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Conservative Party HQ to see hundreds of protestors

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Campaign demands action and answers over ‘rogue’ councillors
The No To Bike Parking Tax Campaign is to hold a rally outside the Tory party offices in London to demand answers and action over the activities of their flagship borough, Westminster City Council.

The council’s parking department, under Cllr Danny Chalkley, last week pushed through permanent motorcycle charging in bays across the borough, despite thousands of objections, the largest on-street demonstrations ever seen against the council, and the Judicial Review and Court Case that could now embarrass the party nationally in the run up to the General Election.

The demonstration comes at a time of increasing concern over the council’s parking department, which has become embroiled in battles over the bike ‘tax’, the prospect of charging until midnight for parking, extending yellow line restrictions to midnight, hiking residents’ charges above inflation, incorrectly marking dropped kerbs (leading to tickets issued incorrectly), the fiasco of the CCTV system being unfit for purpose, legal battles over copyright infringements against EDF Energy, unauthorised diplomatic bays leading to illegal tickets, allegations of breaching of EU and local government regulations regarding the tendering and issuing of contracts, and dozens of complaints over FOI requests and emails left unanswered.

The Cabinet Member Report of October 2009 stated:
‘Pursuant to Regulation 6 of the Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996 … the Council consulted the Road Haulage Association, the Freight Transport Association, the British Motorcyclists' Federation, the Metropolitan Police Service, the London Fire Brigade and the Owner Drivers' Society, as well as all ward councillors and a large number
of residents' and community associations. There were no objections from those consulted.’

This was despite the thousands of objections received by bikers before October 2009, and a confirmation from the BMF that no such consultation took place. Chris Hodder, of the BMF, said:

“At no point were we consulted on the permanent scheme, and if we had been, we would have said ‘no’, ‘no’, and ‘no’ again, so to claim that there were no objections, or that we were consulted, is a whitewash of the highest order.’

It also emerged today that Westminster was cutting the number of motorbike bays, despite having claimed – as one of many excuses - that the charge would increase the number of spaces - and security.

In addition, spaces in Council run car parks have been passed over to private companies, in at least two cases, where those spaces are likely to no longer remain free, despite this being a central plank of Cllr Chalkley’s attempts to appease the wave of anger at the scheme.

Warren Djanogly, Chairman of the Campaign, said:

“Frankly, these councillors make a mockery of the party they claim to represent. They have introduced exactly the kind of stealth tax Eric Pickles claimed Councillors would be sacked for, and yet the party as a whole sits there and does nothing about it. Perhaps they will take more interest when they find their flagship borough in the dock defending charges of material breaches of EU and Local Government Law?’

Cllr Chalkley recently tried to defend allegations of revenue raising (The High Court established that using parking charges to raise revenue is illegal in a judgement made in 1995) after the uproar over the plans to extend charging until midnight, an attempt that many say brings the Council into disrepute.

Charlie Lort-Phillips, from the Campaign, said: “Everybody who heard and read his words knew exactly what these charges are about – money, money and more money – but he just cannot come out and say it! The fact he still tries to claim that charging a motorcycle to park in a communal bay with no security, or a car driver to park at 11.30 on a Tuesday night is about ‘demand management’ is frankly a shameful and embarrassing example of the depths to which he will go to try and get away with what is revenue raising, pure, simple, and to everyone on the street, blindingly obvious.’

Cllr Chalkley also claimed that kerbside space was ‘at a premium’ to justify charging motorcycles, while at the same time allocating 400 spaces to a car club citing ‘under-used old style meter bays’.

Warren Djanogly added: "This is not a campaign against the Conservative Party - we are not telling people not to vote Tory - what we need is answers from the Conservatives to the serious questions regarding the conduct and policies of their 'local boys', something they have manifestly failed to do until now."

The rally will be at Conservative Party HQ, 30 Millbank, London, SW1P 4DP, at 13:30.

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