Staff Memo – All staff must only read Westminster Council official press releases for nice news

On Tuesday of this week we witnessed a sad juxtaposition as the Evening Standard wrote about the suspension of a Westminster City Council Street Warden, whilst on that same evening the Councils PR spin doctors were attending the Chartered Institute of Public Relations ‘Excellence Awards’ annual back slapping bash. With the team from Westminster collecting a gong for best crisis management.

 

It certainly looks as if someone has dropped the ball on the long term festering sore that is the treatment of Westminster Council Street Management staff.

 

In our last post we went into detail regarding one council street warden/shop steward (John Gilroy) who was suspended then sacked, after falsely being accused of theft, which led to him being arrested in front of his family and having his personal property confiscated.

 

When it came to John Gilroy’s hearing results the Council found that he had no case to answer with regard to any theft, and that he had not committed any crime when he entered City Hall. Nevertheless he was still sacked for using the Councils whistleblowing procedure to allege overtime fraud against two fellow wardens which the Council say brought Westminster City Council into disrepute and therefore caused them to lose trust in him.

 

As PR strategies go it seemed rather a foot in the mouth tactic for the council as their dirty washing was hung out in public in the Evening Standard, this blog & the West End Extra.

 

In the crudest way possible Westminster City Council then stamped all over free speech turning its vindictive eye on another Street Warden (James Shanks) who the Council allege had dared to put web links pointing to the three stories, not on the councils website, but on a Unison Facebook page & an internal council notice board.

 

Seemly oblivious to the fact the leader of the Councils Labour Group (Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg) had also posted links to the exact same Evening Standard article on the Labour Westminster website bungling senior Westminster management still attempted to shut the stable door well after the horse had bolted and the cat was out the bag.

 

If what happened to John Gilroy wasn’t a clear enough warning to keep council staff cowering in their jobs, to drive the point home Mr Shanks was dragged before management to accuse him of circulating offensive material on the Internet (yes they really mean the links to the Evening Standard, The West End Extra & Nutsville). The Council also threw the familiar lines of “Action which is likely to result in the loss of trust and confidence” and “bring the Council into serious disrepute” at him.

 

You can probably see where the Council are going with this, a council street warden of over 14 years service looks to be heading for the sack, and for what. Inadvertently highlighting the shortcomings of senior management who have been promoted well above their abilities?

 

Calling the first Evening Standard article offensive caused another article to be published on the day the Council’s PR team were at their industrys annual bun fight basking in the vainglorious glow of their very own crisis management award. (Oh how sweet this is to write)

 

Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg has written an open letter to the relatively new Chief Executive of the Council, Charlie Parker. Although none of this started under his leadership, we think this is his first public crisis at Westminster Council he’s had to deal with since he unpacked his bags at City Hall. We expect this to be the first of many cock-ups Mr Parker will be called to deal with.

 

At present John Gilroy is sacked, but awaiting an appeal hearing. James Shanks has been suspended pending a disciplinary hearing.

 

Both men & one other street warden intend to take their fight to the Industrial Tribunal should a satisfactory outcome not be achieved in the meantime, and we hear even more branches of the media are watching like hawks for this all to be aired at an independent tribunal.

 

Lets hope the mainstream media don’t run into a certain woman lurking in the corridors of the tribunal building, who we believe maybe a Ms Sally Driver who we are told is a troubleshooter brought in by Westminster Council. Whilst we were attending an Employment Tribunal hearing for a third Westminster Street Warden this little oddity chased Nutsville around the tribunal hearing buildings with her Iphone attempting to take our photo. Guards did try to put a stop to her antics, but lost patience with her when she continued to brazenly pull her camera phone out in front of them in the buildings main foyer.

 

Tribunal guards seemed keen to call the police on Nutsville’s behalf perhaps so that she could be educated, but then why miss the chance of seeing her outside the building scuttling down the street in public where it is legal to take photos. Though it was tempting to consider heaping the experience John Gilroy had suffered from the council on her, we do wonder if she would mind her phone being wiped like Mr Gilroy experienced.

 

It certainly seems as though some people working for Westminster City Council think they are better than the people they are supposed to be serving, how quaint.

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Behind the story of arrested Westminster City Council whistleblower.

 

The recent exposure in the Evening Standard of a Westminster City Council Shop Steward and Street Warden John Gilroy who was arrested over the alleged theft of two pieces of A4 sheets of paper from City Hall has led Nutsville to uncover a culture of bullying, obfuscation and mismanagement at the highest levels of the council – in apparent collusion with the Metropolitan Police.

 

This post is about what led up to senior Westminster City Council staff believing the correct way of treating a whistleblower was to have his house searched and then for him to be arrested. And not just arrested by some local officers, but by two high ranking Met Police officers who travelled to the very outskirts of London into an area covered by a different police force. In spite of their best intentions it seems they were thwarted when the CPS dropped the case. We base our post on the numerous documents we have received and interviews with those both involved and surrounding the case.

Sadly, as ever with Westminster Council the story is both comical and dark and it falls somewhere between Schindlers list and a penguin bar joke

 

 

We start with another Westminster City Council Street Warden which we will call Mr S, who in June of 2013 made a complaint to his employer the Council. The substance of the complaint was that he was being harassed over his disability by a colleague. That colleague was a New South Wales (Australian) Police Officer on secondment to Westminster City Council, who has since left the Councils employment.

 

Mr S had made what is called a ‘protected act’ which is supposed to have prohibited senior officers at Westminster City Council from victimising or discriminating against him any further. Nevertheless, in the space of just one week Mr S was suspended by his boss, council officer Dean Ingledew (Operational Director of Street Management). Mr S had his work computer removed from City Hall. The Council implied that the purpose of removal was for refurbishment. It subsequently turned out that this was a ruse as the Council were on a fishing trip to find something to pin on Mr S. Unfortunately for the Council this was discovered when they were forced to disclose documents for a forthcoming tribunal. It was as a result of this disclosure the real reason for the computers removal became clear. It was to have the machine forensically examined in an effort to try to discover if Mr S’s computer had been used to view or download pornographic material. This outsourced examination proved to be an expensive waste of taxpayer’s cash, as nothing was found on Mr S’s computer other than Mr Clippy.

