Skip to content

Campaign against the Westminster bike parking tax – is it French effective?

June 20, 2009

The campaign against the motorcycle parking tax in Westminster now comprises thousands of bikers and supporters, including members of the Tax Payers Alliance group. It originally started with six members who met during a scrutiny meeting at Westminster City Council back in September 2008, just after the bike parking tax was introduced on an experimental basis.

Since then, the campaign has not stopped growing on a daily basis, attracting hundreds of campaigners, and has now reached something like 5,000 members, increasing constantly.

We wonder whether the campaign has been influenced by the way protests have been carried out on the other side of the English Channel. Although the campaign’s committee includes one French member, there seems to be quite a few French campaigners supporting it, no doubt influencing the Brits on their method of protesting. Westminster City Council have never had to deal with a campaign of this magnitude before. This is the biggest campaign ever that the council has had to face. Let’s have a detailed look at how the campaign operates.

The primary aim is to make the working life of the Westminster Conservative Councillors who voted for the bike parking tax difficult, to the extent of making them lose their job over time, a bit like the French do when they’re not happy with decisions made by their bureaucrates (let’s not forget that one of the reasons why Ken Livingstone lost his job at the last Mayor elections is because he extended the congestion charge zone, which was against the public opinion). After all, why would the public not be entitled to inconvenience Cllr Danny Chalkley (the architect of the bike parking tax) and his fellow colleagues (namely Cllrs Burbridge, Floru, Harvey, Barrow etc) when they keep inconveniencing motorcyclists with their bike parking tax that is only there to fill up the council’s coffers, while they offer themselves free parking? It can take up to 20 minutes to pay the tax by mobile phone, as most of the time their systems don’t work, and motorcyclists are now obliged to specify in their text message the CVV number at the back of their credit/debit card. How safe is this in the light of the data protection act and identity theft issues? It is only fair and just that these Conservative councillors get a taste of their own medicine, that is of inconveniencing the public on a daily basis for the sole purpose of grabbing their hard-earned money. So let’s have a look at how these councillors have been inconvenienced lately by campaigners?

First, the number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests put in to the council have increased dramatically in the last few weeks, to the extent that the council is now unable to answer all FOIs on time. For many of them, the council is in breach of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which legally obliges public authorities to answer all FOI requests within 20 working days following receipt. Because the above named councillors have been (delibarately and conveniently) ignoring the numerous e-mails and letters they have received over the past months, campaigners have decided to put in FOIs instead to obtain answers to their queries. It has now come to a point where the public is obliged to use the law to obtain answers from Westminster City Council. Sad but true! If you decide to put in an FOI request, like many motorcyclists have recently done, make your question as specific as possible as these politicians are always keen to hide the truth by finding a way to run around the houses and avoiding the question. If you’re not satisfied with the answer, go back and ask for clarification until you’re happy. If you’re still unhappy, complain to the Information Commissioner. Remember, it is UK law, they must answer your request within twenty working days of putting it in. Here is the link to a public website to put in your FOI request http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/body/westminster_city_council and don’t forget to follow it up if necessary (the website will send you an e-mail if an answer becomes overdue). The council also has an FOI page on its own website but it’s a lot more fun to make your request visible to everyone, isn’t it?

A group of campaigners have set up a blog which reveals the truth and tactics of Westminster’s parking bosses to quietly push through their bike parking tax. A lot of the information that it contains is based on responses to FOI requests. According to what we have heard, the readership of the site has increased dramatically with Westminster City Council being one of the readers. Have a look, it’s well worth it.

The campaign committee organises demonstrations at regular intervals designed to cause maximum disruption every time. Each demonstration has a purpose, for example the next one on 1st July is to object en masse to the motorcycle parking tax becoming permanent, with thousands of protestors turning up at the council’s doorstep. Further details about this demonstration and the previous ones are available here. The demonstrations started in September 2008 with twenty people to now reach at least 4,000. Cllr Chalkley gets very nervous before each demonstration, but more on this soon.

The campaign is also considering attacking the council legally. The campaign committee has been approached by a leading solicitor/barrister in Harassment Law wanting to assist in the fight against this tax along an interesting tack, for which they need horror stories. They suggest that one of the best ways forward to challenge it would be to collate as many “human interest stories” involving unjustified or unfairly issued parking tickets as possible. Stories and incidents that have been issued in outrageous circumstances will build up a case for a class action framing the cause of action on harassment. If you think you can help, please visit http://www.notobikeparkingfees.com/an-interesting-and-different-legal-attack/

Campaigners have been writing e-mails and letters to their local MPs and councillors in order to obtain their support in fighting against this bike parking tax. We know that many MPs and councillors from other councils around London and beyond have been writing to Westminster City Council to express the opinion of their constituents, thus adding more pressure to the council. Most MPs have asked for a reply from the council, thus keeping them busy again. If you would like to help, here are the details.

Now, back to the original question. Is this campaign, run by British citizens, French effective? It has certainly intensified in the last few months to become quite aggressive, like a French campaign would be. However, the demonstrations have been quite peaceful and very well-behaved, unlike the French! Protestors have behaved in an examplary manner during demonstrations and they have gradually gained full admiration of the Met Police. The French would have for sure been a lot less well-behaved… but how long are these well-behaved demonstrations going to last? Campaigners are starting to get really irritated by this bike parking tax, so how well-behaved will they remain going forward? The answer to this will be the subject of a future post. In the meantime, the fight continues and itensifies.

 

1st July 2009 – Please join the demonstration and say NO to the bike parking tax in Westminster! For further details, visit www.notobikeparkingfees.com

1er Juillet 2009 – Assistez a la manifestation pour protester contre le stationnement payant des deux-roues a Westminster. Pour plus d’informations, consultez www.notobikeparkingfees.com

 

If you have a story you would like to see published on UKFRANCE, please contact us here.

Advertisements
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: