1,000 bikers protest outside City Hall
PUBLISHED: 12:09 03 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:04 07 September 2010
Sanchez Manning PROTESTERS walked out in disgust after a council scrutiny committee refused to scrap parking charges for motorbikes. A carnival atmosphere prevailed outside City Hall on Tuesday, as 1,000 bikers brought Victoria to a standstill in a mass d
PROTESTERS walked out in disgust after a council scrutiny committee refused to scrap parking charges for motorbikes.
A carnival atmosphere prevailed outside City Hall on Tuesday, as 1,000 bikers brought Victoria to a standstill in a mass demonstrating against the parking scheme.
Inside, angry lobbyists accused Tory-run Westminster Council of betraying its own political party and constituents by introducing the charges.
Taking their last chance to air their views against the scheme, demonstrators branded it a "stealth tax" to rake in millions of pounds while not funding any services for residents.
Giving evidence at the meeting, the No To Bike Parking Fees chairman Warren Djanogly, said: "We're supported here today by car drivers, by residents, by traders, by ordinary taxpayers.
"They're here to tell you in no uncertain terms that, Mr Danny Chalkley, to bring a stealth tax in by the back door is not acceptable."
Westminster resident Kilian Clissmann added that the charges are simply a get-rich-quick scheme for the council.
"What's next - bicycle parking charging, or charging to use a zebra crossing?" he asked.
The council brought in the controversial £1.50 per day toll in August last year. It was introduced to fund improvements to help deal with the problem of oversubscribed motorcycle bays, assistant parking director Kevin Goad told the scrutiny committee.
He explained that as part of the scheme the council looked to extend the number of bays and also ensure each biker had a space to themselves.
But the scores of bikers at the meeting dismissed these claims with shouts of "rubbish".
And Labour councillor Ruth Bush asked Mr Goad why his department had "completely ignored" environmental issues when devising the scheme.
She said: "The idea that you can deal with this issue without taking into account congestion and emissions is nonsense."
Her fellow opposition councillor, Rupert D'Cruz, also accused Westminster of raising almost £5million from the parking charges while claiming the project was 'revenue neutral'.
However, these challenges were not enough to convince the scrutiny committee to abolish the scheme.
Their only concessions were recommendations to reduce the charge to £1 per day and establish a parking forum representing all interested groups.
Other proposals included making the annual fee £100 for residents, as opposed to £150 for non-resident bikers, and giving warnings for the first breach of the regulations rather than an instant fine.
Labour committee members abstained from voting on these recommendations, while the bikers responded with furious threats to end Cllr Chalkley's political career. A final decision on whether to make motorbike parking charges permanent across Westminster is expected to be made later this month.
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