Westminsters Pay By Phone, is it safe – no

Alastair Gilchrist the doughnut years

Alastair Gilchrist the doughnut years

Westminster City Council are the only Council in Britain to have gone for a totally cashless parking system, with the last meter being removed on the 6th May 2009. Since then the only practical way to pay for parking, if you have the misfortune to pitch-up in the borough of Westminster, has been to bring a credit card and a fully charged mobile phone with you.

Cashless parking was the dream on one Westminster Council officer Alastair Gilchrist, a dream which could cost the taxpayers of Westminster millions of pounds over legal actions happening right now against the Council. Gilchrist arrogantly ignored claims that going completely cashless for parking would exclude some members of society who don’t have a mobile phone or credit card.

A campaign was started by Joan Bakewell to try to get the council to see sense. Eventually the council introduced a card to stick inside your windscreen, but you can only buy these cards from one of the three council ‘one stop’ shops or from a library. It’s highly likely that you’ll receive a parking ticket whilst you queue to buy your £2 parking scratch card. There is however no such cash alternative if you’re a scooter or motorbike rider. Gilchrist just couldn’t give a toss about them, as for him it’s all about the money. Gilchrist and his gullible puppet Councilor Danny Chalkley have effectively put two fingers up to you if you’re on two wheels, making the borough of Westminster out of bounds. No the 16th level of a multi story car park is not a viable solution for riders, see sense!

Why go cashless in the first place? To increase revenue though lower costs, cash is more expensive for the council to handle than electronic money. Chalkley also made a big story out of the Albanian Mafia stealing the councils parking revenue from the streets. When pressed on his evidence, all he could say was he read it in a paper, so nothing more than a story (see this nothing tangible at all FOI answer). Based on a story, and a drive to pass on lucrative contracts to their close friends in private business who run the pay by phone system. Chakley and Gilchrist landed us with one of the UK’s biggest lemons in the pay by phone industry, the one supplied by Verrus, now owned by PayPoint.

Since the introduction in August 2008 of the cashless bike parking tax, the odious Chalkley & Gilchrist have ignored the concerns regarding Verrus pay by phone security raised by the No To Bike Parking Tax campaign group. As far as Chalkley & Gilchrist are concerned, so long as the councils money is safe, the public can be ignored. This is despite serious concerns over the security of Westminsters Verrus supplied pay by phone system.

But the NTBPT group are not the only ones shouting about this, Labour MP John Robertson, a data protection campaigner, said: “These schemes sound like an easy way for criminals to get money.” “I would like to know what these councils are doing to stop personal information being scanned by others ? and what compensation, if any, they will offer to people who lose money through fraudulent activity.” Former Tory minister Sir Philip Goodhart. said that he finds the system so inconvenient that he has stopped bringing his car into Central London.”It is impossible for many people to have a mobile phone in their pocket all the time” said Goodhart. Mr Hawkes, of security company Broca Communications said “The only thing missing is the guy with a baseball bat waiting round the corner.” He added: “Councils need to stop and think how they should be protecting their customers. At the moment they are creating a honeypot for fraudsters.” (View source)

Early on, BBC’s Watchdog program highlighted flaws in the system, this was followed by a feature on BBC3′s The Real Hustle series, where a simple pay by phone scam was tested in a car park, using fake signs to harvest the publics credit card details.

Now Channel 4′s new comedy series Facejacker has shown just how you can collect unsuspecting drivers and riders credit card details with just a roll of masking tape, felt tip pen and a mobile phone.

As Facejacker says on the video “Parking control equals wallet control”.

Scrap the bike parking tax, before Westminster become even more of a laughing stock than they already are.

Westminster Pay By Phone scam, security flaw exposed
Uploaded by bikemonster. – Car, truck, and motorcycle videos.

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9 Comments

JanMay 3rd, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Yep, that’s right, parking in Westminster is worse than a visit to the dentist!

TemplarMay 3rd, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Wouldn’t it be really funny if someone were to replace the number, as they did in Facejacker, but instead of a random mobile number, use Danny Chalkley’s direct line! That way he would have to deal with EVERY call made from that bay!

Oh how I’d laugh. Even if Danny didn’t.

Richard HollyoakMay 3rd, 2010 at 9:31 pm

The pit just keeps on getting deeper and deeper. Thanks C4 doing the businesss on this one theres another million people who know about Chalkley, Gilchrist and Barrow

Maybe we should phone up Westminster and ask if they also sell Doovda Players.

1frogMay 3rd, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Thanks for warning the trusting public about the dangers of giving your credit card details over the phone, especially to a Westminster council officer !! I’m so glad I never have and never will.

Jason KetteridgeMay 4th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I’m a car driver and got here by way of a Google search for “Facejacker westminster” trying to find the video.

I’m not one to write on blogs over the web generally but this is an excellent story and the expose MUST go further. I had no idea scamming people could be so easy until I saw Facejacker, I didn’t even consider people using a mobile in public could be a target for criminals.

This system is incredibly divisive and risky, keep up the good work, I’ve just bookmarked this site and will be an avid reader. Westminster Council stinks!

Prof Gina WhiteMay 4th, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Its just dawned on me why the current councillors don’t get it!

They all have free parking permits so they have not ever actually tried the Pray by Phone parking system and as a consequence have little to less idea how it works.

The Tory Westminster representatives are nothing short of a joke!
In one corner we have the weight challenged Frixo Tombolis along with his hush puppy wearing newbie Johnny Glanz whose complete disregard for fashion and style leaves us breathless.

He is joined by the worryingly ugly female Glenys. A fright if ever one saw her – even in daylight. Apparently she writes for a living, but honestly can one ever believe she strings two words together without biting her tongue and breathe deeply. And as for Mutton…..

Turning now to Cllr Barrow (one wish one hadn’t!).
A more duplicitous, twisting excuse for an elected member it would be hard to find.
Let the electorate not be deceived. Not only did he sit as a leader in waiting, but at the same time he liquidated Eiger Capital whilst it still owed a shed-load of wonga to Westminster. So, your erstwhile leader shafted the electorate for a cool £68k whilst still sitting as Leader.

Imagine you are a householder in Westminster. Someone pisses through your letterbox and then has the chutzpah to ring the bell and ask how far it went.
Ding! Cllr Barrow – step forward!

There are plenty of others whose self-centred actions have jeopordised any trust that Westminster has Councillors who represent anything except themselves.

And, I won’t even get started on the chicken chinned, arse sagging, bosom drooping Burbridge whose worrying display of feminist angst is surely an example to include in the textbooks. Is there any proof she actually had any parents?
Seems unlikely as she is so life-challenged.

I’m just wondering whose idea it was to poke the bikers by introducing the parking tax?
Bikers don’t want it.
Residents don’t won’t
It loses £400k a year.

Draw your own conclusions.

EMPMay 5th, 2010 at 7:47 am

I avoid going to Westminster for anything.
Parking is just so complicated I better spend my money elswhere…

SolutionNotProblemMay 5th, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I’ll just go to the nearest free parking for bikes when I go into London.
Simples;O)

Daniel BarclayMay 5th, 2010 at 8:18 pm

I cannot get an invoice out of them – they keep saying that its on the web site but this does not help if you paid for the service prior to registering on the web site and what a drag to get the automated system to recognise what is entered on the phone = On a smart phone I have learnt to ignore all requests to use the hash key.

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