 

In August 2013 Mr S made a formal complaint to Westminster City Council that the decision of Ingledew to suspend him constituted victimisation and was plainly as a consequence of him complaining of discrimination by the seconded Police officer. Mr S issued proceedings in the Employment Tribunal in October 2013.

 

Dean Ingledew

Dean Ingledew

Dean Ingledew

Turning now to Dean Ingledew, after leaving Bishop Ramsey CofE School in 1977, Ingledew joined the Metropolitan Police where he worked his way up the ranks for over thirty-years until he retired in 2008. It was then he switched from working at Charing Cross Police station to working for Westminster City Council and took up a position with the Council as their Director of Community Protection.

 

It wasn’t long before Ingledew’s management style soon brought him into conflict with staff and the Union when in his first year he attempted to have all the Council’s staff fingerprinted. Facing threats of industrial action, Union pressure and bad publicity Ingledew had to back down and the Orwellian fingerprinting scheme was dropped. One feels that should he have succeeded it was only a short stop before the collection of DNA, sperm count and shopping habits would have been imposed.

 

From interviews with staff they have told of us that they had been used to leadership by consent. But over the years to the present day a more military type ‘do as I say, don’t think for yourself‘ style of management has filtered down from senior staff which is now overwhelmingly made up of managers from either a forces or police background.

 

Ingledew himself has been described by some staff as a dictator who needed to ‘micro manage’ subordinates. This led to a backlash from front line staff, who understandably felt they couldn’t operate under such conditions.

 

That style of management would explain why at present the Council are dealing with an unprecedented number of grievances and disciplinaries from Street Management staff. These ‘live actions’ as they are called are currently taking up a huge percentage of the Councils resources. We are also told that the vast majority of these live actions stem from bullying, harassment and the mismanagement of the Council’s Street Management staff.

 

It was during one of these disputes in June 2013 when Mr Gilroy, a Union Shop Steward representing a female staff member, claims that Ingledew first threatened him with dismissal. Gilroy reported this incident to the Council’s HR team, who at a mediation meeting between Gilroy and Ingledew, witnessed Ingledew making the alleged sacking threat again.

 

Following that meeting Gilroy submitted a formal grievance to his bosses detailing in full the serious accusation that Dean Ingledew had threatened an official Union member with dismissal as a consequence of him performing his duties.

 

Whilst this was happening other Union members complained to John Gilroy about the behaviour of another two senior managers working under Ingledew’s control. It was alleged that these two managers who at the time were working on the night shift had falsified documents to fraudulently claim thousands of pounds in extra overtime payments.

 

In August 2013 Gilroy along with another Union official contacted Westminster City Council’s Fraud line sending an email titled ‘Whistle blowing – Request for Investigation’. This email not only alleged that the two managers were falsely claiming overtime, but that other senior Council officers (by implication Ingledew as well) were colluding in the overtime fraud by turning a blind eye to the alleged practice. John Gilroy has told us that he had photographs of documents such as payslips to substantiate these allegations. This material was stored on his telephone the significance of which became clear after his arrest.

 

Even though the Council has since acknowledged that the complaint made by the two Union Officials raised potentially criminal matters, over eight months have passed with the Council still having to conclude their internal audit. This is despite the Council’s own policy on conducting internal audits, which states that they should be completed within six months.

 

We have however received allegations from other members of staff that one of the two night managers at the centre of the audit investigation has boasted about paying off his mortgage, and now only has to work day shifts.

 

Meanwhile Mr S asked Gilroy to act as his union representative in his forthcoming grievance and disciplinary hearing after Mr S complained of the decision of Ingledew to suspend him. The grievance was addressed to Ingledew’s line manager, Mr Leith Penny (Strategic Director for City Management).

 

In a bizarre decision Penny left it to Ingledew to handle Mr S’s complaint. So perhaps unsurprisingly in September 2013 Ingledew chose one of his own subordinates Jonathan Rowing to investigate the complaint against Ingledew. Before Rowing had even met with Mr S he committed his thoughts to two pieces of A4 paper.

 

On one of the handwritten pages were the words ‘probably guilty’.

 

Rowing’s handwritten notes were potentially incriminating, which Gilroy’s legal team believes show the existence of a culture within the Council of failing to properly investigate complaints. Gilroy alleges that after Rowing finished his day shift he left the two A4 sheets of paper in plain view on his desk. This casual filing of the document allowed all the other staff who worked in the same open plan office to see the contents. Gilroy has said he came across these two pages of handwritten notes and recognised their significance and the impact on the outcome it would have for Mr S. He tells us he took the two pages of A4 notes with the intention of making a copy and then returning them to City Hall.

 

Later during Police questioning John Gilroy was to learn that the Council was attempting to portray his actions as a kind of Oceans 11 type heist, carried out at night (Gilroy worked the nightshift) breaking into Rowing’s desk under the watchful gaze of the Councils CCTV cameras which are plastered over most of the inside of City Hall. You can’t miss them, but the Council seem to have missed providing any CCTV photographic evidence to back up their Hollywood version of events so far.

 

At roughly the same time, Gilroy was in possession of an email authored by the Council’s senior employment lawyer who according to Artisan Law (Gilroys legal team) showed that it was clearly the policy of Westminster City Council to threaten those who complained of discrimination to the Employment Tribunal, with costs.

 

That email, dated 23rd September 2013 according to Artisan Law made it clear that if either Gilroy or Mr S submitted a complaint to the Employment Tribunal the Council would, as per policy, straight away threaten them with costs. Artisan Law state that at the time that the Council’s employment lawyer wrote the email she would not have been aware of the merits of either Gilroy’s or Mr S’s complaint. She had no evidence why either one of them would want to go to the Employment Tribunal and she didn’t not know either Gilroy or Mr S. That is important because costs are very rarely awarded at Employment Tribunals. When costs have been awarded it has normally been shown that the individual bringing the claim was acting in a vexatious or unreasonable manner.

 

Is the threat of costs without knowing the facts just a hidden policy of intimidation at Westminster Council?

 

John Gilroy’s arrest.

At 8:30am on the 3rd of October 2013 two senior Met Police officers arrived at Gilroys Chingford home on the outskirts of London. They then searched it and arrested him in front of his family and took him to Charing Cross Police Station. Bearing in mind the gravity of the allegations one wonders why they stopped short of having men wearing black balaclavas abseiling through the roof.

