Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Revealed, Town Hall Chief Behind West End's 'Rip-Off' Weekend Parking Charges

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Revealed, Town Hall Chief Behind West End's 'Rip-Off' Weekend Parking Charges

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Prynn Consumer Business Editor

THE mastermind behind a bitterly contested move to impose Sunday and evening parking charges in the West End was revealed today as a [pounds sterling]167,000-a-year Westminster council chief.

Rosemarie MacQueen, director of the built environment, was praised by council leader Colin Barrow for her "thorough, comprehensive and professional" proposals that included the new charges.

A petition signed by 8,000 people calls the move "catastrophic" for restaurants, casinos and theatres, and likely to put night workers' safety at risk by forcing them to use public transport. Today Labour's mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone called the charges "a new tax on Londoners" and "a pure moneymaking scheme". Ms MacQueen, the director of city planning Hugh Brennan and the operational director of city planning, Barry Smith, spent almost a year reviewing parking.

Ms MacQueen has said unrestricted parking in the West End at night and at weekends "has increasingly stifled the council's ability to manage its road network and has impacted on the ability to have doorstep deliveries". Charges of up to [pounds sterling]4.80 an hour were approved by the cabinet in August and will come into effect early next year. Opponents, who include actors Bill Paterson, Diana Quick, Janet Suzman, Tim Pigott-Smith and Nickolas Grace, claim up to [pounds sterling]7 million a year will be raised to plug a black hole in the council's finances, an allegation strongly denied by leaders of the Tory-controlled council.

In the Standard today, former London mayor Mr Livingstone writes: "Westminster's latest rip-off charges are nothing to do with regulating congestion or improving the environment, and everything to do with ripping off Londoners as a whole to fill Westminster council's coffers."

A spokesman for the council said: "We can't legally make money from parking. The money raised has to be invested back into roads. Westminster is different from anywhere else in Britain.

Our roads are as busy at 10pm as they are at 10am."

A similar scheme was considered by the council in 2003 but rejected because of the potential harm to the economy of the West End, which has 5,600 parking spaces. …

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