Pirates in Parking

Partnerships in Parking (PiP)

So what’s it all about? Let Nutsville explain: It’s a megalomaniac group of un-elected people procuring equipment on behalf of London councils and deciding parking and traffic policy.

PiP was conceived by a certain Stephen Lawrenson, while he was working at Westminster Council, and got funded by The London Centre for Excellence but now known as Capital Ambition which is a strategy group devised by London Councils. Confused? You will be.

London Councils is a lobbying group working (paid for by subscription) of all 32 London boroughs (plus City of London), Met Police, London Fire EPA and TfL. London Councils employ about 180 people over two sites in Angel Square and Southwark Street.

London Councils Leaders Committee meets every month except August and this is where the decisions are made. In 2010/2011, London Councils will gain just over £26 Million from the contributing councils, Met and Fire. That’s all public money there that councils pay in to London Councils on behalf of it’s Council Tax payers. An external audit (Price Waterhouse Coopers) recommended recently that they should change the way they do things, one was giving clear financial details on their website in the About Us section by October 2009 (not done at time of writing), transfer of City of London Pensions should be carried out as soon as possible and that ALL partnerships should be openly declared, but we have to wait until March 2010 for that one.

However, these guys run Taxicard, Freedom Pass and, more importantly, PATAS (Parking and Traffic Appeals Service) so they aren’t all bad. They give grants to the most vulnerable in London, which is also great, so where does PiP come in to this?

“We distribute some £28 million a year to around 300
voluntary groups on behalf of all the London councils.
The individual grants we give out range from £5,000
to £500,000 a year.

Grants are distributed within three overarching priorities,
which reflect our work as a whole.

These are:

  • providing more opportunities for Londoners
  • reducing social exclusion, poverty and disadvantage
  • promoting equality and reducing discrimination.”

PiP fits in to that how? Isn’t providing a socially exclusive pay by phone system contra-indicated if you believe the words above? More on that later, but suffice it to say PiP takes even more of our public money!

PiP

One of the ‘benefits’ to joining PiP include standardising parking systems across borders, how good is that? The problem is THEY are setting the standards, not the people, the councils or even the huge businesses looking to earn millions from nationwide parking (Verrus et al). This quango is deciding stuff for London and beyond and we have no say in it at all!

Other ‘benefits’ include procuring under the PiP banner, this ensures savings of scale (apparently, not that they have explained or proven that at all) but you have to buy PiP specified equipment, something may be better and cheaper elsewhere but if it’s PiP, then it’s their way or the highway. The procurement issue has been questioned legally.

The upside of this is that some councilors (no names) on the PiP team and in post in some councils are dead against certain charges like the tax for motorcycles to park in Westminster and vehemently oppose it at every opportunity, but they are few and those that want the income are many. Because, lets be honest, this charge is not about benefits to motorcyclists, kerbside management or anything to do with ‘green’ issues, it’s all about income for the councils, public authorities and TfL.

Nutsville learned from an email sent it to us from a reader that PiP is no longer funded by London Councils Capital Ambition (maybe ‘socially exclusive’ had something to do with it) but the PiP partners for 2009/10, currently 13 of them, fund it each to the tune of £7,692.30 to total £100,000 per annum.

This is another £100,000 of public money, well from PiP council members and whoever pays TfL, Met and LFEPS that’s going into a quango we have no control over. These PiP Partners currently are:

  • City of Westminster (lead)
  • Transport for London (TfL)
  • LB Camden
  • City of London
  • LB Islington
  • LB Lambeth
  • RB Kensington & Chelsea
  • LB Enfield
  • LB Richmond
  • LB Hackney
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Havering
  • Croydon

But PiP wants to have as many members as possible, and not from just London.

Expansion across London and Beyond

“Once the existing Partners formally commit to the

Partnership Agreement formal expansion can take

place across London and beyond. This will create

further efficiencies and savings for all involved. The

Partnership can then look at other areas of parking

that can be brought into the Partnership.”

Above taken from PiP What it is, and how to join (download here).

Why should scooter and motorcycle owners be very concerned?

