Westminster To Introduce Evening & Weekend Parking Charges: A Rant

Many of you, especially musicians, will already be aware of Westminster Council’s plans to introduce evening and Sunday parking charges in London’s West End later this year. This simply cannot be allowed to happen.

Until now there has always been free meter and single yellow spaces after 6.30pm and on Sundays. Like there are all around the country. Westminster Council proposes to scrap the free parking period until midnight during the week and up to 6.30pm on Sundays. They also plan to put the hourly parking rate up to a preposterous £5.00 an hour.

There has already been strong protest from local businesses, musicians and Westminster churchgoers, many of whom travel from outside the parish to attend services on a Sunday morning. I first heard talk of these proposals at the beginning of the year and assumed the plans had since been quashed but yesterday I learnt the plans were still being pushed through to be implemented towards the end of the year.

In these times of cutbacks in arts funding these measures will have serious impact on the currently thriving music and theatre scene in London’s West End. Many Londoners (especially the elderly) visiting the West End of an evening need to travel by car in order to get home at the end of the night as public transport link shut down and a taxi proves prohibitively expensive, not to mention those who live out of town.

Musicians like myself will find gigs in town (and we’re talking specifically about Soho, Covent Garden and Marylebone here) are no longer financially viable. The average common-or-garden jazz gig in town will pay between £40 and £80 per night. The extended parking charges would cost me an extra £20-£25 per night, not to mention the dreaded Congestion Charge if the soundcheck was before 6pm. Many London gigs would simply be wiped out as musicians and patrons are priced out of the West End by the sheer expense of the visit. I have no choice but to drive to gigs with all the large and heavy equipment I need to carry, plus the fact that I live out of town and have no easy access to public transport. I’m sure the last thing Westminster Council wants is for me to rock up at tube stations with a double bass and an amp. Not to mention the drummers… And at the end of the night when the tube and train services have stopped running, how are we meant to get home safely?

Dave Webster, of the Musicians’ Union, says

Musicians are often required to work unsociable hours and carry heavy and valuable instruments and equipment that makes it difficult and risky to use public transport.

Many of our members are self-employed and are not sufficiently well-paid to be able to afford the proposed extended parking charges.

Westminster Council have justified these planned measures by stating that it will keep traffic flowing through the capitol and raise up to 7 million pounds in additional revenue. They also state that many of the West End’s NCP carparks are empty of an evening. They obviously don’t know how much it costs to park there for a few hours. The amount of available spaces of an evening when you remove the single yellow spots from the equation simply do not add up. The whole plan smacks of money-grabbing with little or no regard for the visitors and workers that make that part of our city thrive of an evening.

This simply cannot be allowed to go through. I trust the Musicians Union and local businesses are doing all they can to prevent the charges coming into force before it’s too late.

The plans are currently set to go into place in December for an 18 month trial period. Just long enough to kill the West End…

20 Responses to “Westminster To Introduce Evening & Weekend Parking Charges: A Rant”

  • Mike watts Says:

    Incredibly important that Westminster consider the prospect, many would say likely prospect of prolonged poor or negative economic growth. Discretional spending in the West End is at risk of decline anyway. Adding stringent parking costs and restrictions carries a disproportionately high risk of accelerating the process and demise of local businesses many of which will be struggling to survive.

  • Simon Little Says:

    Well said Mike. Westminster Council should be looking at ways to incentivize the public to come into town and spend their money; these measures will deter many people from making the journey and send all but the most wealthy patrons elsewhere…

  • Damien O'Keeffe Says:

    This is a serious issue that will devastate the livelihoods of many, many people, drive the arts and music industry further into decline and will place even further restrictions on ordinary people’s ability to partake in and enjoy cultural activity. Westminster Council should do all they can to attract people into the West End, not make it prohibitively expensive. This seems like a short-sighted and crass decision that has not been thought through: a knee-jerk reaction to the Government’s spending review. I hope that Equity will also be vocal in their opposition to this policy. I urge all who can to make as much noise about this as possible.

  • Paul Robinson Says:

    I cannot add anything more to the well presented article above. I agree with it all, and once again I see this as a money grabbing opportunity by Westminster Council, and if life continues like this in Central London, fairly soon there will be NO MORE live music in clubs or bars, musicians (who NEED to travel with equipment) will NO LONGER be able to afford to go out to work, making the West End a spiritually lacking and sterile environment. This state of affairs is terrible enough for musicians and punters alike in the short term, but worse still for the “Big Picture” of the future. Soul less people introducing more truly badly thought through legislation that’s main reason to exist is to simply create money for the council. Shame on them all.

  • sacha Says:

    this is crazy! another nail in the coffin for the west end. us ‘out of towners’ that only venture into that ‘big smoke’ generally do so at the weekends for gigs, theatre, culture so why now try to drive us out by charging us to park too? I would ‘ve thought with the economic situation the way it is, bums on seats, in parks, visiting museums etc would be vital for the sustainability of Londons’ West End and domestic visitors?

  • Dawn Says:

    Ridiculous. Let’s milk everything we can out of people who already have no money to spare with the price of everything going up. How long before we’re being charged if we want to breathe?

