A failed plan to implement controversial West End parking charges played no part in the leader of Westminster City Council’s decision to step down, he has claimed.
Evening and Sunday parking charges in London’s West End have been delayed until after the Olympic Games, but councillor Colin Barrow insists it is not the reason he has decided to leave his post in March.
Local businesses, churchgoers and volunteers hit out against plans to introduce parking charges in areas where it had previously been free. Motorists would have been forced to fork out up to £4.80 an hour to park their cars.
“I made the decision in the middle of last year to step down when I reached 60, to devote some time to writing and lecturing,” said Cllr Barrow. “2012 marks both my 60th year and four years as leader of the council, so it is the right time to make way for a successor.”
It would be “too easy” for people to say he decided to quit over the parking row, added Cllr Barrow.
He continued: “There is never a right or easy time to depart, and it is inevitable that people will ascribe my decision to the parking controversy.
“To the contrary, part of my reasoning for deferring this announcement until now was because I was determined to see that through. It would have been only too easy to leave that one for my successor.”
Elected to Westminster Council in 2002, Cllr Barrow took on his first cabinet brief the following year when he became involved with economic development and transport. He rose to deputy leader and cabinet minister for finance in 2005, before becoming the council’s leader in 2008.
However, his plans to put in place evening and Sunday parking charges in the West End were put on hold by a High Court judge last year, who said there was a danger they would “damage businesses and churches”.
A petition against Westminster City Council’s plans was signed by West End actors including Lynda Bellingham, Tom Conti, Roger Lloyd Pack and Bill Paterson.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson described the plans as a “nightlife tax” and called the postponement a “wise and brave” move that was the “right decision for Londoners”.
Paul Dimoldenberg, the leader of the Labour group, said: “This is a real victory for West End jobs, businesses and residents.
“For the past six months Westminster Conservatives have refused to listen to common sense and now Colin Barrow has paid the ultimate price for his poor judgment and failure to recognise the damage that his ‘nightlife tax’ parking charges would do to West End jobs and businesses.
“This was Westminster’s version of the ‘poll tax’ and it has suffered a similar fate.”