Westminster Council’s Councillor Rowley’s last supper

Cllr Rowley seeking divine intervention or more money

Acts 20:35

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

But not in Westminster!

Councillor Lee Rowley (Cabinet member for parking and transportation) attended a packed public meeting at St George’s Church Hanover Square last Thursday (7-Jul-2011). Councillor Rowley was there in his role as chair of the Westminster City Council Parking Policy Review to answer questions from the public and to explain the Council’s reasons for the eight draft proposals derived from the last year of the Council’s investigation and consultation.

During the course of the meeting it was clear that from the 8 proposals that items one and two were the ones of most concern to the attendees;

1)      Extending hours of control in the West End on weekday evening (Zones E & G)

2)      Extending hours of control in the West End on Sundays (Zones E, F3 & G)

Councillor Rowley was first to set out his stall, explaining that the proposed policies were nothing to do with revenue raising, and that the Council had done everything reasonably possible to notify all concerned of the reasons for the introduction of these additional, unwelcome charges.

Cllr Rowley really should not rely on his aides to tell him that his information machine had done their job as during the meeting in became increasingly clear from a number of speakers, that the first they knew about the Council’s plans was from a news item shown the previous Sunday on BBC London.

Councillor Rowley sweated and  attempted to explain that they had sent out over 47,000 emails as well as extensive press coverage, listing The Telegraph, The Evening Standard, BBC News, Wood and Vale and the West End Extra along with the trade press and the Councils own magazine The Reporter.

However a number of people still felt that this decision was being rushed, even asking at one point if the Council could delay making a decision on extending the parking restrictions. In matters concerning the lack of consultation with residents and stakeholders the council remains consistent.

But whilst the Council might be on firm ground when it comes to the consultation, it would seem less sure footed on the accusations that this is simply a revenue raising exercise.

Notwithstanding the freedom allowed for Cllr Rowley’s tender years and inexperience, nevertheless the facts speak for themselves.

Let us look at the evidence, to explain the fixation with money:

We suspect that a number of those attending the meeting were aware of the recent stories in the Telegraph and the Evening Standard accusing Westminster Council of using the extended parking hours and all the inevitable parking tickets given to those motorists caught out by the council latest cash grab stunt to fill a £14m deficit.

The Evening Standard quotes Councillor Rowley dismissing the story saying “These figures are two years old and do not represent a fair reflection of the facts.”  Yet in the councils Year End Finance and Performance Report dated 28th June 2011 it states.

PCN income (includes: on-street, CCTV and Smart car enforcement) is likely to be more than £8m below profile at year end.

The total on street parking income variance is around £6.9m below profile at year end.

Odd that isn’t it?

Westminster Council has for many years been heavily dependant on the revenue it generates from its parking enforcement.

It has been clear to many observers that for some time the wheels are slowly coming off the parking bandwagon for the Council.

Each year the overall revenue from parking enforcement has dropped from its peak in 2007/8 of over £80m to £69.3m for 2009/10 (source).

For the first time in the councils history the revenue from paid for parking now exceeds that obtained through fixed penalty notices (PCN’s).

The overall profit from parking fell by 12% for the year 2009/10 compared to the previous year to £30.1m.

To add to the pressure for the council to look towards the motorists as a cash cow the councils reserve funds have dwindled drastically after a series of expensive blunders by council officers in recent years.

The councils general fund reserves have reduced from £72m in June 2008 to just £15m today.

Motorists are being much more careful where they park as awareness of Westminster Council’s reputation for issuing PCN’s which has contributed towards the shortfall, but the council’s own parking department have made a series of costly mistakes which are now forcing them to dip into the wallets and purses of church congregations.

The most expensive blunder so far has been the re-letting of the lucrative parking enforcement contract. This has ended up back with NSL who in their contract with the council had promised a cheaper more efficient method of enforcement using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) fitted to camera cars. Not only did the re-let of the contract backfire on the council when rival bidders Mouchell had to be paid off in a £600,000 out of court settlement but the cost of re-letting and the subsequent consultant reports cost nearly a million pounds. Furthermore the expected cost savings of using ANPR failed to materialise due to shoddy licensing and slack data protection issues. Until now it has not been public knowledge that officers at Westminster Council were for 20 months hiring expensive camera cars which were unable to issue parking tickets. When asked, the officers said it was a concisions decision for them not to have applied for the correct licenses to issue parking tickets. When we exposed this fact council officers were forced to check their records for the past 20 months and refund 300 PCN charges taken illegally from the public. This is why you may have seen in recent months the keystone cops sight of parking wardens being driven around in expensive rented CCTV cars occasionally stopping for the parking warden to jump out to issue a PCN. The result of this appalling, juvenile management caused Councillor Rowley to approve a further 50 extra civil enforcement officers at a cost of nearly £2m which was borne by the tax paying public not the private company running the councils enforcement contract..

