The right numbers in the wrong place

Last Wednesday (7th December 2011) both the Evening Standard and BBC London broke the news that a study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) had suggested that the proposed Sunday and weekday evening parking charges would cause immense economic damage and loss of jobs to the West End economy.

However in the evening broadcast of BBC London News, reporter Alice Bhandhukravi revealed that the report commissioned by a group of local businesses was flawed, having assumed that Westminster Council will be charging £4.80 per hour to park from Monday to Saturday. The council are in fact offering a reduced rate of £2.40 an hour Monday to Thursday between 6:30pm and midnight.

Even though the report is based on higher parking charges than are actually being introduced for part of the week, there can be no doubt that there will be some economic damage to businesses in the West End and some workers will find themselves unable to afford to work in central London.

On the same evening the BBC were broadcasting their story Westminster City Council were holding a Finance and Transformation Policy and Scrutiny Committee meeting on the 17th floor of City Hall.

First to speak to the committee was Leith Penny Westminster Councils Strategic Director for City Management who was answering questions on the parking report he had produced and published last week. Without any sense of irony he explained away mistakes in the figures correctly claiming they were the right figures but in the wrong place. Why he thought that these mistakes were inevitable is a mystery, as is the other yet unexplained errors in the report.

Mr Penny was at pains to repeatedly point out that parking policy was not and cannot be about raising income. After questions from councillor Nilavra Mukerji Penny explained that the deficit this year from the parking budget was expected to be around £2m, but because of a ‘structural’ change in budget forecasting he would not be able to provide figures for next year. He did say that he expected income from parking enforcement would continue to go down, a direction the council had wanted as this meant more motorists were parking legally.

Penny expected the income from the new extended parking hours to produce between £4 and £7 million from paid for parking and income from Penalty Charge Notices (PCN’s) was not included as it is expected that motorists will continue to show the same high compliance as they are now.

Cllr Mukerji noted that the officers had not done any economic impact analysis and asked in light of the published CEBR report how Penny could be sure that there would not be a detrimental effect on income to the councils through loss of rates etc., because of the extended parking charges.

Leith Penny said that the council were very willing to look at the impact the extended parking scheme would have on the economy but as far as he knew the scope of that study had not been stated but he hoped it would be better founded than the CEBR report.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg said the loss of 100’s of council jobs was the real impact of the parking departments failure to properly predict parking income. He went on to say that in any other business the failure to do that would have led to severe consequences for people running that business.  Cllr Dimoldenberg said he was astounded that the council is saying that they are heading into uncharted territory and that council officers either will not tell or have no idea what future income will be derived from drivers deciding whether to come or not to come to the West End, having introduced charges of £4.80 an hour.

Cllr Dimoldenberg looking at the row of officers in front of the committee said;

How can you sit here now with just a few months left and tell us that we’re both in uncharted territory, that you have no idea what the impact will be of these new charges at a time when the West End, that’s next year, will be subject to unprecedented activity of an intensity we have never seen before in our lifetimes because of the Olympics?”

“Why on earth are you as officers recommending the council to embark on down through uncharted territories when a substantial amount of the councils income and therefore the jobs and livelihoods’ of 100’s of people are dependant on parking income? How can the council officers be so irresponsible?”

Even the committee chairman Councillor Andrew Havery said he thought that some sort of work and analysis had gone on the impact to business, but when he asked around the room there were no takers.

In response to both councillors Leith Penny said the rationale underpinning the parking changes were based on transportation and he emphasised again that this was all an experiment.

But we all know about the councils parking experiments, and how the council will never reveal how they judge whether this latest’s sham experiment has been a success or a failure.

If you can spare 30 minutes then please watch the video, and make your own mind up who is saying the Earth is still flat.


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MikeDecember 9th, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Looks like the comment I originally added to the previous nutsville item is still relevant, even AFTER the Finance and Transformation Policy and Scrutiny Committee meeting, as part of the as yet unanswered errors in the Parking Finance Report, i.e.

What the dickens is ‘Support Charges – In’, Leith Penny!? (S/sheets; 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 almost £8m+ go??

In terms of the whole Evening / Sunday parking charges situation, it’s hardly difficult to predict that WCC will follow their usual methodology – i.e. after having announced their swinging changes to parking charges / restricted parking times (based on cherry picking from dubious source data), then in response to the outcry, they will make a number of small concessions, and will emphasis the “temporary” nature of them. Following the windfall of masses of PCN income from mostly unsuspecting motorists, at the start of the new regime, they will (eventually) announce further “concessions”, but continue with additional charging at a lower level, to maintain their year on year parking income, and then wait for the opposition to slowly ebb away.

Kill SwitchDecember 12th, 2011 at 6:01 pm

So, if there is a detrimental effect on the local economy they say they will respond accordingly, I can only assume that that means they adjust the cost or the operational hours of the scheme in order to get more vehicles back into the area. The presumption being, that vehicle occupants will spend money and reverse the detrimental effect. Which then suggests to me, that that will screw up the traffic management objectives they claim were the reason for the scheme in the first place.

This scheme is not about making money – Bollocks it isn’t

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