  • Simon Little Says:

    @Damien I also hope Equity join the fight against these proposals. The joint actions of Equity and the MU, with the support of local businesses, would send a powerful message to the council.
    @Paul I totally agree. If we can’t even afford to work in the West End anymore, how do the council expect the area to sustain itself? Especially when the punters stop making the journey too and head for other parts of London…
    There is another post on the subject from the ‘campaign for free parking in Westminster on Saturday evenings and Sundays’ at http://freepots.wordpress.com/. Some interesting points there too…

  • Phil Wain Says:

    I’m the last person to defend parking as I’m a pedestrian cyclist and totally anti-car and taxi but I know how many elderly folk travel to church in Westminster by car on a Sunday and it’s going to hurt them bad. Thanks for the post Simon.

  • Simon Little Says:

    Another great point Phil. Not to mention the elderly folk who like to visit the theatre or live music venues of an evening. Are they seriously expected to use public transport or pay out £20-25 in parking charges?
    As for being a driver, I really have little choice in the matter. The same goes for many upright bass players, drummers and keyboard players who need to drive into town with their equipment. I think we contribute an awful lot financially already via parking charges and the Congestion Charge and these measures are a blatant money-grabbing ruse to further penalise those who cannot fight back…

  • Phil Wain Says:

    I gigged in London with electric, electric upright and rig by bus many times. Congestion Charge keeps the place mobile – it would be crazy without – do you remember it. Buses and cars actually get somewhere.
    I would ban all cars in London except for musicians and seniors.

  • Simon Little Says:

    I drove into town just as much as I do now before the Congestion Charge was put into place and have noticed no real difference in the traffic. The only difference is that it costs me more money to do it and I earn less every time I go to work.
    Very few people who know London would chose to drive into town at peak times. It’s not fun and it’s expensive. I’d say the majority of the people driving there during the day have little choice in the matter for one reason or another.
    But that is a whole other topic!

  • Rich Huxley Says:

    It’s a ridiculous shame this.

    Looking at costs, let’s assume you’ve got a 5 piece band and you hail from Manchester and you’ve a one off show in London..:
    Van hire £50
    Fuel = 400 miles x 2 (1 van, 1 car) x 15p p/mile = £120
    Food for 5 (for a 5pm arrival, 4am return let’s say two meals and a coffee) = £75
    2 x Congestion charge = £20
    2 x Parking (5pm to midnight) = £35
    …. and you’re up to £300.
    Play Barfly and pack it out, get paid £75 for your trouble and you’re only £225 pounds down for the day… for an 11 hour working day (Let’s assume one day’s lost work per band member at £100 per day and that’s a £725 loss to do one London show.

    It’s certainly not how Hope and Social tour but for bands not in our position, the “you’ve got to play London” thing is a real money suck.

    £725 is the pressing of 500 CDs, or 3 – 4 days in a studio, or a cheap van, or a new computer for your own studio.

    To be honest I wonder why we place such importance on London. Surely the Chicago School economics of this Govt suggest we should take our music, and our custom elsewhere?

    Lovely Post SL. Speak soon.

  • Simon Little Says:

    @Rich Well put Rich. Even local bands and musicians already have enough to contend with when venturing into town to play a show. Many of my regular gigs in the West End would no longer be worth playing, in fact I would make a loss.
    Westminster Council need to realize this is some people’s livelihoods they are messing with. Venues would not be able to cover the additional costs for musicians so the individual loses out yet again.
    Rather than promoting growth in the area, these measures promote collapse. Residents have already voted against the plans; a petition signed by over 2500 local objectors was ignored last week…
    Some of my favourite venues are in the West End. I’d hate to see them shut down.

  • Mike Watts Says:

    Rich has put the quite dismal current financial situation for bands into sharp perspective and shown how this becomes catastrophic for live music if the Westminster parking charges were to go through. Add to this the abundant evidence that consumer spending is falling as the economy falters and the feared double-dip recession looms and the risk that the borough will accelerate a sharp economic and artistic decline should be obvious

  • Bill Mudge Says:

    Hi Simon. With you 100% on this. We have no choice but to drive to gigs- organ & Leslie cabinet on a tube? No I don’t think so! What else can we do to protest… Do you know of a petition? The 38degrees organisation are very good at rallying people on important issues such as this… They were very successful on the sale of the forests issue which got overturned. However I fear that it may be too late already as all this has been approved(?) & I read that the MU were not even allowed to attend the meeting to defend us!

  • Simon Little Says:

    I just voted on the online 38degrees petition on the subject. http://38degrees.uservoice.com/forums/78585-campaign-suggestions/suggestions/2057847-stop-westminster-council-charging-for-parking-on-s?ref=title
    I really hope it’s not too late. Am going to look into what the MU are doing to prevent the changes.

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  • Peter Says:

    Free parking in Westminster is available to a select few. If you are connected to organisations sush as British Land and ther site at 2-14 Baker Street (or pretend to be associated) you are in luck. For the past nine months (January to September 2011) Westminster City Council have ignored illegal parking, double parking, road closures (unauthorised) and road blockages caused by McAleer & Rushe – the effectively bankrupt development partner of British Land. And this despite Baker Street being on the priority route for the London Olympics. So it seems there is one set of rules for the masses and another set for those who are in a position to leverage financial clout.

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