If that wasn’t enough, because of the legacy of Councillor Danny Chalkley, and the continuing occupancy by ‘slowly’ Rowley, the Council are still trying to explain to the EU Commission (via the UK Government) a number of illegal contract procurements. This has already caused Councillor Rowley to put his name to a false council press release (since withdrawn) claiming the council had done nothing wrong. This was news to Nutsville as we were in possession of a letter from the EU explaining they were widening their investigation to five other Local Authorities that Westminster Council officers had dragged into the parking contracts mess. That investigation still continues today and is expected to end with significant fines on Westminster Council and the other involved Local Authorities from the UK Government via the EU.

Last in the catastrophe list is the council’s accounts.

Much as we would like to, we cannot mention that the Council have not been able to sign off the last two years of accounts because of our objections to the District Auditor regarding unlawful items in the accounts.


We can tell you things are not going to get any better this year with more objections and even more serious complaints to the EU in the pipe line.

We’re listening but no action

If you had attended last months scrutiny committee meeting you could have been forgiven for assuming that as far the council and the area ward councillors are concerned their minds are made up when West End Councillor Frixos Tombolis said that “ if the council were to give an exception to this group of churches then they would all want exceptions.” What next the Buddhists and what’s to stop anyone starting up a new church wanting an exception?” So it would seem his selective mind is made up.

But hang on, surely public opinion must count for something?

Hold fast -- Councillor Rowley seemed to make it clear the councils disregard to the ‘big society’ when he was asked by one church representative the nuclear question:

Will Councillor Rowley confirm that if the overwhelming opinion of the public and of the residents in Westminster is against this proposal would he accept that and act accordingly?”

Councillor Rowley’s breathtaking reply was extraordinary;

You know there was an election about a year ago in May 2010 the council first put forward these proposals in January 2010 so therefore you could argue we’ve gone through the election already”.

This video shows what a ghastly mess Rowley made and will ensure his hall of fame place as the most ineffectual jobs worth Westminster has known (after Danny Chalkey)

His response was dismissive of the electorate, disrespectful of the people and indifferent to the Church and all it stands for in a way that is extraordinarily ill considered.

Hope was given to those attending Thursday’s Church meeting when at the end Tombolis’s fellow West End ward Councillor Glenys Roberts stood up to say “that unlike Councillor Rowley I live here, I work here, I shop here and I don’t have problem moving around on a Sunday” she went on “I think this could kill the local area”. Councillor Rowley does live in Westminster but Councillor Roberts meant she did not have the same experiences with overcrowding as Councillor Rowley. But it’s a different story for the hidden council officers who draft up these policies, as very few of them live in the borough. You can see Councillor Roberts speech in the video at the end of this page.

We have over 200 pages of evidence to back us up you know.

Councillor Rowley explained at the meeting that there were over 200 pages of evidence about the parking policy review available on the council’s website.

Apparently there is even a banner on the council’s home page, so really there is no excuse for anyone not to have taken a week off work to go through the council’s avalanche of evidence.

One of the key stones of council evidence is the occupancy survey that Westminster Council commissioned at great expense from Colin Buchanan. You can download this huge collection of statistics here, which according to Councillor Rowley justifies the real need to tax the Church goers, the shop workers, theatre audiences and everyone else seven full days a week.

But we wonder how many of our readers have actually looked at this fine collection of graphs and tables. For if you scroll down to page 34 you will see the table showing the occupancy rates for paid for parking bays and to back up Councillor Rowley’s assertions there you will see that on Sundays between 11am and 3pm parking bays in zone G2 have an incredible 200% occupancy. Perhaps you have not noticed cars in Westminster are parked in stacks one on top of the other.

You don’t have to be a statistical whizz kid to know that someone is having a laugh with these figures. Next time you’re wandering around Mayfair on a weekday take a look at any motorcycle parking bay, you will see it’s packed to the gills. But according to Colin Buchanan figures on page 38 even at the busiest week day peak time the motorcycle bays only ever reach %64 occupancy.