You see from the list above that Westminster City Council are the lead council for PiP and as such were the council that introduced the experimental scheme to tax PTWs (Powered Two Wheelers) to park on the streets. Westminster have a history of trying to charge PTW’s going back many years. In April 2001 Westminster Council began a trial to charge for secure on-street motorcycle parking places at six bays (98 spaces) near New Scotland Yard using pay and display. The charge then was 20p per hour up to £2 for all day. The bays dropped from a 80 – 90% occupancy rate to 38% occupancy. And only 16.5% of PTW’s using the pay and display bays used the security bars. So in March 2002 the experiment was abandoned. But Westminster Council have always referred back to that 2001 trial to say that PTW owners don’t really want extra security devices. The following year the central London congestion charge began. Westminster Council fought against the introduction of the charge, but said if it were to be introduced PTW’s should be charged as well. Westminster Council continued to revisit charging PTW’s to park with another failed trial in Hanover Sq. But Westminster seemed somewhat bitter that PTW’s were exempt for the congestion charge, here’s what they said at the time:

Motorcycles are exempt from the congestion charge, not because of the any environmental benefits that are claimed for them, but because TfL’s camera technology is unable to successfully identify motorcycle number plates.” (Source: chap_7.pdf )

Nutsville thought the clue was in the name Congestion Charge, PTW’s don’t cause congestion isn’t that why they don’t pay the congestion charge, well not according to Westminster City Council.

The next time Westminster Council looked at charging PTW’s to park they thought they would sweeten the introduction by offering more much needed parking spaces:

“In order to make the proposal more acceptable to motorcyclists the trade-off from the City Council would be a promise to create more motorcycle parking bays”(Source: chap_7.pdf )

The council considered three options to charge PTW’s

  • City-wide paid motorcycle parking
  • Zones E & G only paid motorcycle parking
  • Paid motorcycle parking on 10 new bays only

The Council wanted to charge £3 per day or £12 per week. As far as Nutsville knows at this time it was only MAG who was in dialogue with the Council, and it was very likely to have been MAG’s input that saw the scheme launch at the lower fee of £1.50 per day. But lets be clear, both MAG and the BMF have always been opposed to the charging for PTW’s to park on street.

Alastair Gilchrist

Alastair Gilchrist

So Westminster Council use Gatenby Sanderson recruitment consultants to unearth one Alastair Gilchrist who is appointed head of Westminsters parking department in 2004. Gilchrist was a salesman for Mercury Personal Communications in 1993, we think he is still just a salesman. Gilchrist has a dislike of cash and a love of Pay By Phone, so set about turning Westminster into a cashless parking zone. Handling cash was expensive for the Council who had a dedicated bullion room with coin sorters, but along with the parking meters these are a thing of the past. Gilchrist said of parking meters “We decided to take them out completely and see what happened, to see how far we could go.” (Source download). Gilchrist doesn’t care about the social exclusion issues for those who don’t have credit cards or mobile phones. He went about extolling the cost savings to the gullible Tory councillors brushing aside social exclusion issues saying “The council decided that a ‘pay by phone’ solution would be feasible taking into account that almost all of the population now own a mobile phone and also possess a credit or debit card.” and “But these days almost everyone has a mobile phone, and you can get free internet access from a library, so it’s not such a problem.”. (Source view)

Really, according to Ofcom in 2008 there was only an 84% mobile phone ownership in the UK (Source view). As for credit and debit card ownership, the most recent OFT survey  says:

A majority (71%) of people across the country have at least one credit

card. 8% have had a credit card previously, but not at present. One in

five (21%) have never had a credit card, mostly (19%) through personal

choice; the remainder (2%) have not been able to own one. (Source view)

But never mind Gilchrist doesn’t care, that was until champion of the elderly Joan Bakewell got a parking ticket in Westminster. The publicity she was able to stir up forced Gilchrist to introduce £2 scratch cards, which could be bought for cash at Wesminster libraries. But there were no such concessions given for PTW riders, they were told it’s £2 for you, same as a car, like it or lump it. (Source view) (Source videos) What a pity that Gilchrist doesn’t take any notice of the PiP quango he sits on, as PiP themselves say under Equalities Implications; “It should be noted that not all motorists have access to either a mobile phone or credit card. As such London Councils recommends that mobile phone payments for parking should be provided as an additional method of payment rather than as a replacement.”

It’s through PiP that Gilchrist acts as a taxpayer funded salesman for Canadian owned company Verrus.

