How could they have missed this?

Rosemarie MacQueen with the box of ‘evidence’

Rosemarie MacQueen with the box of ‘evidence’

We had to endure an awful lot of backslapping when we attended the meeting where Westminster Council ‘voted’ to introduce Sunday and weekday evening parking charges. As readers will recall, this was against all public opposition.

Directing his voice to Rosemarie Macqueen, Hugh Brennan and Barry Smith (the council officers responsible for leading the parking review), lead Councillor Colin Barrow gushed “I would like to compliment you and your team for the thorough, comprehensive and professional way in which this piece of research has been conducted

Councillor after councillor lined up to heap praise on the officer’s hard work, telling us how many hours of work had gone into preparing the ‘evidence’ during the last 12 months. Macqueen herself even managed to big up her own role as she wearily told the attendees that she had been working on the project right up to ‘the few minutes just before the meeting’.

The Central London Churches group had requested a delay to the council making a final decision, but despite council officers rushing to be ready in time for the meeting the Churches request was ignored. This just gave the impression that the whole affair had been railroaded through as seasoned Westminster watchers sensed the decision had been made before the Councillors even sat down for the meeting.

Clr Lee Rowley

Councillor Rowley, Cabinet Member for Parking and Transportation was breathless as he listed the number of people that the council had consulted with, shopkeepers, property owners, pedicab operators, cyclists, freight transport associations, mini cab operators, faith groups, residents and Uncle Tom Cobley. With so much evidence and thorough consultation by people clearly experts in parking matters, who would dare to question their expertise and the resulting proposals?

Indeed who would bother to even look at this august tome of evidence in any great depth, least of all the very Councillors who voted on the proposals?

All in all, Maqueen was right to preen as under her stewardship how could anyone doubt it was a job well done. Even though the work was hard, the days long and the wages minimum it was clear that due to their diligence and attention to detail (resulting in a report of over 200 pages) everything had been accounted for and nothing could have been missed. Taking humbleness to a new level, Macqueen herself said one lowly selfless council officer (Martin Low) had even interrupted his holiday slumming it in Switzerland to phone her “at his own expense”.

At this remark we had to chuckle to ourselves, as we remembered in a recent Freedom of Information request just how prominently Macqueen herself had appeared accepting numerous gifts from affluent lobbyists ( view source ). She seems to be a very popular girl, with her name appearing so often in the gifts and hospitality register.

What incredible sacrifices these public servants have made for us, and just so we can have a wider choice of parking places on a Sunday. There couldn’t have been a dry eye in the public gallery. We even thought the many Church representatives who’d come to see democracy in action would have a collection for these officers at the end of the meeting -- they didn’t.

It is an undeniably hard life being a top pay band council officer, but it would be much worse for them if they had to actually live in the cities which their policies affect.

It’s our view that the officers used the box of ‘evidence’, cherry-picking the most suitable statistics to prove beyond all doubt that the reasons we all had to pay on Sundays and weekday evenings was for demand management. Nothing whatsoever to do with raising revenue from parking, as that would be illegal.

Apparently this is known in the parking planning trade as a ‘cock up’.

In light of all this Nutsville is therefore mystified that after so much expert evidence and consultation the officers completely missed out the motorcycle bays?  You may recall it was the introduction of the motorcycle charging that gave public airing to hitherto meaningless phrases like ‘Demand Management’, ‘Cost Control’ and ‘Danny Chalkley’.

At present cars can park for free on any motorcycle bay in the three affected zones from Monday to Saturday after 7pm right the way through to 7am the next morning. Cars may also park on the motorcycles bays for free all day Sundays.

As there are a lot less motorcycles around in the off peak times this arrangement hasn’t caused a great deal of problems, and also provides many hundreds of extra car parking spaces.

Cllr Rowley claimed that the charges had to be introduced to stop cars parking all night without paying, as he wanted parking bays to be used cyclically. Surely an idea which on the face of it would encourage more cars to be coming in and going out of the West End not less. Rowley has also said that in the three zones under consideration parking had reached its stress limits, with motorists having difficulty finding a parking place on street.

Nevertheless the only mention the motorcycle bays received in the draft report was because of their previously introduced parking tax on motorcycles, the motorcycle bays weren’t so full anymore.  So with no mention of the motorcycle bays, were the council going to extend the charges for the motorcycle bays as well, or had they forgotten them altogether?  Leaving the motorcycle bays out of the equation not only distorts the whole set of figures the officers were basing their decisions on, but also leaves them open to be completely filled up with cars, excluding motorcyclists their parking bays altogether.  Or perhaps if any thought had been given to them the intention was to force motorcycles to squeeze into car parking bays and make motrcyclists pay car parking prices as well. After all, to some council officers and councillours there is absolutely no difference between a car and a motorcycle. Some even believe motorcycles pollute more than a Hummer (they are experts we’re told). This major omission from the report makes a mockery of the demand management claims and even Rowley’s wish to end cars parking for free all weekend.