Marvellous what you can prove with statistics isn’t it.

St Georges Church voting against introduction of extended parking hours

Westminster Churches against Sunday Parking Charges -- Petition Online -- UK

Campaign website updated each day

Stop Westminster’s Sunday Parking Charges Facebook Page

Whilst God may very well be absent in body, but present in spirit Cllr Rowley would be advised to consider the first book of Corinthians


Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

1 Corinthians x. 12.


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Pamela SeddonJuly 15th, 2011 at 2:19 pm

When people speak councillors refuse to listen. Big Society is a cop out for councils to hoodwink the public and do as they wish.

Esinem: NoToMobJuly 19th, 2011 at 12:32 am

As far as I can tell from the stats available from WCC, they have been reducing the number of parking places. Although, Rowley seemed struck with amnesia when I requested these figures, some of which appear in WCC’s own Parking Reviews fortunately.

According to TfL commuter traffic in central London has plummeted over the past 10 years.

As any economist knows, in time of falling demand, a monopoly can drive prices up by reducing supply. Surely, no coincidence that WCC have some of the country’s highest parking charges?

Marcus GibsonJuly 29th, 2011 at 11:37 am

I’m a former Financial Times correspondent who has lived in central London for many years. My parents – Dr Ronald Gibson, ex-head of the Brompton Hospital Cardiology Dept and Mrs Thelma Gibson (recent obit, Daily Telegraph, May 2011) personally pioneered the private medical sector in central London from the 1960s onwards, which brings in £1bn a year to the UK Exchequer, now central London’s second biggest employer after retail – so I need no lessons about London.

I express my fury at the action of Westminster Council in planning to extend the parking charge period to weekday evenings and Sundays. This is social and economic madness.

The REAL problem is that tens of thousands of the lowest-paid workers in society will have their daily lives massively inconvenienced. Thousands of catering staff – waiters, cooks, managers – security staff, doormen, and an army of cleaners who often leave work at 3am will now have to pay £4 an hour for parking – even if they can find a space – as thousands of spaces currently available on single white lines will disappear. Many of these workers are hard-working, poorly paid people who cannot afford these charges.

Secondly, London comes alive at 6.30pm once the ghastly traffic wardens have gone – now the evening and evening entertainment economy is being mortally threatened – no one is going to spend hours driving around trying to find a parking space just for a meal in central London. It’s a social and economic disaster that the council has been trying to sneak through. I’ve lived in central London for four decades and this is the final nail in the coffin of the local economy. How anyone from the Tory Party – which is supposed to be supporting working people – can support this plan is criminal madness.

I now run a database business in Mayfair which has the largest number of SMEs in the UK. If this goes through I will be urging my database of no less than 250,000 business and enterprise contacts to vote for Labour councillors, and for Ken Livingstone at the mayoral elections, if he promises he will reverse the decision.

The software company below us in South Audley St, one of the fastest growing SMEs in London, moved out to premises in south London last weekend in order to avoid the parking charges.

Some facts:
- Westminster Council owns hundreds of council flats each worth £1m – why not sell a dozen each year?
- It recently cut £2m from social services, but then paid out £1.5m more for 50 new traffic wardens.

How dare you disrupt the lives of ordinary hard-working people.

Yours, in anger,

Marcus Gibson
Editor, Gibson Index Ltd
22 South Audley St, London W1K 2NY – 020 7629 4064
http://www.gibson-index.com – ‘The UK’s No.1 Small Company database’

DavidDecember 21st, 2011 at 8:35 am

Lee Rowley, now these charges have been blocked in a Court of Law, it really is time for you to exit Westminster City Council in my opinion. The problem is that you’re essentially unelectable now, so attempting to introduce these charges actually makes no difference to you at all. You’re most likely out whatever you do, as i think Colin Barrow and Rosmarie MacQueen also are. For that reason alone you should not be allowed to implement anything. You need to be replaced quickly, and by a independent conservative as opposed to grey career bureaucrat. I think your campaign for these outrageous parking charges is proof of your lack of political judgement, you don’t listen to voters, and ultimately all your hard work this year has contributed to the situation that every Tory councillor who backed you now faces with their electorate. Stunning naivety, and Esinem is right in my opinion. I believe you have been stripping London of single yellow lines over the last few years at WCC (St James, Long Acre, etc) to help create the situation you want. There should be an inquiry in to this in my opinion.

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