Westminster Council want ‘Big Society’ volunteers arrested

For decades we can remember being able to drive out of the bottom of Golden Square by heading south along Lower James Street, across Brewer Street and into Sherwood Street. This was one of the few ways of escaping south out of the maze of Soho streets. That was until Westminster Council forced motorists, by sticking up ‘left turn’ signs, to only go left, and head along Brewer Street and back into Soho.

It wasn’t long before Westminster Council sent their CCTV camera cars to regularly park on the double yellow lines in the south east corner of Golden Square. The CCTV Scamera would often be seen parked there two, sometimes three times a day for anything up to two hours, as they videoed the Lower James Street Junction.

A group known as the No To Mob who have been escorting the Scamera cars since last August have renamed the square Golden Egg Square. They could often been seen at the junction advising 100’s of motorists to turn left and not go straight on down Sherwood Street. Otherwise motorists could expect to receive a demand with menaces in the form of a moving traffic fine for £120 from Westminster Council.

The No To Mob don’t just stand out on the streets with banners warning motorist of the multitude of Westminster Council honey pots, they also conduct their own research. One outstanding No To Mob member learnt that Traffic Management Orders (TMO’s) were public documents, and he no longer had to wait for the torturously slow Westminster Freedom of Information team to turn down yet another of his requests. So the council were forced to reveal the shocking truth, that the TMO dating back to 1938 showed no such restriction in proceeding straight across Brewer Street and down Sherwood Street. There is an excellent account of the details and chronology of the uncovering of this scam on the Anderson Shelter website.

Golden Egg Square was by this time becoming notorious after LBC’s talk show host James Max mentioned receiving a fine at the junction from one of Westminster Councils Scamera cars. James said on air: “Westminster were so violent with their pursuel of you”, and also describing the council as disgusting. Max made the comments after the Evening Standard had revealed that Westminster Councils CCTV operators had been accused of “disturbing and improper” behaviour using camera trickery to fine 100’s of innocent motorist.

Alarm bells should have rung months ago in Westminster Councils parking department when this junction first began producing such high numbers of Penalty Charge Notices (PCN’s). You can see from the video below just how many motorists were confused by the signs.

With the frequency of Scamera car visits to this junction it seems likely that someone at Westminster Council knew just what a honey pot this particular junction was. Westminster’s CCTV camera cars are provided and operated on behalf of the council by a company called NSL Services. When Tim Cowan (NLS Director of Communications) was asked back in September 2010 if they would provide details of when and where the Scamera cars were deployed he said the No To Mob would need to ask Westminster Council. But Westminster Councillor Lee Rowley had already said the month before that:  “there is no particular fixed location or fixed schedule within which they are deployed”. Cllr Rowley became so evasive about the deployment of his Scamera cars he began passing emails on to Westminster’s FOI team, who would then reject the requests on the grounds of cost. When members of the public complained that they had never requested an FOI, council communication fibber Ms Catherine Preston replied saying a valid FOI request is a written request for information.  This includes requests received via email. This entailed that regardless of your intention in submitting requests “informally” they were caught by, and subject to, the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act” So Cllr Rowley need never answer an enquiry again from his electorate. Well someone is not being truthful, as Westminster Councils own CCTV code of practice states that “2.1.2 The vehicle-based CCTV systems are deployed as appropriate around the City following senior officer ‘tasking’” So why is Cllr Rowley so keen to deny any existence of a deployment schedule for his beloved CCTV camera cars? Perhaps because Cllr Rowley seems to have rather a strong fetish for mobile CCTV surveillance. Since he took over the parking department we have seen the number of CCTV Scamera cars increase from 2 to 7, with more on the way later this year.

On Friday 13th January 2011 the No To Mob were pleased to see the signs changed at the Lower James Street junction, with traffic flow reverting back to as it had been for years. But would all those motorist who had been robbed by Westminster Council be refunded the money that the Council had taken illegally?

Members of the No To Mob at Lower James Street

Members of the No To Mob at Lower James Street

Where previously a complaint had been made to the District Auditor regarding a similar junction which the council had fined motorist for an offence they could not possibly have committed, Westminster’s Head of Legal, Peter Large took the moral low ground and has chosen to keep all the money for the council. He even had the cheek to suggest that any motorist who thought they might be the victim of such highway robbery could always use the long winded and expensive appeals process.

Lee Rowley

Local fool Lee Rowley

So with what should be a simple decision for normal people with normal morals Cllr Rowley was asked if the council would be automatically refunding the money obtained illegally from the Lower James Street junction. Otherwise if he didn’t respond a complaint would have to be put to the District Auditor today. Rowley said nothing, no not a peep, so an objection to the Councils accounts has been delivered to the District Auditor this afternoon. So much for hoping that politicians had learnt from the expenses scandal and they would do the right thing.

Given that Westminster Councils stated policy for having so many parking wardens and extra Scamera cars on the streets is to help the motorist achieve 100% compliance with all the rules of the road, you might think the council would welcome a group of volunteers who work without any expenses to help the council achieve the councils compliance aims. The only difference between the way the council and the No To Mob go about it is that the council believe it’s better to fine the motorist, whereas the No To Mob seek only to advise the motorist which direction to go to avoid a hefty £120 fine. Odd isn’t that Cllr Rowley would insist that his CCTV fleet of revenue raising covert surveillance cars are really not there to make any money. You might even hear him claim they are there to make the streets safer, yet in the seven months the No To Mob have been escorting the Scameras they have never been seen outside a school. Rowley continues with his ludicrous justification for his fleet of covert surveillance CCTV mobile money making machines and would have you believe that they are very clearly marked and stand out more than a turd in a civic reception punchbowl.

