Westminster City Council is stubbornly implementing charges for late evening, early night-time and Sunday parking in the West End, against the advice of residents, businesses, the entertainment industry, and churches. It makes it nigh-on impossible for some workers to continue their jobs, as the unsocial hours and restricted public transport at night mean driving to work is the only realistic option and the free parking at night the only way that is viable. Many workers are women and they are left vulnerable travelling alone at night, instead of the being in the safety of their own car. The churches will see their already shrunken congregations as a result of Sunday trading, further decimated, as many travel by car. Westminster Council shows complete lack of knowledge in claiming that by the charges starting only after one o'clock in the afternoon, the churches will not be affected: churches have services at various times throughout the days and evenings, not just "ten a.m. on a Sunday". The community element of church life will terminate as people rush to get away to avoid parking fines, if they still venture in at all. Churches also perform much needed education and social work at all hours which will be jeopardised.
Synagogues and mosques, Meeting rooms and temples of various religions will also be affected, particularly by the increased weekday parking restrictions: Friday night prayers and gatherings require deliveries of the infirm and food just as for the churches, and their social work continues around the clock. This includes essential services to the homeless too; oh but wait, Westminster is the council that wants to ban homeless people from the street and ban food deliveries and soup kitchens that try to alleviate some of their suffering and difficulties even to survive!
Elderly and infirm and families with children will no longer be able to continue their commitment and attachment to the West End; the lifeline of visiting family and friends will end for many.
The only opportunity for visitors to residents of the West End, is frankly Sunday because of free parking: family life and residential amenity will be severely degraded by the City Council's proposed charges.
You might have noticed that Chinatown is at its busiest on Sunday, as this is the traditional family day fro the Chinese community to go out together for a meal. London Chinatown, one of the most successful in the world, has had to fight hard to survive hefty rent increases by greedy landlords. This could be the blow that makes it no longer worth the effort and lead to a move to a better-served destination.
West End theatre is a British success story that is part of the generator of the tourist industry. A significant number of actors, technicians, ushers, and paying theatre-goers alike, would be inconvenienced to the detriment of the economy of London. For theatre-goers, the trains simply do not run late enough.
When previously the Westminster councillor for the then West End Ward of Mayfair, Soho, and Chinatown in the 1990s, I insisted on 24hr residents' parking, to enable residents to be able always to find parking. Other wards did not opt for this, they now have a problem. I also maintained that free parking in the evenings and on Sundays (and preferably Saturday afternoon too), was essential for both business and theatre survival, and for the needs of residents to have visitors. Colleagues twice tried to impose parking charges late into the evenings and on Sundays on (my) the West End Ward. My late ward colleague and I resisted it: as the proposal was purely for raising finance just as now. That that was the motive then, is proof of the purpose now.
Unfortunately when the last Labour Government introduced cabinet style local councils, this significantly harmed and reduced democracy and the influence of ward councillors, who have been sidelined now.
It is unheard of that Cllr Lee Rowley, the architect of the disastrous parking proposals, recently visited a colleagues' ward and tells the public, at the public meeting in St George's Church Hanover Square, to vote out the councillors if they don't like his policies!
Not surprisingly then, there is now a campaign growing to this end conceived from these stupid parking proposals. Clearly we do indeed need independent candidates to stand for election across the borough.
Westminster Council is justifying the parking proposals on the basis of congestion, yet I have not heard mention from them that current congestion and any parking shortages are the result of the inordinate amount of road works and construction works going on at the moment, due to the mad dash to finish before the Olympics and before the property market collapses, which has distorted the figures.
Councillors Barrow and Rowley say they will reverse the new measures, if they prove not to work: this means that the costs of implementation and decommissioning of the policy will be wasted money: clearly the councillors who vote for it and council officers who propose and implement it, should be made personally liable for the costs.