 

John Gilroy was arrested on the grounds that he had stolen two pages of A4 handwritten scribbles. With the involvement of very senior Met Police officers the arrest didn’t go unnoticed down at Charing Cross nick. We have been told that some staff and Gilroy’s appointed duty solicitor were incredulous at the high ranking effort poured into two A 4 sheets of paper. The duty solicitor repeatedly asked the arresting officers what the public interest was in pursuing the case. As we mentioned earlier, under questioning Gilroy learnt that the story had been spun that he had somehow stealthily crept into City Hall under the cover of darkness and like Raffles, had forced an entry into Rowing’s desk and then stolen two of Rymans finest items of stationary upon which were such secrets the Monarchy might fall. We note that at Rymans the stationers two sheets of A4 paper can be had for less than a penny per sheet.

 

Can you imagine an ordinary member of the public reporting a used lost biro which is maybe a bit chewed at one end receiving the same level of service from the Metropolitan Police?

 

In case you’re in any doubt as to the fanciful nature of this arrest we should point out that at no point did the arresting officers or the Council provide a scintilla of evidence to show that Gilroy broke into Rowing’s desk. The Council have not even sent Rowing’s desk which they claimed was broken into, for repairs.As anyone can see, either we have a thief of such devilish ingenuity that they can express their way into a locked desk without so much as a scratch, or Westminster are making it up.

 

Prior to the arrest Westminster City Council never sought an explanation over the two sheets of A4 paper from Gilroy. The CPS decided in a space of less than a month that there was no public interest in pursuing the case against Gilroy.

 

Artisan Law had requested full disclosure of all documents from both the Met’s legal directorate and Westminster City Council. They say from the documents they have so far it raises very serious questions regarding the conduct of another senior officer of the Met. This is DCI James Harman whose remit covers Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (Viido) and Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) at New Scotland Yard, who they have discovered was heavily involved in the arrest of John Gilroy.

 

After the CPS decision DCI Harman contacted Ingledew in an email offering help securing ‘disclosure of material’ related to Gilroys arrest. DCI Harman also felt it necessary to copy that email to Detective Superintendent Kevin Southworth. Remember that Ingledew was working for the Council and was not a serving police officer and would not have had access to this assistance.

 

What Westminster City Council received from the Met was the contents of John Gilroys personal mobile phone taken from him at Charing Cross Police Station. The phone contained around 1700 personal photographs and his Mother’s medical records. It also contained around 30 work related photographs of payslips relating to the alleged overtime fraud.

 

Subsequently Gilroys phone has been returned to him wiped of all his property. Neither Westminster City Council or the Met have returned John Gilroy’s other property (his photographs) to him.

 

If it were not already odd that DCI Harman felt he needed to assist Westminster City Council in the disciplinary case against John Gilroy, on the 17th October 2013 DCI Harman had a meeting with Dean Ingledew, Peter Large (the Council’s Head of Legal) and Leith Penny.

 

The minutes of that meeting would make interesting reading, if any were kept.

 

Dean Ingledew’s swan song.

Back October 2013 we learnt that Ingledew was to leave the employment of Westminster City Council to spend time on his yacht. Rumours also circulated of a pay-off of between £100,00 and £300,000.

 

At least in part there was some validity in the rumours as on the morning of 5th November Westminster City Council had booked the Odeon Leicester Square. Around 200-300 attended made up of staff from Street Management and Built Environment.

 

On stage were Dean Ingledew and Leith Penny. There’s nothing some people who believe they hold power like better than leaving behind a legacy, and this was what this ‘get together’ was mainly about, Ingledew was retiring or leaving (nobody was quite sure which). We hear that the event turned out to be a bit of a damp squib for Ingledew, as when taking questions from his conscripted audience, all they really wanted to know was when was he going. When Ingledew did finally announce he was to leave in March 2014, he received the strongest applause of the morning’s event. He told staff he would not be taking up any other post, and that his wife had wanted to spend more time with him.

 

Blame her indoors?

 

leith penny

leith penny

As part of the fact checking we do, Nutsville wanted to know if the Councillors had been told of Ingledews departure, so we emailed one of the Council’s more responsive Councillors on the 8th November. As he knew nothing of the changes he asked Leith Penny. We received a reply back on the same day which was just three days after Penny attended the Odeon staff meeting telling us that Penny had said “Dean has not resigned nor will be retiring, there is no pay off “ After that we became as confused as a blind lesbian in a fish market.

 

On Friday 2nd May 2014 John Gilroy attended his disciplinary hearing. Lawyers working for Gilroy questioned Penny, questioned him so well that we are told that Penny’s old childhood affliction returned with him stuttering or maybe spluttering like Daffy Duck at the indignity of being asked such difficult questions.

 

 

But what is of concern is that Penny produced a document during the meeting, which had not been previously disclosed.

 

So it seems Artisan Law were right in their suspicions that Westminster City Council is still holding back documents. Isn’t that called a breached disclosure, opps.

 

John Gilroy awaits the outcome of his disciplinary hearing in around ten days’ time.

 

Both John Gilroy and Mr S along with one other we haven’t yet mentioned, all have hearings booked with the independent Employment Tribunal.

 

Artisan Law have sent complaints to both the IPCC and the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Professional Standards concerning the conduct of the officers involved in the arrest of John Gilroy.

 

If Westminster City Council pursue this to the bitter end, you can be sure we’ll be there to tell you all about it. And as for Rowing an important question remains outstanding – why didn’t he use both sides of one sheet instead of two separate A4 80g laser-ready, inkjet compatible pieces.

Was he two sheets to the wind?

 

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Ticket Targets – The Smoking Gun – A Whole Armory

The Secretary of State issued guidance some time ago to local authorities on how to use parking enforcement powers. It was imaginatively named as the “Secretary of State’s Statutory Guidance to Local Authorities on the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions” and can be found here. The basis of the guidance was that enforcement powers were to be used fairly and proportionately and that enforcement should not be used purely to raise revenue.

London councils and their subcontractors decided that the Secretary of State has little knowledge of how to run a business and proceeded to put all the guidance documents into the recycling bin to be pulped and converted into blank PCNs. You did read that right. Your local council regards Civil Parking Enforcement as a business and seeks to make as much ca$h as possible from that business.