“Westminster chose pay-by-phone technology specialist Verrus who was responsible for North America’s first pay by phone parking installation in 2001, together with its outsourced contact centre partner in the UK, Converso.”

“By using the Verrus/Converso partnership we can also eliminate the significant cost of cash collection and routine maintenance of machines.”

So we now see Gilchrist acting as a cashless Pay By Phone evangelist spreading the word for Verrus. Only this year Gilchrist was flown to Denver, Colorado courtesy of Verrus to speak on their behalf at the International Parking Conference and Expo. Gilchrist stood alongside his Verrus buddy David Spittel giving a talk titled Coin Today – Phone Tomorrow Has Europe Leaped Ahead with Pay By Phone Technology.

But there is just one fly in Gilchrist’s ointment and that’s the No To Bike Parking Taxes campaign group, who through their tenacious research have uncovered the dirty goings on with the awarding of the Verrus contract. This week the NoTo group explained to their members how by using the PiP quango the pay by phone virus is spreading and charging for bike parking is part of the package being sold to the other PiP members. (Source view) As the campaigners have been saying all along, this is not just a Westminster issue, and if you ride a PTW you need to take action now, otherwise it really will be too late and you will have no one along side you to fight with you.

Now that Verrus have their poodle sitting on PiP in the form of Gilchrist, Verrus can afford to be cocky by actively selling themselves to the other PiP Councils.

Any PiP member may now adopt the same contract without the need to go out to tender.”

I am writing to all PiP members, to set out some very favorable terms for operating a trial of the Verrus service.” Robin Bevan CEO, Verrus UK (Source download)

So why are Verrus encouraging Local Authorities to VIOLATE EU Codes of Procurement with regard to Framework Agreements.

The EU directives state that, whilst a framework agreement CAN constitute ONE supplier and MULTI purchasers (in this case Local Authorities), these “purchasers” MUST be identified when the agreement is signed. In other words, if the LA was not in it at the start, they can’t join the agreement at a later date as is clearly being suggested by Verrus.

Maybe people could consider emailing their respective councils representatives on PiP and ask how they took their electorates views into account when deciding to take part in this empire building quango?

As luck would have it PiP are having their next meeting at Westminster’s City Hall. Why not come along to Victoria Street, 8am on the 7th of December, as this PiP meeting is open to the public, we’re sure you’ll want to see PiP in action won’t you?

Links

Nuts, Stephen Lawrenson , Pip and Verrus

Nuts: WCC, PiP, Lawrenson and lies over financial neutrality of parking.

In The News

Freeparking.co.uk comment on the Tax Payer Alliance and Drivers Alliance report: £900,000 per day cost of parking fines.

MAG First to fight parking charges for bike in Westminster

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5 Comments

CMCerNovember 27th, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Tax Payers Alliance: “Tory-run Westminster banked the most at more than £35million, the nationwide study shows. But Kensington and Chelsea, another Conservative authority, made the most per person at almost £13million – an average £85.25 for every daytime resident.”

If PiP get their way you can add millions to that from the UK’s PTW contingent.

Don’t let it happen – Come on the http://www.notobikeparkingfees.com demo!

JamesNovember 28th, 2009 at 7:49 pm

The question is how many and which local authorities had signed up to the Verrus pay by phone contract along with Westminster, when it was first implemented. Was it all existing 13 PiP members or just Westminster? If it was just Westminster, then the 12 other members can’t have Verrus without going through a tender process and if all 13 of them had signed up at the time, then Verrus can’t get anyone else on board unless the local authority goes through a tendering process. Am I correct?

I’m amazed that these Westminster bureaucrates didn’t think this through properly. What is this Peter Large (Head of Westminster Legal Services) there for, I wonder?

MitchNovember 29th, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Peter Large doesn’t seem up to the job, he’s supposed to uphold standards at Westminster City Hall, yet seems to spend his time fire fighting trying cover up all the mistakes, so the public don’t get wind of it.

[...] are not able to provide any documentation of even having become a member of the now infamous Partnerships in Parking quango set up by Westminster Council. It would not be difficult for any council using the Verrus [...]

[...] because of NTBPT the councils quango Partners in Parking (PiP) is now dead in the water, unable to use it’s framework contracts. PiP was created to [...]

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