Westminster Council: Where ‘Yes’ means ‘No’.

Westminster Council has come under yet more fire over its Pay by Phone motorcycle parking system for claiming that the scheme is not socially exclusive.

Nutsville has learnt that the council’s Parking Services department has issued statements to complainants to the Local Government Ombudsman stating that:

“…the City Council does not consider that payment for motorcycle parking discriminates in any way.”

This predictable statement would be unremarkable if it weren’t for the fact that the council has acknowledged that there is a problem many times in the past.

As far back as 2007, the minutes of the Motorcycle Parking Strategy Project Update meeting recorded that:

 

issues of social exclusion have been raised about this payment method as it requires the customer to have access to credit card and the Pay by Phone system to complete payment.  Because of this, the Council has considered mitigation actions to limit any social exclusion issues.

 

At this time, the City Council is undergoing an OJEU tender process to formally put in place a Pay by Phone supplier (the current supplier is in place on a trial basis only).  As part of the tender specification, all tenderers have been asked to provide and are being evaluated against robust strategies on how to address the social exclusion issue.  Further detail will be available upon contract award of this tender, but suggestions have included development of PayPoint facilities.

Nutsville wonders what happened to those ‘robust strategies’ given that none have ever been implemented.

Or how about this from Westminster Council’s Partnerships in Parking Board Report of the 9th February 2009:

 

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.

And these were the recommendations from Westminster Council’s own Built Environment and Scrutiny Committee Meeting on the 31st March 2009:

3.   That the Committee supported the following other options for varying the scheme some of which were set out in section 9 of the report:

 

i)     offering a cash and cheque pre-payment facility;

ii)     offering a discounted ‘carnet’ scheme;

iii)    with over 90% occupancy rates currently, locations for further bays should be sought on and off street;

iv)   installing security devices. This should be progressed as quickly as possible and should be based on a device that appeals to motorcyclists;

v)    issuing a warning to a motorcyclist the first time they fail to pay to park in a motorcycle bay

 

So what has the council done about these recommendations two years on?

 

Item i)    –     Ignored

Item ii)   –     Ignored

Item iii)   –     Ignored

Item iv) –     Ignored

Item v)   –     Implemented but only if the motorcyclist appeals the ticket. No notice of this policy is ever volunteered by the council.

Mike More descredited

Mike More descredited

And in September 2009 discredited council boss Mike More wrote to one complainant and the Local Government Ombudsman to say that:

“It is for this reason that proposals for alternative means of payment will be explored at the point that the traffic order, and the Motorcycle Parking Scheme by association, becomes permanent; these include pre-paid options by cash and cheque.”

Well Mr. More, the Traffic Order was made permanent in January 2010. Where’s the active exploration of alternative payment methods? An FOI submitted in March 2010 asked the same question. The council responded thus:

“Both the aforementioned reports recommended that cash, cheque & ‘carnet’ pre payment schemes be considered for future development by the Council.

 

Apart from the above Cabinet Member Decisions, there have been no further documented meetings, summaries, proposals or agendas, generated in relation to these proposed payment schemes.  In addition, I am also, at this stage, unable to provide any timescales as to when such meetings, proposals are likely to take place.

In other words no meetings on this issue had happened and none were scheduled to happen. And to date none have happened.

When the issue was raised with Local Government Ombudsman, the LGO told the council in May 2010 that the promised exploration of alternative payment methods must begin within six months.

So what’s been done about it? Well, according to the council, it seems that nothing needs to be done:

“…the City Council does not consider that payment for motorcycle parking discriminates in any way.”

So if the problem doesn’t exist, why was it raised at the meeting in 2007?

And why did PiP members raise the same concerns in 2009?

And if the Scrutiny Committee concluded alternatives to Pay by Phone were necessary, why have none been implemented or even explored?

And did Mike More deliberately lie when he issued his assurance that alternative payment methods would be actively explored when the scheme was made permanent?

And after the scandal of WCC’s ‘misinterpretation’ concerning the EU case, is it now council policy to simply ignore rules, regulations, laws and governing bodies when it suits it?

And if the answer is ‘yes’, does that actually mean ‘no’? Or is it the other way around?

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5 Comments

BillyBloggsJanuary 5th, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Perhaps someone without a credit card should try a discrimination case against them, citing social exclusion.

BanditJanuary 5th, 2011 at 7:14 pm

It serves to illustrate the utter contempt of this filth for the ordinary members of the public. Lie, deceive and procrastinate: all the while fleecing motorists for zero return.

The NoTo Campaign and Nutsville must continue to expose these crooks. There is not a shred of decency between the lot of them.

BruceJanuary 5th, 2011 at 9:10 pm

More and more vultures are circling City Hall…they smell carrion!

[...] who don’t have a mobile phone and/or bank card. But we have learned from fellow bloggers, Nutsville, that “the City Council does not consider that payment for motorcycle parking discriminates [...]

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