In fact, instead of welcoming the assistance of these early adopters of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ there are those at Westminster Council who have been positively discouraging the No To Mob. Their members were singled out when attempting to go into a public meeting. Council security staff took random possessions from them, claiming that they were likely to throw them at the councillors. The CCTV car drivers themselves have used dangerous evasive road manoeuvres, including jumping red lights, in attempts to lose their escorts. Traffic wardens will often appear within seconds of a Scamera cars arrival, then try to issue parking tickets to the No To Mob. There’s even been a case of entrapment, luring volunteers to receive PCN’s via the council’s fixed CCTV cameras.

One has to ask the question just why is it that Cllr Rowley doesn’t want any help in achieving his goal of 100% compliance?

It now seems that those higher than Rowley are even attempting to have all of the No To Mob arrested for doing their public duty and saving the public hundreds of thousands of pounds.

In November 2010 Metropolitan Police Chief Inspector Switzer told members of the No To Mob that someone from Westminster Council had been making enquires of the MET to determine if it were possible to have the No To Mob arrested under section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act.

Of course after hearing this a member of the No To Mob sent a letter to rogue council leader Colin Barrow, overpaid CEO Mike More and bungling Head of Legal, Peter Large. Then after receiving no reply from any of them a reminder was sent, yet still no reply. Even Cllr Paul Dimoldernberg sent written questions to Mike More. But to this date there has not been an answer. Peter Large is even the head of standards at the council, but it looks as if he cannot even manage that task. Thank god for the starch in their shirts, because otherwise there would be nothing holding them upright


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1 Comment

Richard HollyoakJanuary 17th, 2011 at 10:39 pm

20.2 The Offence

A person commits an offence who, with a view to compelling another person to abstain from doing or to do any act which that person has a legal right to do or abstain from doing, wrongfully and without legal authority -

(a) uses violence to or intimidates that person or his wife or children, or injures his property,
(b) persistently follows that person about from place to place,
(c) hides any tools, clothes or other property owned or used by that person, or deprives him of or hinders him in the use thereof,
(d) watches or besets the house or other place where that person resides, works, carries on business or happens to be, or the approach to any such house or place, or
(e) follows that person with two or more other persons in a disorderly manner in or through any street or road.

Richard HollyoakJanuary 17th, 2011 at 10:40 pm

I wish all policemen were like Switzer, he’s very smart.

BruceJanuary 18th, 2011 at 1:50 am

Excellent article! We will just have to wait and see what an FOI regarding cancellations and refunds produces…

EddieJanuary 18th, 2011 at 9:40 am

This shows you the depths Westminster are prepare to go to so the truth doesn’t get out there. My own theory is that WCC councillors and senior officers were either bullied or “billy no mates” at school. That’s why they hide behind security officers/the met police all the time- there’s not a real bloke amongst the lot them!

BruceJanuary 18th, 2011 at 10:05 am

I can’t understand why WCC would want Living City nominees arrested? http://pimlico-flats.co.uk/blog/london-life/westminster-pimlico-heros-notomob-nominated/

EsinemJanuary 18th, 2011 at 10:36 am

Westminster Councillor Lee Rowley had already said the month before that: “there is no particular fixed location or fixed schedule within which they are deployed”

Liar! Lair! Pants on fire!!

Interestingly, when I tried to call Tim Cowen at NSL recently about Lwr James St, I got through to a gentleman called Gary who assured me that WCC dictated the deployment. Did I just see the Bullshit Kid’s nose grow a little more? Surely such massive growth cannot be sustainable? :-)

ChalkyJanuary 19th, 2011 at 5:37 pm

If I were Rowley, I would be seriously be worried about the continual growth of my hooter!! Even Pinocchio is getting a dose of the green eyed monster at such expansion.
If I were his mother I would be embarrased to admit that I had spawned such a blatant fibber, unless of course she is a politician too, in which case it’s in the blood surely?

NoToMobJanuary 20th, 2011 at 6:15 pm

It is curious how, if “there is no particular fixed location or fixed schedule”, scamera cars regularly turn up day after day at the same profitable locations. Given the number of streets in Westminster, the odds of that happening by chance must be greater than scooping the lottery every day for a week!

Rowley also said ”Given that there is no particular location to which they are deployed, I would direct you to the council’s Park Right booklet which contains all streets in Westminster, thus covering all the possible locations where mobile CCTV enforcement units might be present on a particular day”

Could it just be remarkable coincidence? If I was a betting man, I know where my money would be ;-)

BanditJanuary 21st, 2011 at 8:15 pm

The Bullshit Kid is more concerned about his hair than his hooter.

Somebody tell him that the Jedward look makes you look more of prat than you may actually be.

geoffJuly 17th, 2011 at 9:30 pm

section 241, refers to trade unions and their associated activities, is no to mob, any of this, if no then section 241 is crap

Meaning of “trade union”.E+W+S.In this Act a “trade union” means an organisation (whether temporary or permanent)—
(a)which consists wholly or mainly of workers of one or more descriptions and whose principal purposes include the regulation of relations between workers of that description or those descriptions and employers or employers’ associations; or.
(b)which consists wholly or mainly of—.
(i)constituent or affiliated organisations which fulfil the conditions in paragraph (a) (or themselves consist wholly or mainly of constituent or affiliated organisations which fulfil those conditions), or.
(ii)representatives of such constituent or affiliated organisations,.
and whose principal purposes include the regulation of relations between workers and employers or between workers and employers’ associations, or the regulation of relations between its constituent or affiliated organisations.

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