The new leader of Westminster City Council is “highly unlikely” to implement the controversial on-street parking charges for evenings and Sundays, according to the local MP.
However, Cities of London and Westminster MP Mark Field said if the new council leader opted against putting the parking charges in place then they would have to find another way to fill the £7m black hole in the local authority’s budget.
Field said the council had already budgeted for revenue from the charges and so money would need to be found elsewhere. Financial executives could look to raise the money through other measures or further cuts could be made to social services.
The MP was speaking in a debate at Westminster Hall the day after councillor Colin Barrow announced his plans to step down as leader of the council.
Barrow’s plans came under fire from local nightclubs, casinos, churches and senior politicians. The new parking rules were due to come in for December, but were then postponed until after the Olympic Games following the launch of a judicial review against the decision.
Field believes whoever is elected as council leader next month will find it tough to continue with the plans.
He said: “I think it is highly unlikely that Cllr Barrow’s successor will run with this but there is a broader issue.
“The council have got a black hole in their budget and the money will not be forthcoming. There are likely to be more cuts to adult services but this is an issue facing councils across the country.”
The issue was raised by Labour MP Karen Buck in the debate at Westminster Hall. Buck said there was a danger the council could find the money through other charges.
The council would have retained its credibility and found it easier to find the money it required if it had carried out a widespread and proper consultation, said Buck, the MP for Westminster North.
“The fact is that there has not been adequate honesty and transparency about Westminster Council’s financial pressures and councillors have been found out,” said Buck.
“They have not told it straight to local people, instead giving the impression that they have discovered the philosopher’s stone of how to provide goods and services without hitting taxpayers.”
Mike Penning, the transport minister, said the government believed the council should be able to make its own decisions on the introduction of parking fees. However, Penning did welcome the decision to delay implementing the plans until after the judicial review.