 

The NoToMob has provided Nutsville with a number of enforcement contracts between councils and their  subcontractors that incentivise operatives to issue as many PCNs as possible. The contracts all have a similar  theme. Firstly there are incentives to issue a minimum amount of PCNs per year. The operators are typically  charged a fixed amount for every PCN below the projected target (a fine, if you will). There is a fixed amount paid  to the operator for each PCN issued up to the target amount. Finally, there is an increased amount paid for every  PCN issued above the projected target. A triple whammy. Issue lots of tickets and you’ll be rich, issue less tickets  and you’ll be punished – really punished.

 

The Secretary of State advises against targets. Obviously, fairness goes out of the window if there are target  amounts. Think about it. You have overstayed in a paid parking bay by as little as two minutes. Is the CEO going  to wait a bit before writing the ticket? Is the council going to look favourably on your representations? Are you  about to be bent over for the sake of a few bob? Think about it, you know the answers. The councils we have seen  unlawful contracts for so far are as follows; Barnet, Bromley, Camden, City of London, Ealing, Hackney, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham and last and most definitely not least, Westminster. Residents in some of these areas, some of whom are NoToMob members, have raised objections with the relevant District Auditors in accordance with the Audit Commission Act 1998. Where it is unlawful to have incentives in an enforcement contract the income can be declared as illegally derived income. Lambeth alone issued 196,274 PCNs during the tax year 2011/12 and 191,563 PCNs during 2012/13, with a total issue value of £49,036,960.  And you can’t even drive to the council offices to complain because as soon as you stop . . . well, you get the picture.

 

It has also emerged that many of these contracts are in fact based on the model contract drawn up by the BPA Ltd.  Patrick Troy, CEO of the BPA Ltd, has recently submitted to the Transport Select Committee that there are no incentives  to issue tickets. The contracts would suggest otherwise.

 

 

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Westminster Council CCTV – when less is more

It was only this July when Westminster City Council announced it was to remove over 50 of its CCTV cameras in a press release headed “Westminster outlines parking vision at select committee – fewer tickets, less CCTV, further innovation”. Westminster City Council told us this was to bring in a more common sense approach which also no doubt gave a good impression to the select committee.

 

Cllr Daniel Astaire

What won’t be going out in a press release is the decision this week by Councillor Daniel Astaire, Cabinet Member for Business that he is to spend £80,000 on a proof of concept 12 month trial of 8 automatic CCTV cameras. (view source)

 

The 12 month trial follows a previous four week proof of concept trial of two Zenco Systems’ ZenGrab LaneWatch CCTV cameras in two locations in the City: St Georges Drive, used to monitor contraventions of a coach ban; and Carlton Hill, used to observe vehicles that contravene a 7.5 tonne weight restriction at the junction with Maida Vale.

 

 

 

All about the money

 

Westminster have long pushed its use of CCTV mobile enforcement vehicles, claiming part of their success was due to their deterrent effect, and not about the numbers of PCNs issued. But in an August 2013 Cabinet Member report these super-duper static ZenGrab cameras are being pushed on the higher number of motorists they can catch compared to using mobile CCTV cars.

 

Using the old CCTV mobile camera cars Westminster City Council were only able to issue 271 PCNs at the two trial locations for a whole year, whereas in the trial of the new automated cameras it showed Westminster City Council would have issued 1076 PCNs in just four weeks at the same locations.

 

The report says:

 

The low number of PCNs across both locations is due to significant limitations with wireless CCTV enforcing MTCs; primarily the reaction of the camera to zoom is not fast enough to match the speed of vehicles to capture sufficient evidence for a definite contravention to be ascertained.

 

Automated capture has proved more effective and more efficient in identifying and recording non-compliance than other traditional enforcement measures. The cameras seamlessly record all contraventions, and the process required very little manual intervention.

A nice bit of spin by the author of the report the Strategic Director, City Management

Let the money role in.

 

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BabsGate5: Official position on Babs the ‘ex’ Chief Operating Officer of Westminster Council

Barbara Moorhouse

Position of Chief Operating Officer

Following the announcement of my retirement a report was made to Cabinet in May on the future role of the Chief Executive and the relative role of the Chief Operating Officer (COO). Following this report we have decided to streamline the senior management team and have concluded that the post of COO is no longer required going forward. Ms Moorhouse has made a significant contribution to future operations of the Council and leaves us with a strong financial foundation, an innovative managed service contract and a successful operating model for our Tri-Borough programme. I have put in place Section 151 Officer arrangements whilst the current responsibilities of the COO are realigned internally.

Mike More
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BabsGate4; Babs slides out the rear door of City Hall and off down the back alley.

 

After many weeks of rumour regarding the whereabouts of Westminster City Council’s chief operating officer Barbara ‘Babs’ Moorhouse, we’re certain she has slung her hook.

 

We started getting tweets & emails about three weeks ago telling us that Babs had not been seen around the corridors of Westminster Council. People wanted to know if Babs had really left Westminster Council.

 

In April 2013 the council’s chief executive Mike More announced he was to retire, leaving city hall at the end of 2013. We were also told that there was no way Babs was going to get his job of chief executive when it was vacated by Mr More.

 

When officers at Westminster City Council were asked about Babs’ whereabouts some didn’t know whilst the ones that did know were running interference; She was on gardening leave, extended leave, just being let go, her contract was not to be renewed, and our favourite explanation “Oh my god, we can’t pay her off again, Nutsville would have a field day”.

 

When Babs failed to show at Tuesdays Audit & Scrutiny Committee meeting, Cllr Tim Mitchell said that at the next meeting “Barbara or her equivalent” should be there.

 

For years now the officers have run the council at Westminster keeping most of the councillors in the dark. Secrecy must be at an all time high when the Council’s chief operating officer’s disappearance is being concealed from elected councillors.

 

Tim Mitchell only had to ask us where Babs was at the busiest times of the financial year.

 

She has been appointed as a non-executive chair of The Office for Public Management (OPM). Babs must be far too busy to attend to the finances of Westminster City Council when she is chairing meetings for the OPM, as reported in May 2013 (view here).

