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…