Westminster Council your parking figures are a joke

Leith Penny

Leith Penny

Yesterday (30th Nov 2011) Westminster City Council published its parking report prepared by the councils Strategic Director for City Management Leith Penny (download here)

The public finally get to know that Westminster City Councils last CCTV spy camera bungle cost the taxpayer £6m when an unnamed council officer forgot to get a certificate for their spy camera network.

Leith Penny admits in the report “It will be recalled that during this period the Council was obliged to suspend its parking CCTV operation, following a failure to obtain certification from the Vehicle Certification Agency, to enable it to upgrade the system. This resulted in a £6m reduction in PCN income as compared with that profiled in the budget.”

The report makes for dire reading as it exposes not only the gross incompetence of Westminster City Councils parking department, but also a year on year over estimation of how much money the council expected to rake in from its parking operation.

Penny coughs up saying “there has been a gap between estimated and actual surplus in each of the last three years, with a particularly marked drop in 2009/10.“

The drop he refers to is from Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) which for yellow line contraventions fell by an amazing 46%.

Penny puts the drop into figures stating “Of even greater impact, however, was an unprecedented £18m difference between profiled and actual income, of which some £17m related to PCNs, with a further £2m attributable to a reduction in the number of suspensions (which may have been the result of the downturn in the economy), and a £1.9m operational overspend” referring to the budget of 2009/10.

Things got better this year

Things got better the following year with the department being only a mere £6.4m out on its guesswork.

Penny says; “In 2010/11there was again a gap between profiled and actual income, but action to reduce costs, the resumption of CCTV operations and an upturn in casual income reduced reduced the difference between budget profile and actual income to £6.4m.”

Yeah things are so good he gets excited saying ‘reduced’ twice. Penny provides various explanations for providing wildly estimated budget figures for each of the last three years. Figures which were so far off the mark they might as well be describing parking on Mars.

Penny’s excuses/explanations are put down to:

  • introduction of the Congestion Charge (an annual favourite, even though it started in 2003)
  • Car ownership (he doesn’t say if there is more or less)
  • condition and costs of using the public transport (dam those poor people)
  • more pesky cyclists (and we thought that was a good thing)
  • the economy (anyone see that coming)
  • people reading the councils park right booklet (the cheek of them)
  • the increase in PCNs charges (which the council lobbied for)

Penny seems to finally throw in the towel saying “Whatever budget is ultimately set for the year ahead, it will involve a high degree of uncertainty and risk.” No shit Sherlock!

So the fact that income from parking revenue is down, which a significant proportion of which is made up from PCNs doesn’t seem to be seen as a good thing. This is odd when the councils stated aim of parking enforcement is to issue zero number of PCNs, presumably when everyone starts parking correctly.

Joke spreadsheets

To back up the report are two spreadsheets which ignore the accountancy convention of marking negative figures with brackets, as most of the figures are bracketed. The spreadsheets have glaring numerical inaccuracies which again puts into question the validity of anything the parking department claim to be fact. Download here ( Spreedsheet one Spreadsheet two )

For one example we turn to the income from motorcycle parking which Westminster City Council told the High Court was making a loss. Penny’s spreadsheets show income from motorcycle parking in 2009/10 was £1,100,150M falling back slightly the following year to £1,018,170M.  For this year Penny suggests that the council only expects to make £975,000. The motorcycle parking scheme remember was as the council were keen to stress at its introduction, not about revenue raising. It can’t be, because according to Dr Leith Penny’s figures the expenditure for running the motorcycle parking scheme this year is a whopping £2,134,200M

Can it be that Westminster City Council hate motorcyclists so much that they are happy to spend over a million pounds of taxpayers cash to keep the charging scheme in place?

Now before you get all excited about the above figures we will say that although they are accurately copied from the two council supplied spread sheets, they are incorrect along with other inaccuracies in both worksheets. That’s just in our opinion, as we are not professionals like Dr Leith Penny, but then neither have we forecast revenue out by millions for the last three years. Neither have we forgotten to get a certificate for our CCTV spy cameras costing the taxpayer over £6m.

But because in our opinion Leith Penny gets paid far too much for doing such a half arsed job, we will leave him to work out where he’s gone wrong…..this time!

We look forward to hearing Penny’s explanation for the dodgy spreadsheets, and if you want to see if they are changed on-line follow this link to Westminster’s website.

Lastly if we are right and the councils spreadsheets are a pile of cack we might start calling ourselves consultants and booking ourselves out to Westminster Council at £1000 per day plus free HobNobs.


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MikeDecember 1st, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Oh deary me – who approved sending out those spreadsheets? A one minute job to spot the error in terms of motorcycle parking expenditure for 2011/2012. Maybe I should undercut nutsville, and just charge £900 per day, plus chocolate digestives! :-)

Meanwhile, have to say WCC are doing a frankly unbelievable job in reducing the amount of Credit Card Commission they pay; indeed, they’ve actually seemingly got the Credit Card companies paying them, instead of charging them!! ;-)

Oh drat, me and my big mouth – there goes my supply of chocolate digestives!

MikeDecember 1st, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Or, even, Pay by Phone (rather than Credit Card) Commission!! D’oh.

However, even if the figures were against the right rows, how can you have a negative value for motorcycle parking “expenditure” (as opposed to the separate m/c parking “income”)? Is some (£75.5K) of the previous expenditure going to be refunded?

Pat PendingDecember 1st, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Now come on Nutsville, if you are going to expect HobNobs as well the way WCC procure and account they will be another couple of million out of pocket. And that’s a Conservative estimate.

MikeDecember 9th, 2011 at 12:25 pm

What the dickens is “Support Charges – In”, Mr. Penny!? (See speadsheets / Expenditure.)

Whatever it is, it’s been running at around £5.7m/year since 2006/07 (slight dip in 09/10), but suddenly is predicted to be over £13m for 2011/12 ???? Where did that £8m+ go??

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