 

For years the public face of Westminster Council has been in denial regarding the appalling state of its accounts, with now four years of accounts uncertified because of a growing set of very serious objections lodged with the District Auditor.

 

The District Auditor has found Westminster Council still not answering questions regarding all sorts of goings on under the stewardship of Babs. As Westminster Council failed to answer serious questions by the June 10th deadline, the District Auditor intends to come up with some provisional views regarding the objections to Westminster’s sham accounts next week.

 

Cllr Ian Rowley

With Mike More’s departure and now Babs, could Nutsville have been right all along? Surely not as that would make the gushing defence of Babs work by Cllr Ian Rowley seem rather misguided.

 

As at March’s 2012 Audit & Performance Committee Cllr Rowley, when learning that things were far from shipshape in the finance department said “When it circulates in public it’s a deliberate attempt to intimidate. I think we as politicians from all sides, both Labour and Conservatives have to support staff and the appropriate circumstances…I hope that can be minuted as well.

 

Lets remind ourselves of that meeting when Babs brushes everything under the carpet, seemingly put out that she had to turn up at all to explain these mischievous allegations.

The Audit & Performance Committee swallowed the act hook line and sinker, well how could a mere blogger see the bleeding obvious better than someone on over £200,000 per year, who increasingly surrounded herself with expensive tax-avoiding one man band consultant limited companies who now sit at many of the desks in the finance department.

 

Check out our previous blogs about Babsgate if you want to get the tiniest of clues why two of Westminster Councils most senior officers have/are leaving the sinking ship. Or is it all just a coincidence, no we doubt that.

Westminster Council BabsGate scandal & cover-up – Part 1

 

Westminster’s More appoints Moorhouse Director of Finance, opps!

Mike More came to Westminster Council from Suffolk Council in 2008, the same place as Westminster’s former leader Colin Barrow. It was parking that done for Barrow after a very interesting phone call from 10 Downing Street which gave Barrow no choice. But Barrow has always denied he had to go and said it was something he’d always been planing to do. Funny though that just days before his departure he was still booking dinner functions as leader of the council for dates after he had resigned.

 

Toppling Barrow was just the start, as Mike More followed, announcing his departure to spend more time with his wife and family. Now Barbara Moorhouse seems to slide as quietly as possible out the back door of City Hall.

 

If you care to look at the time-line for these departures you will trace all this back to 2008 when Westminster Council dared to bring in a charge for motorcycle parking on the streets.

 

What goes around comes around.

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A tale of woe about how the DVLA treat your information.

Six monthly report of the DVLA’s Interim Chief Executive

January 2013

In a Freedom of Information (FoI) request https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/unlawful_release_of_data

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) confirmed that it made data available, in England and Wales, in accordance with the requirements of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA). The FOI response from DVLA read

Paper channel

Enquiries that are submitted using a V888/3 application form are checked by clerks within the DVLA. Part of this check involves checking the date of the enquiry and the date of event to help make a decision on whether the information requested can be released. This process requires the car parking company to state whether the purpose of the request is to issue a parking charge or to chase up payment of a parking charge. The relevant time scales are then considered.

Any enquiries submitted outside of the requirements of PoFA 2012 would be rejected.

 

Electronic Channel

a. Enquiries submitted via the electronic channel are not subject to these checks as the enquiries are checked by . Electronic enquiries may only be submitted in line with the contract between the DVLA and the customer and these enquiries must be submitted in accordance with PoFA 2012.

b. If it transpires that enquiries have been submitted outside of the requirements of PoFA 2012, the DVLA will investigate this matter and take any action deemed necessary.

By April we had to retract that policy

Action Required: Check if the Data Sharing Team has advised all Private Parking Companies (PPCs) / British Parking Association Limited (BPA) of this change of policy

February 2013

Following another FoI, the DVLA internal operating instructions, for data processors dealing with V888/3 applications for data, read ”If the car parking company need the data to issue a parking charge notice (as they use an ANPR system to manage the site) they can apply within 28 days of date event”. DVLA advised by a registered keeper that this conflicted with what the PoFA actually said and should have read 14 days.

For six months the DVLA had been processing manual applications for data incorrectly.

Action Required: Send Data Sharing Team on course on how PoFA works

March 2013

BPA changes to the Code of Practice (CoP) come into effect. We do not have any say over changes but can be consulted if the BPA considers it appropriate

DVLA Internal Instructions for dealing with V888/3 applications amended by the deletion of offending paragraph

DVLA had been making data available outside of the PoFA timescales and cases were submitted to the DVLA that PPCs were then unlawfully pursuing keeper liability. DVLA promptly changed its January position having decided to now issue data regardless of the requirements of PoFA, leaving PPCs to pursue recovery either in accordance with PoFA (if they had data within the 14 day period) or by the old fashioned, pre PoFA ways if they got their data late.

Action required:

(1) Check with the Data Sharing Team if they have yet communicated this change of Policy

(2) All staff in the Data Sharing Team to go on another course on how PoFA works

(3) Consider whether we should try and start vetoing any changes to the CoP. After all we have said that compliance with the CoP is one of the robust safeguards we have in place to ensure that registered keeper’s data is processed fairly and lawfully so we should have some control.

April 2013

DVLA decides not to continue with PoFA within its business operations despite the January assurances. From now the DVLA will make data available as and when it can. If that is within PoFA time scales, the PPC can pursue enforcement under POFA. If data is made available outside of PoFA then the PPC will have to pursue enforcement as they did before the Act came into effect.

Action taken:

(1) With no approval of this change of Policy from the Department of Transport (DfT) – see if retrospective approval can be secured.

(2) Check with the Data Sharing Team if they have yet communicated this change of policy

May 2013

1. Allegation made by a PPC and a leading firm of Solicitors in the South of England that an Officer of the DVLA had confirmed to them that it was acceptable to send out a Notice to Keeper under the provisions of PoFA outside of the 14 day statutory period. The PPC duly sent out the Notice and that is now the subject of an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

2. DVLA had been making data available outside of the PoFA time scales (Note: DVLA changed its January position having decided to issue data regardless of the requirements of PoFA – see April). Complaints were submitted to the DVLA that Observances Parking Consultancy Limited; Park Direct UK Limited; Premier Parking Solutions, Excel, G24 and Proserve Enforcement Solutions were unlawfully pursuing keeper liability due to their failure to meet the conditions in PoFA. Such failures were for out of time Notices to Keeper and other reasons.

