When Things Go Wrong

“Bureaucracy and social harmony are inversely proportional to each other.” (Leon Trotsky)

Generally speaking Local Authority Traffic Enforcement Departments are extremely good at doing two things; giving out ‘tickets’ and collecting money.

If you do anything, like daring to challenge a PCN, that disturbs this well oiled machine, beware – the consequences are unpredictable.

The only way for a Parking Department to deal with a problem when it arises is first of all for them to admit that there is a problem. But that can’t happen, can it? They are perfect; they never make mistakes. Nothing can ever go wrong in their world.

But things do go wrong, all too frequently, and when it happens you can get sucked into the dystopian world of local government bureaucracy. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then rent a copy of Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil, or read some Kafka.

(© 1985 Embassy International Pictures NV. All rights reserved.)

I have recently been trying to contest some parking tickets of my own with Hackney Council. Whenever they send me a Notice to Owner and I make representation, they just send me another Notice to Owner. It’s quite surreal. Round and round we go.

I have asked PATAS what I can do and they say they cannot intervene until Hackney sends me a Notice of Rejection. But what if Hackney never sends me a Notice of Rejection…? I have tried talking to them on the phone but it’s not good for my blood pressure.

Islington on the other hand claims to have sent out documents and then behaves as if they haven’t been sent, which they haven’t anyway; if that makes sense.

James was sent a yellow box PCN by Islington and duly made representations. A few days later he received a letter saying that his representations were made too late (which they were not) and they had already sent out a Charge Certificate (unlawfully early). A few days after that Islington sent out another letter acknowledging his representations, rejecting them, and inviting him to appeal to PATAS. When he e-mailed them they claimed they had definitely sent out a Charge Certificate earlier. To this date James has not received this Charge Certificate.

This is nothing new. I have another similar case on record from earlier this year.

In another case Penny caught the full force of Transport for London’s mighty enforcement machine going out of control. She contacted me when she received her PCN and I advised her on how to make representations, which she did. Some days later she received a Charge Certificate.

Penny realized this was wrong and rang TfL for help. Customer care skills? Forget it. The TfL operators on duty that day were extremely rude and unhelpful; so much so that they were unwilling to give their name or Id. Eventually, when Penny was in tears on the phone, one of them admitted that the Charge Certificate had been sent out in error and advised her to ignore it.

A week later, Penny rang TfL and was told that someone would ring her back. No one did.

A week after that Penny received an Order for Recovery from the Traffic Enforcement Centre at Northampton County Court. Under the threat of prosecution, and believing that no one at Transport for London was in the least bit interested in her case, Penny forked out £155 just to make the nightmare go away.

I have lodged a complaint with TfL on her behalf, and will take it to the Local Government Ombudsman if necessary.

How much longer are we going to tolerate this incompetent bureaucracy that has the power to mess up our lives so easily? Well Comrade, come the revolution…


4 Responses to When Things Go Wrong

  1. Barrie Segal says:

    Hackney’s actions are not only bizarre but illegal. I would make a formal complaint to the Chief Executive. I would also write to them and say that you charge £100 to deal with each incorrectly issued Notice to Owner – bill them and sue them if they don’t pay!
    Barrie Segal
    Author of The Parking Ticket Awards: Crazy Councils, Meter Madness & Traffic Warden Hell

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