Jan 16 2012

Westminster “Nightlife Tax” Update

As many of you will already know, our fight against Westminster Council‘s proposed changes to weekend and evening parking charges in our West End (recently dubbed the Nightlife Tax by the press) has had it’s greatest boost in the resignation of the Council leader Colin Barrow. It was Mr Barrow who chose to ignore massive opposition from the public, local businesses and other ministers and push ahead with the changes which would have cost night workers and theatre-goers £4.80 an hour to park during the evening and killed the West End.

In fact, a recent article in the Evening Standard suggests that the opposition went even higher, with David Cameron poised to finally voice his own opposition before it was postponed just before Christmas. Boris Johnson has opposed the scheme from the outset, having warned Barrow that the proposals would come up against strong opposition when he first presented them two years ago.

I believe the official line is still that the charges will be postponed until after the Olympics. But with Council elections due in May and the scale of discontent stirred up by Mr Barrow, it is highly unlikely that his nonsensical proposals will ever see the light of day. Local Conservative MP Mark Field agrees, stating:

Given the furore, given the strength of the campaign by the Evening Standard, I would be very surprised if Colin’s successor runs along with this.

Colin Barrow still maintains that his departure was nothing to do with the Westminster parking debacle but due to personal reasons. With a plethora of Cabinet ministers voicing their opposition including Transport Secretary Justine Greening, Lords Leader Lord Strathclyde, transport minister Norman Baker and the PM’s business adviser Lord Young; as well as the majority of local businessmen, I find this highly unlikely. Hopefully now we have seen the last of these preposterous plans.

Meanwhile, Westminster Council have attracted fresh controversy by removing almost 5 miles of single yellow lines in the area and converting them to double yellow lines. This happened on the 9th January, mainly in Mayfair, Fitzrovia and Marylebone. Seemingly whilst nobody was paying attention. Presumably they are going to start doing this around the Soho area soon, as they have already proved they can get away with it. Restaurateur Richard Caring and shadow London minister Tessa Jowell have been leading the opposition to the move which campaigners say will lose 1191 free weekend and evening spaces in the West End. Converting to double yellow lines will essentially serve the same purpose as extending the charging hours as workers and patrons will be forced to pay for parking with no free alternative. This backdoor approach is simply not acceptable.

So with the departure of Colin Barrow, you would presume our West End is safe for now. We will all need to keep a close eye on Westminster Council and their sneaky policies and hope that Barrow’s successor has a more realistic and democratic view of how the West End works.

If you are interested in keeping up to date with news regarding this subject, I can highly recommend the We are against Westminster City Council new parking regulations Facebook page. They post regular links to news articles and interviews with those concerned. Well worth a look.

I will stop ranting about this soon and get back to the music bloggery very soon folks! Hopefully our voices have finally been heard and we can get back to the important stuff (like actually being creative!) now we have one less person in a place of authority trying to wreck our livelihoods…

Until next time…

Oct 10 2011

Triage, Theatre & Westminster Parking Update

Hello folks,

Thought I’d drop a quick post updating you on some recent developments and news.

Firstly my new trio with Lea DeLaria and Janette Mason Triage had it’s first gig last Friday at the Albert Hall’s Elgar Room. This is a brand new project for which we are developing a lot of new material. We tried out quite a few new arrangements on Friday, as well as some of the tunes from our long running Wall To Wall residency at the Pizza Express Jazz Club (Incidentally, we’ll be back at the Pizza on November 15th as part of the London Jazz Festival). The whamola even got it’s first outing in a stomping version of Straight No Chaser. As is to be expected I have duly started a Facebook page and a Twitter account which you can all subscribe to in order to keep up to date with all the news. Needless to say, we’re all very excited…

In other news, I had my first movement session this morning with the cast of A Comedy of Errors at the National Theatre. I am really looking forward to this production and it promises to be something really very special. The cast are a fantastic bunch of people and the band will feature Merlin Shepherd on reeds and the fabulous Ian ‘Squeezy’ Watson (my Divine Comedy colleague) on the accordion. There is an extensive period of rehearsal just starting now and the show opens for previews in November.

Now a little update on my Westminster Parking rant. The response to the post has been incredible. The level of outrage at the proposals really doesn’t surprise me. A great deal of people still have no idea that these changes are still going through; or that they are planned at all. It is therefore very urgent that we spread the news wherever possible; especially amongst the musicians and night workers in the West End that will be the most affected.

The petition against the proposals is still going over at GoPetitions; currently with 4548 signatures. This is still the petition that the Musician’s Union are directing it’s members towards. You can find it at


Last week I was contacted by somebody from BBC Inside Out London. I will hopefully be doing an interview for the program sometime over the next few weeks detailing the impact the proposed changes would have on musicians working in the West End. In the meantime, there is a demonstration outside Westminster City Hall this Wednesday at 6pm organized by the Musician’s Union in conjunction with other night worker organisations. I urge all musicians who regularly work in the West End to attend; whether or not they personally have to drive. Your bass players, drummers and keyboard players need you too!! And all the music lovers who don’t want to see a lot of their West End venues struggle. Here’s the flyer from the MU for those of you interested in attending:

I’ll keep you posted on the BBC program. We only have until December 1st, so there really is not a great deal of time to make a difference.

Until next time…

Aug 28 2011

Petition Against Parking Charges in the West End

Hello folks,

As a follow-up to my previous post on Westminster Council’s proposed changes to weekend and evening parking charges, I thought I’d give you a little update regarding an online petition against the plans.

I’ve had a great response to the blog post and lots of good points were raised in the comments. Many people, not just musicians, are as against the plans as I am and have very strong feelings on the subject. Many people have been asking me if there is a petition online where they can voice their concerns. Today my attention has been drawn to the petition at GoPetition.com, which the Musician’s Union is directing it’s members towards. They say

This is only the start of a longer more concerted campaign to try to get these decisions turned around and your support is invaluable. This not only affects you as musicians directly but all areas of the evening and weekend economy of the West End so please take a moment to sign the petition

So far the petition has 2105 signatures and I would highly recommend all of you to pop over there and register your votes too. These plans are due to take effect from December 1st, so time is of the essence. Please share the link and spread the word before they kill our West End…