3. BPA were asked whether Observances Notices were PoFA complaint and they confirmed that they were even though they did not identify the creditor. DVLA accepted this response

Action required:

1. Check with the Data Sharing Team whether they have yet communicated this change of Policy to the BPA/PPCs

2. Suggest that the BPA organises seminars for PPCs on how PoFA works

3. Ask the Data Sharing Team if there is any plausible reason why the parking companies should not be suspended.

June 2013

1. BPA changes the COP again so it looks like this may be a quarterly occurrence. This time it makes a retrospective change. The original code operated from October 2012 to March 2013. Version 2 operated from March to June 2013. Version 3 now operates from June and according to the BPA web site version 1 is no longer applicable so that the March version now applies back to October 2012. One appellant, who has based her appeal on the Code applicable in November 2012, now finds that those rules, which protect her from being sued, have now been altered in favour of the PPC and the PPC has started enforcement proceedings after a period of seven months without any contact with the registered keeper. If the public find out this may appear wholly improper.

2. Robert Toft (Head of DVLA Data Sharing Team), in October 2012, stated, “DVLA carries out a number of checks on all companies wishing to make fee paying enquiries via an electronic link” He went on to confirm just what the DVLA checked by saying- “For private car parking companies, photographs of the type of signage in place and a copy of the parking charge notices and literature used are required

Under a Freedom of Information request during the first week of June (https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/checks_made_on_ppc ) the DVLA said “DVLA can confirm that since the implementation of PoFA in October 2012 we have checked the notices issued by every new PPC. DVLA have also checked the notices issued by all PPCs who were already under contract with us, however some of these checks will have occurred before October 2012.

By the 18th June the DVLA had changed its mind and denied that it had undertaken any checks and even commented “No, we haven’t written specifically to all PPC’s since the introduction of PoFA in order to check their notices. This isn’t part of DVLA’s remit but is a function of the BPA.

Under a Freedom of Information request at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/162331/response/401161/attach/2/FOIR3440%20Angus%20Gill.pdf it can be seen that by the 20th June the DVLA had changed its mind again and confirmed that it was a DVLA function was to undertake an audit of PPCs and which includes checking their Notices. In that FOI there is evidence that the DVLA auditor checked the Notices of G24 but failed to spot that they were not PoFA compliant

3. On the 17th June 2013 the DVLA said “Where a company requests data outside of the 14 day period for ANPR-run car parks set out in the Protection of Freedoms Act, they are still entitled to receive this data under the reasonable cause provisions provided that they do not use it to exercise the keeper liability powers in Schedule 4 of POFA, and only use it to pursue payment through other channels in accordance with the conditions and deadlines set out in the BPA Code of Practice.

A registered keeper linked this statement to the following instruction, from the DVLA to the BPA, on the 14th June 2012 “Can the BPA send out a message to all members of private parking schemes (contract law basis) that if the DVLA is advised and provided with evidence of any company making any reference to liability by anyone other than the driver we will immediately suspend access to our data for a minimum of three months. This applies to tickets, signage and any correspondence with a keeper.

DVLA was then reminded that Observances Parking Consultancy Limited; Park Direct UK Limited;
Excel, G.24, Premier Parking Solutions and Proserve Enforcement Solutions were each making reference to registered keeper liability when the PoFA did not apply and asked whether any action had been taken against them.

CEL Ltd was later added to the list of PPCs who were sending out notices claiming keeper liability but whose notices were not PoFA compliant.

Action Required –

(1) To ensure that the Data Sharing Team speaks with one voice, preferably one that tells it as it is rather than how they would like it to be

(2) Data Sharing Team not to consider the potential loss of income as part of a range of factors when considering whether to suspend a company

(3) Send the auditor on a training course on how to identify missing conditions in PPC’s Notices to Keeper

(5) Check that Data Sharing Team have been on a course on how PoFA works

(6) Data Sharing Team to be asked how long it normally takes to suspend a Company who has breached the COP and claimed Keeper Liability when it is not lawful to do so.

All in all, it’s been a pretty poor first six months of the year for the DVLA. The one saving grace is that all of this took place on the watch of the former Chief Executive and not on mine!

 

Signed – Malcolm Dawson MBE

Interim Chief Executive – DVLA

This report was written as a joke. Sadly, all of the facts contained within it are true, apart from the “Actions required” as I have no idea if the DVLA has considered what action to take in respect of the various incidents. Perhaps it is the DVLA which is the Joke?

 

Thanks to the writer of this post who wished to remain unnamed.

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Spartacus shows up the farce of getting a parking ticket on private land

We introduce a guest blog post today which exposes the absolute farce of receiving a parking ticket when parked in a private car park – such as those used for retail parks.

What happens when a company claiming to be policing a car park on behalf of Argos issues one of its speculative invoices to a car driver and finds out they’re dealing with none other than Spartacus.

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Greetings citizens/slaves

I AM SPARTACUS!

I am writing to say that I am extremely disappointed that G24 gave me the thumbs up and did not allow me to fight them in the Popla gladiatorial arena. I was soooo looking forward to receiving parchments addressed to Spartacus with the seal of Popla stamped on them.

Instead of rising to my gladiatorial challenge, they simply folded like a cheap toga after I sent my challenge to the not so mighty G24 Ltd., when the owner of the chariot I was driving on the day in question received this (view copy of PCN). I sent this communication (below) via my recently registered “Spartacus Lives” email address.

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From: Spartacus Lives

Date: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Subject: Re: Contractual Parking Charge Notice Number [123456789] issued to [name and address]

To: customer.services@g24.co.uk

Dear G24 Ltd.

Re: Contractual Parking Charge Notice Number [123456789] issued to [name and address] Vehicle registration number [AB 12 CDE]

spartacus goes shoping at argosI am Spartacus. I was the driver of the vehicle on the day in question. I live at the same address as the registered keeper.

You seem to be under the impression that I entered into some kind of contract to pay you £100 to park in Argos’s car park [address], but I can confirm that I did not enter into any such contract as I did not see any signs either in, or around the car park.

