood of a similar letter being issued by NSL is minimised. NSL need to be instructed that the CEOs are to properly affix PCN to vehicles. Introduce a cash payment option.

I look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely Mr Mustard

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