The result was that hundreds of potentially free car parking spaces were completely left out of the expert policy maker’s calculations! That was until Nutsville got word of this alarming oversight to Cllr Rowley at the 28th June Transport Policy and Scrutiny committee. Despite Cllr Rowley’s grand claims of a thorough consultation and a robust evidence base it looks as if no one had thought to ask the two national organisations representing motorcyclists, Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) or The British Motorcycle Federation (BMF). Or maybe both organisations weren’t going to waste their time with Westminster Council again, since both their opinions had been poorly misquoted and even ignored during the motorcycle parking charge consultations.

The council officer’s sticking plaster solution has been to now include a few paragraphs in the final report stating that motorcycles will have 24 hour 7 day a week protection.  Meaning cars will no longer be allowed to park in one of the hundreds of motorcycle bays during off peak hours. So by approving this demand management led policy the Council will actually be significantly reducing the number of available car parking spaces in the three affected zones. All because they want and need to charge on a Sunday and in the evenings.  If all goes to plan this will in turn create an increased demand in all of the neighbouring zones giving council officers the excuse to bring in extended parking charges borough wide.

Nutsville was tempted not to point out to the council they were heading for a car crash mistake, but as life long motorcyclists our duty to other two wheeled riders outweighed political point scoring. We have published the before and after reports in this post and we do not expect any smug responses from any so called expert council officers trying to justify their jobs to the public. ( May2011 Draft Cabinet Report )  ( Aug 2011 Cabinet Report -- Page 47 )

In a meeting last week with Kevin Goad, Nutsville discussed the 24/7 motorcycle bay protection. Mr Goad confirmed that now all motorcycle parking bays would be protected 24/7 without the need for new TMO’s to be drafted. We had to double check with him because in the final cabinet decision there was absolutely no mention of the motorcycle bays again.

The question of how could hundreds of parking bays have been left out from a review described as “thorough comprehensive and professional” remains open. But we think this is further proof that the new extended car parking charges have nothing to do with demand management and everything to do with filling a massive parking deficit.

Officers at the Council seem to have presented the figures from the parking occupancy survey in a skewed manner. With exaggerated statistical figures to show excessive demand for car parking and a depreciated assessment of motorcycle parking being presented to the public. Both residents and visitors will not get what they thought they would, and those few who supported the council’s proposals will discover that only after it’s too late.

Hopefully soon we will receive an answer from Cllr Rowley as to why he painted the picture he did on BBC television, and why our questions were omitted from the final reports.  In future Nutsville posts we hope to explain how we have come to those opinions, but we think others who have been examining the evidence have also spotted more holes in the evidence base than dear Liza’s bucket.

Our video of Cllr Barrow summing up and democracy in action.

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3 Comments

James ThomasAugust 18th, 2011 at 1:27 am

If Westminster are so intent on raising revenue from Parking penalty tickets, why do they refuse to issue tickets to the constant stream of private hire vehicles that park outside On Anon and Tiger Tiger in the heart of the West End,

Diamond Cars park without fear in 24 Hour Bus Lanes, Bus Stops and bus stands in Shaftesbury Ave, The Haymarket and Jermyne Street. Phone-callers to Westminster parking services are met with hostility and given the run a round before being cut off.

This situation can also be seen in Charing Cross Road where PHV’s (minicabs) are allowed to park illegally in loading bays, on double yellow lines and on a Taxi rank.

With over 120 sexual assaults, including many full rapes taking place on passengers pick up by minicab predators you would think Westminster would put a stop to this practice.

Bob O'DellAugust 21st, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I thought WETA studios had copywright on Golum images.

And WHAT is that file she is carrying……?

Look closeley and you can see the trooth!

Well done Nuts for another fine expose.

Nick WilsonSeptember 16th, 2011 at 8:29 pm

The Cabinet report makes clear that the council must regard to its network management duty under the Traffic Management Act 2004-THAT IS A DUTY TO MANAGE THE ROAD NETWORK SO AS TO SECURE,SO FAR AS MAY BE REASONABLY PRACTICABLE,THE EXPEDITIOUS MOVEMENT OF TTRAFFIC”….so by charging people the traffic will be flowing nicely???
Have a vote on our petition. against these greedy people.

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/we-are-against-westminster-city-council%E2%80%99s-new-parking.html

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