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Is Westminster Council right to introduce new parking charges?

BY Boon Koh
Published 10 December 2011

Is Westminster going to introduce street parking charges or not? What might have been a simple, under-the-radar introduction of a new charge on motorists parking in the borough has turned into a full fiasco, with the latest revelation that council boss Colin Barrow is quite the collector of antique parking meters.

If only Westminster went about it the right way! Looking at it from a business standpoint, introducing parking charges to raise funds for council activities is quite an elegant solution. Parking charges will come from out-of-borough visitors, as well as typically the more well to do residents in the borough, to help subsidise for services provided. The downside though is that there will be less visitors to the borough of Westminster, and local shops will suffer. Nothing ever came free – and currently, popular opinion seems to be on the side of motoring visitors to Westminster and shops within the borough.

But as the Evening Standard reported, the council has gotten £20m less in parking revenue in 2009/2010, and another £14m in 2010/2011. Drivers have been getting smarter and clued up on parking restrictions. A new way to pay parking charges by mobile phones further lowered the number of drivers parking illegally in Westminster. But all that loss of revenue, along with restricted funding from the central government, has to hurt somewhere. And while Colin Barrow and his crew in Westminster Council are getting lots of flak from this new introduction of parking fees for weekends and evenings, its probably the best option of all the options they have to balance the budget. Imagine if they had cut bin collections, or decided to close libraries or reduce social services in the borough.

Or maybe they should have done that instead – because the motoring lobby is huge in the UK, compared to other interests. Still, they face a tough fight now on their hands to win back popular opinion. Still, the opponents to this new parking charge have one thing right – it will hasten the death of high street shops in Westminster, and drive more shoppers to shopping centres like Westfield Shepherds Bush & Westfield Stratford.

  • david

    Your comment that the increased parking charges are “the best option .. to balance the budget” is an interesting view, but it is completely illegal for a council to do so. It is illegal for councils to set parking charges in order to meet a target for income. The only justification for parking charges is in terms of the effect on traffic. Income from parking charges is restricted to being spent on transport measures.

  • Anon

    This is going to hurt Westminister shops and restaurants. They pay huge rents, and any drop in business will effect them badly. However, there is a flip side and it gives other part of London to develop. Perhaps restaurant owners, will look else where in London. Not that other London Council are supportive of businesses and most look to make a quick buck out of parking. 

  • Anon

    Westfield Stratford does charge for parking.  It offered free parking for the first two hours when it opened (it might still offer it). Plus only costs £2 after 6pm.