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NO TO BIKE PARKING FEES Logo

Press Statement By Chairman Of No To Bike Parking Tax Campaign

Statement issued by chairman following court of appeal judgement over motorcycle parking tax

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 
PRLog (Press Release) - Apr. 19, 2011 - Naturally, the whole NTBPT Campaign, and a huge number of outside supporters, are immensely disappointed with the Court's decision. Before WCC trot out the usual diatribe of "hoping to draw a line underneath this", let it be clearly understood that there are no large females singing on this side!

Whilst grounds for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court have been submitted to this court , the anticipated refusal means our case will be taken to Europe, but this time against the UK Government, where legal-aid negates the need for any further fundraising.

We are keen to see whether the ECJ agrees that:-

1) The requirement that an actual experiment must support any "Experimental Traffic Order" can be ignored - when it comes to parking
2) Accurate data upon which Councillors base crucial decisions when adopting new traffic schemes need not be adhered to, since such data is "only a projection"
3) A traffic benefit of demand management need not be supported by any scientific evidence of claimed "increase in demand"
4) Legislation allows for a local authority to declare the termination of discriminatory treatment between different vehicle types, based upon its own ideas of ‘fairness’. (see points 22 to 24 of judgement)
5) The requirement to consult in a fair, conscientious & considered manner can be deemed fulfilled even when all the consultees are deliberately misled as to the actual justification.

We have always maintained that this scheme was intended to raise revenue. The notion that the residents were to be beneficiaries could have lent a modicum of justification to this charge. But this was simply not the case as WCC admitted the scheme was sold as being ‘revenue-neutral’ to the other Councillors, and presented in court as costing the residents a projected £400k per annum.

The actual beneficiaries were to be the two private companies contracted to collect & enforce the scheme - both with unacceptably close links to certain councillors & officers; both of whose contract awards were mired in allegations of collusion & corruption; and both with separate complaints either previously investigated or under investigation by the EU Commission.

Only last month, WCC squandered £600k on an out-of-court settlement rather than have the parking enforcement contract award examined under the public glare of a court case.

However, it was a secondary revenue stream resulting from the new technology of Pay-By-Phone parking - identified by the scheme's architect Alistair Gilchrist - that we say was the real motivation behind this scheme. As proved by other agencies like DVLA, the trading in the personal data of motorists has a ready and lucrative marketplace. Income was to be derived by selling it through a private limited company, Westco Trading Ltd, and could then be distributed as ‘bonuses’. This found great favour amongst a less than reputable WCC inner-sanctum.

This campaign has long asked why any council should ever need its own private limited company. Could the requirement on all councils to lay open all items of account for a 20-day period lead to the conclusion that WCC have something to hide?

At Point 29 of this judgement, it is stated: ‘The important point is that, in my judgement, the ultimate decision-maker, the Cabinet Member, was not materially misled by the information with which he was provided’. At Point 32 (in reiterating the original judgement): ‘It was ultimately for the Cabinet Member to make a judgement.’

Our view is that this particular Cabinet Member, being Mr Gilchrist's flatmate and Co-Director of Westco Trading, Cllr.  Danny Chalkley, was also due to benefit financially, and therefore no amount of mis-information would have had any impact on his decision.

Had this information been permissible in this case, we feel sure that neither Judge would have seen Cllr. Chalkley as being the best arbiter of any objections to the scheme.

At point 12 the judge seems to write off blatant duplicity by WCC by stating that ‘the Council has not always been entirely consistent about the objective sought to be achieved by charging’.

An interesting analysis is offered here (http://www.crossroadsrider.com/2011/04/will-failure-of-ap...)  by Dr. Leon Mannings, a Transport Policy expert, about the skewed consultation, listing duped consultees including MAG, BMF and a representative of the Motor Cycle Industry Association, who attended a meeting with Cllr Chalkley in June 2009 where assurances were given regarding the reasons for the charge as not being demand management - this fact was also mentioned in court.

This would explain the stance taken by the MCIA Chief Exec in an email dated 23 June 2009 to the campaign:
"Although MCI does not endorse Westminster’s pay for parking scheme, there is an argument to suggest that if carefully designed schemes can be put in place, which have ring fenced revenues which will be ploughed back into greater parking provision and an increased number of secure motorcycle bays, then it may be entirely reasonable to charge a nominal fee for parking a PTW, as this would represent direct value for money for riders (not a perceived tax) and a real expectation of ever improving motorcycle parking.”

We were later encouraged to hear that, following the meeting facilitated by Dr Mannings, the MCIA resolved that, should it ever come to light that this scheme was based on "demand management", it would reconsider its position - since we were of the opinion that the only serious opposition WCC truly feared was the equally powerful industrialists of the MCIA.

Very early in this campaign, the Tax Payers Alliance calculated that the scheme's roll-out nationwide could result in the motorcycling community forking out £93m to simply park where it has always been free. It has always been our view that such a massive reduction in the buying power of the UK motorcycling public could not be sustained by a specialised retail sector suffering equally with all other sectors in these austere times.

The judgement handed down today bares testament to the way in which both the MCIA and the industry as a whole were misled by WCC. Perhaps a silver lining of this adverse judgement will be the MCIA and the wider industry undertaking a review of their policy toward the tax now that the ‘official reasons’ are clear to us all, and voicing their opposition to it.

Regrettably, Dr Mannings fails to acknowledge the enormous effort & personal sacrifice of a small group of plucky volunteers that make up this NTBPT Campaign who were not  drawn in by councillors’ promises. This resulted in their clubbing together, at great personal cost both in time & finances, to not only bring the legal challenge in the first place, but to successfully quarantine the concept of on-street motorcycle parking charges to the borough of Westminster. Yet the great shame behind this voluntary effort was that requests for assistance from more established lobby groups appeared to fall on deaf ears.

In the meantime, we hope that many of our more ardent supporters can put this particular disappointment behind them and continue to support us as we take the fight to the ECJ, safe in the knowledge that our numbers will inevitably swell as those untouched by the WCC scheme fall victim to similar ones adopted by their own councils.

# # #

The No To Bike Parking Fees protest group is the leading voice challenging the introduction of revenue raising parking charges in Westminster, with the support of the Taxpayers' Alliance and others. Further information is at www.notobikeparkingfees.com

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Source:NO TO BIKE PARKING TAX
State/Province:London - United Kingdom
Industry:Transportation, Government, Legal
Tags:westminster, motorbike, court, contract, violation, council, law, appeal, high court
Shortcut:prlog.org/11445266
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