In fact, even if I had seen the signs I could not have entered into any contract with you, because on the day in question I was an ignorant slave who spoke only Latin (with an American accent), and I could neither read nor write.

Fortunately, a crash course in English has enabled me to write to you to explain the situation. The spelling and grammar checking thingamabob on the computer is also a very useful tool (a crash course in computers was also helpful), and I trust my English is now sufficiently improved for you to understand my case for not paying your invoice.

Me and the lads in the slave army (it’s a little project we are working on) reckon that unless you can bring forth the mighty armies of the Roman Empire to force me to pay up or, as is more likely, if you refuse to cancel invoice number 123456789, then perhaps you should issue me with a Popla appeal code.

Please address all future correspondence concerning this matter to: Spartacus, [address]. I look forward to receiving your invoice, appropriately addressed.

Kindly acknowledge safe receipt of this correspondence.

Yours faithfully

 

Spartacus

I got some kind of automated response which was an unsigned and unaddressed threat which I Spartacus laughed in the face of. It took two more carrier pigeoned requests for a Popla appeal code before I got this. (view G24′s waiver letter).

Note who it is addressed to.

It is a pity that G24 Ltd. did not want to join me in battle because I was totally confident that I would defeat the jumped up little student clerks in the Popla gladiatorial arena that is overseen by its Governor, Nickerless Caligula Lesterus of London councils.

These ordinary citizens seek to impose an authority on others that simply doesn’t exist. I Spartacus and the rest of the slave army they seek to oppress have never recognised the authority of the mighty Roman Empire, so a wannabe lead adjudicator who is actually nothing more than a lead assessor in a department of law student assessors (Henrius Greenslavius) and who presides over a joke court was never going to present any real challenge to us.

You see, any recommendation from Popla is simply that. It’s a recommendation. A recommendation to pay up or face further action in a court that I Spartacus do in fact recognise as one that can properly hold me to account for my actions as a citizen in the country of Britannia. This is called the County Court and there are many fine citizens sitting on its benches who know and uphold the law.

So even if G24 thought they could wound me in battle in the Popla gladiatorial arena, they would have been faced with a new challenge for which I was fully prepared. Me and the lads in the slave army had planned to go to war with them in the County Court, and it was a war that we were always going to win because I Spartacus together with my slave generals are masters of the ambush. I will explain.
First it must be understood that any citizen of Britannia can use a pseudonym, provided it is not used to further an illegal practice. In my appeal to G24 Ltd. you will see that I Spartacus freely admit to driving the chariot in question. That is where the problems for the parking weasels began.

If G24 Ltd, or indeed any other parking weasel (or as me and the lads call them, raedam mustela), want to demand money with menaces from an honourable citizen, they must either challenge them to prove their identity, or accept it and address all communications to the citizen/slave who has declared themselves the perpetrator of the heinous crime of, for example, parking in an empty Argos car park on a Sunday when the shop is not even open. Challenging someone to prove their identity could prove an extremely costly and time consuming exercise and therefore the raedam mustela was, in my case, forced to communicate with Spartacus.

Obviously G24 recognised that they might have a problem if they were to give Spartacus a Popla appeal code, so they chose to run screaming like a little girl from the gladiatorial arena, despite having been the ones who picked a fight with the mighty Spartacus in the first place.

Despite my disappointment at not being able to face the dishonourable weasels in the arena of their own creation, I have to say that it was indeed a day of great joy and celebration in the Spartacus household when Mrs Spartacus took delivery of a scroll addressed on its face to “Mr SPARTACUS LIVES”.

But let’s take this to its ultimate conclusion. Let us suppose that everyone wrote to the raedam mustela, using the name Spartacus and admitted to driving the chariot in question.

Sooner or later the raedam mustela, would catch on to this and be forced to enter into a dialogue with Spartacus. Eventually they would have to give Spartacus a Popla appeal code. A Popla tribunal would then be convened and will have to communicate with, you guessed it, Spartacus.

Spartacus knows that his appeal on the grounds of not seeing any signs and not being able to read or understand English on the day in question would undoubtedly fail, and that at some point a scroll would drop onto his doormat which confirmed that Popla had sided with the oppressors (Nickerless and a few ne’er do well senators otherwise known as the BPA Ltd.). This scroll would be addressed to, you guessed it, Spartacus.

I Spartacus also know that Popla has no power to order me or any other citizen/slave to do anything at all, ever, and to the eternity that lies within the Elysian Fields. We in the slave army are fully aware that only a court of law can impose any real sanction. And that’s when the fun really begins.

Who will they sue?

The weasels will have recognised the slave/citizen as being Spartacus,. Likewise Popla. Therefore they must sue, yep you guessed it again, Spartacus. I’ll tell you now, Me, Mrs Spartacus and our four children, Spartacus, Spartacus, Spartacus and Spartacus together with our dog, Spartacus, are certainly going to be more than a little confused when that particular writ drops on our doormat.

In any event, this is where the slave army’s ambush plan would come into action. Even if the raedam mustela got a writ of habeas corpus (ooh look, more Latin that is still used in legal circles to this day), Spartacus would simply ask the particular weasel to put evidence in to a proper court of law regarding their genuine pre estimate of loss together with all of the documents they relied on to produce it.

After all, it is a requirement in the ignoble ( raedam mustela will no doubt have to look up the definition of ignoble to find out whether they are being insulted) institution known as the BPA Ltd’s code of practice (ruled over by its Emperor Littleus Dickus, also known as Pat Trickus Troyus, the face that launched a thousand dodgy parking operators) that they have a genuine pre estimate of loss, and so the particular weasel should have no problem producing it, should they?

Having seen the cowards at G24 Ltd. flounce from the field of battle, the slave army have agreed that any attempt by a private parking company to extract denarius from a noble Britannian will be met thus:

Dear thief

I am Spartacus. I live at the same address as the registered keeper. I was driving the chariot on the date in question. Please take me to a court of my peers that I will recognise and abide by. Other than that, please refer to the answer given in the case of Arkell -v- Pressdram.

Yours with the utmost disrespect

Spartacus

Me and the slave hordes will continue to do battle with our oppressors whenever, and wherever we can. I Spartacus, together with the slave army and the blogger hordes will joyously enter battle with the likes of Littleus, Nickerless and Henrius, with a song in our hearts that was written by that well known slave and artisan, Tonius Curticus.

