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The hidden truth about the bike parking tax

August 13, 2009

As a result of their emails and letters remaining unanswered by Westminster parking services, motorcyclists, who are opposed to being taxed to park their bike, have had no alternative but submit Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to make their voice heard. We have today come across a new FOI request submitted to Westminster, purely because the author feared not to receive a response from Councillor Chalkley, should they had asked their question by email (“I would have preferred to send him an email directly to ask the question, but I know from previous experience that I would never receive a reply, hence the need for me to ask the question via the Freedom of Information Act 2000”).

Westminster City Council, like any other UK public authority, are obliged by law to answer every single FOI request within twenty working days of its receipt. Because the Council has had to deal with an increasing number of FOI requests during the last few weeks, additional staff have recently been recruited to cope with the increased workload. But, as Westminster (understandably) don’t like to be asked too many pertinent questions about their policies (notably their bike parking tax), they seem to have recently come up with a couple of “tactics” to avoid the truth being too much exposed to the public.

First, on a large number of occasions, the Council has (delibarately?) answered FOI requests late (even very late), in the hope that their authors will have forgotten about them. It’s a bit like Conservative Councillor Danny Chalkley, who seems to have assumed that with time, the No To Bike Parking Tax campaign would go away, as a result of campaigners losing interest. But what Mr Chalkley may not have realised is that the vast majority of the people who have put in FOI requests to his department are precisely the No To Bike Parking Tax campaigners. So no, they have not forgotten about their own FOIs and kept chasing for an answer! The best example we have come across to illustrate this, is an FOI about the revenue generated by the bike parking tax. The FOI request was first submitted to the Council on 23rd May 2009, a reminder was sent on 24th June 2009, a request for internal review was made on 18th July 2009, another reminder sent on 28th July 2009, an other one on 3rd August 2009… and finally an answer was received on 6th August 2009 to say that the Council didn’t have the information to answer the question! So, all this delay makes us believe that, when Westminster City Council don’t want to divulge information about their policies, they simply try to avoid responding, in the hope that they won’t be chased. Or, if they are being chased, they just say that they don’t hold the information to answer the query. Well, we really hope that the author of this particular FOI request is going to raise an official complaint to the Information Commissioner, about the way their FOI request was handled by Westminster City Council.

The second tactic that we have noticed is Westminster City Council replying to FOI requests submitted publically, directly to private email addresses. We believe that this is a tactic they use to avoid making their response visible to the public, over the internet. We have come across a very good example of this. Click here and have a look. The author initially submitted their FOI request on a public website and an answer from the Council was expected to be received on the same public website. But the Council preferred to answer the FOI request directly to the author’s private email address. Obviously, the Council made some research to find the email address, and we wonder how much time and taxpayers’ money were wasted in doing so. We are delighted to note that the author has decided to raise an official complaint to the Information Commissioner about the way their FOI request has been handled by Westminster City Council.

With an increasing number of FOIs referred to the Information Commissioner for investigation, and the No To Bike Parking Tax campaign taking Westminster City Council to court shortly for, as we are told, having introduced their bike parking tax illegally, we wonder what kind of mess they are putting themselves in. To be honest, we pretty much hope that the bike parking tax will be scrapped soon, Westminster City Council will carry on operating as usual and in peace, and motorcyclists will finally be able to get on with their lives. This is the happy ending that we would love to see for all parties.

 

Please join and support the legal fight to get the bike parking tax in Westminster scrapped before it spreads all over the UK and the European Union. The next demonstration is on 16th August 2009, don’t miss it! For further details, visit  http://www.notobikeparkingtax.com/

Soutenez et participez au proces dont le but est de forcer la mairie de Westminster a supprimer la taxe de stationnement des deux-roues avant que le concept ne se propage a travers le Royaume-Uni et l’Union Europeenne. La prochaine manifestation aura lieu le 16 aout 2009, ne la ratez pas! Pour plus d’informations, consultez http://www.notobikeparkingtax.com/

 

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

Si vous avez une experience a partager et que vous souhaiteriez voir publiee sur UKFRANCE.org, n’hesitez pas a nous contacter en cliquant ici.

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