Article for Evening Standard on Westminster Council’s New Parking Charges

Typical! A Council comes up with a brilliant new plan and you can’t move for the naysayers. Well, I for one think Westminster City Council’s decision to charge for parking between 6.30pm and midnight on single yellow lines is a triumph of reason over inutility. Firstly, nobody is exactly sure when you are allowed to park on single yellow lines anyway. Double yellow lines people understand. No yellow lines people understand. But a single yellow line leads only to confusion – and so now there will be clarity where before there was only maddening uncertainty.

As has been pointed out quite admirably by Westminster Council, some roads in the capital are busier at 3am than they are at 3pm. Everybody knows this. People talk about the school run and rush hour. But everybody knows far more time-consuming are the snack run and the insomnia hour. People are always saying “Ooo don’t go out now at 3am – you’ll get caught in the ‘just discovered no milk for breakfast rush’”. I mean, I am flabbergasted that given these late-night log-jams the parking charges stop at midnight. I would urge the council to go further. I have seen their congestion studies. They conclusively prove that at least one road is just a tiny bit busier at 3am than at any other time of the day. No matter that this road contains a late night garage, a police station, a 24-hour supermarket and an A & E department. That research is good enough for me and I feel warrants parking charges round the clock. Nobody wants congestion when they are filling up with petrol having reported to the police that they had their arm broken whilst doing their weekly shop in their pyjamas.

People have also said that the charges of up to £4.80 an hour are outrageous. Once again for me they don’t go far enough. We all know the current minimum wage is £6.08. Why should parking meters be any different? Do they not have the right to earn minimum wage? I feel they do – and I’m sure if we look closely at the European Parking Meters Rights Act there will be that provision provided [although, I am happy with £4.80 for 16 & 17 year-old parking meters who’ve only just entered the workforce].

Other people have said that charging between 1pm and 6pm will prevent certain people attending church services. But once again, this is justice. Not all religions have their weekly services on a Sunday. Some have them on a Friday. Some have them on a Saturday. So Westminster Council are just evening the playing field for all religions. That’s only fair in multicultural Britain. [Although I did notice that Westminster Council did change the parking charge times by one hour on a Sunday to now start at 1pm rather than midday as a concession to church groups – so Christians, don’t worry, you are still winning]

Yet others, have described this as a ‘nightlife’ tax. Good. Compared to France, Germany and the United States productivity rates in this country are abysmal. Anything that encourages people to knuckle down and not go frittering their evenings away on fun has to be the right way forward for Britain. None of this going into town and enjoying a pint and a meal and a show – we need people in bed early with a decaffeinated mug of cocoa whilst making a list of how they can do better the next day for themselves and for their country. David Cameron wants to put the Great back into Great Britain and we won’t achieve that by going out to some dive bar and dancing in skimpy knickers to ‘What makes you beautiful’ by One Direction.

And, if all this wasn’t enough, there’s been this background noise that if Westminster Council introduce late night parking, people will just park in neighbouring Camden Council areas such as Holborn etc. and congest those up. But once again, I can see the positives in this. Yes, those areas may get a little more congested but it means you won’t have to drive so far into town which will save you petrol and therefore money, and it means you will have a little walk to get to your destination which will be good for your health. Win, win, win.

And let us not forget that this money has the potential to earn the Council an extra 7 million pounds a year. Seven Million Pounds. And imagine all the brilliant things they could do with that sort of money. For instance, they could build a massive car park and let everybody park for free after 6.30pm.