Will you join us?

SPARTACUS LIVES!

I AM SPARTACUS!

Are you?

 

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Poorly worded law could scupper Boris Johnson’s cycling czar Andrew Gilligan’s plans on cycle boxes

In yesterdays Evening Standard there was an article by Ross Lydall explaining that“Boris Johnson’s cycling czar Andrew Gilligan wants Transport for London to enforce “advance stop lines” with CCTV cameras in a similar way to bus lanes.

 

Gilligan was quoted as saying “At present, you have to have a police officer standing at the junction or in a police car. What we can do is stick a camera up and do automatic enforcement. That will sort out the problem.

 

The cycling czars reasons for taking away responsibility for the enforcement of ASL’s from the Metropolitan Police seems to be that TfL can do a more efficient job using CCTV than the MET.

 

But papers handed to Nutsville from a member of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee show a large fly sitting in the ointment for Gilligans’ plans for the safety of cyclists and/or depending on your cynicism raking in a huge amount of extra cash for TfL (Download emails here).

 

The papers we’ve been handed contain an email from Alan Rickwood from City of London Police explaining why the current ALS’s are difficult to enforce, claiming there is an error in the legislation “They can currently only be enforced by an officer on the ground, and the officer has to treat the cyclists and other road users equally, meaning cyclists will get penalised for crossing the first stop lines unless they use the feeder lane/gate.”

 

The Police email advice from Alan Rickwood highlights two main problems with ASL’s in London;

 

  1. Many ASLs do not comply with current TSRGD, in that they do not have a feeder lane of gate to allow cyclists to enter the box.
  2. Due to an error in the ASL legislation which left out the word ‘motor’ instead just referring to ‘vehicles’ meant that cyclists are also committing same offence as motorists if they cross the first stop line into an ASL when the traffic lights are on red.

 

The frustration is clear in the email when it says “My traffic policy advisor, Alan Rickwood, explained this to the DfT, TfL and others in 2003 and asked them to amend the legislation.” and “Changing the law to create a penalty for motorists only for crossing an advanced stop line will take a number of years. Probably, particularly as they have already wasted the 10 that have passed since they brought this poorly written piece of legislation out. They just need the will to do it.

 

So to be clear as the law stands, all vehicles are prohibited from crossing the ASL when the traffic lights go red. Bicycles are included in the definition of “vehicles”, but are exceptionally allowed access where a cycle lane exists. If the legislation was changed to say “motorised vehicles”, the problem would lessen considerably, and make it easier to prosecute offending vehicles.

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After being bitten by a radioactive spider & gaining superpowers, Spiderman wins parking appeal.

As hard as they try, The British Parking Association Limited (BPA) seem unable to get the public to take their hurriedly cobbled together appeals service (POPLA) seriously.

After receiving a parking invoice from BPA member Highview Parking Ltd, Spiderman (Aka Mr Parker) wrote to the company to dispute his parking ticket, explaining that “he was bitten by a radioactive spider and has the superpower to cancel any parking charge notices issued to him”. Highview Parking rejected Spiderman’s appeal, apparently disbelieving Spidey’s powers to overturn parking tickets.

Spiderman who helps pay the rent for his widowed aunt could not afford to pay Highview Parking’s invoice so he took them to controversial appeals service POPLA.

Spiderman could only ‘Marvel’ at winning his appeal when Shona Watson, one of the fantastic four students who moonlights as a decision maker for POPLA, upheld Spidey’s appeal.

Oh dear, what a web of deceit and a sticky mess for Highview Parking.

 

Also see; Highview Parking ‘spurred into immediate further action’ after losing at POPLA

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Decision: Allowed

Assessor: Shona Watson

Date: May 2013

Successful Grounds: Visited site twice in one day – first in-last out error

PPC: Highview Parking Ltd

Reasons for the Assessor’s Determination

On 7 February 2013, the Operator issued a parking charge notice because on 26 January 2013 the vehicle with registration mark xxx was recorded via automatic number plate recognition as having stayed in the Yate Shopping Centre Main Car Park for 5 hours 45 minutes, which was longer than the maximum stay of 4 hours.

The Operator’s case is that the terms and conditions are clearly displayed within the site. Copies of the conditions have been produced and state that there is a 4 hour maximum stay. They also state that a failure to comply with the conditions means that a parking charge notice will be issued. The Appellant does not dispute this.

The Appellant made representations, submitting that he had visited the site twice on the date in question, but that the automatic number plate recognition system had not registered his vehicle leaving and then returning to the site. The Appellant produced photographs and receipts that he submits show that the vehicle was elsewhere between 10.30 and 15.49. The photographs are not time or date stamped.

The Appellant’s original representations states that he was bitten by a radioactive spider and has the superpower to cancel any parking charge notices issued to him.

It is noted that the Appellant states that although the Operator’s evidence pack is dated 22 March 2013, it was only sent to him by email on 25 March 2013. However there is no dispute that he received the evidence in good time for this hearing.

It should also be noted that CCTV evidence was sent to us on an unrecognised file format and therefore could not be viewed.

The Operator rejected the representations, as stated in the notice of rejection they sent, because they believe the timings stated on the parking charge notice are correct, and they were unable to accept the Appellant’s claim that he has superpowers.

The Operator produced images that appear to show the vehicle entering the site at 10.10 on 26 January 2013 and exiting at 15.55 the same day.

However the Operator has not responded to the Appellant’s submission that although he did enter the site at 10.10, he left the site before returning again later in the day and then leaving for the second time at 15.55. For example, the Operator could have provided a search for all the images of the vehicle with registration mark xxx taken on the date in question. The Operator received a copy of the Appellant’s submissions and therefore has had the opportunity to produce evidence to refute them.

It is noted that the Operator has produced representations made by the Appellant in relation to two other parking charge notices, however I am only considering evidence relating to this parking charge notice, number yyy.

I must find as a fact that, on this particular occasion, the Operator has not produced any evidence to refute the Appellant’s submission that he visited Yate Shopping Centre twice on the date in question and therefore did not overstay the maximum stay. I have therefore not been satisfied that there was a breach of the terms and conditions.

Accordingly, this appeal must be allowed.

Shona Watson
Assessor

 

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