Sunday, May 23, 2010

Another legal challenge involving parking

The spotlight shining on this lawless, unaccountable industry is getting brighter and it is only a matter of time before matters are properly exposed with the full glare of publicity.

Legal challenge halts Westminster parking deal
Nick Appleyard

21 May 2010

The bidding process for the biggest local authority parking contract in the UK has been halted by a last-minute legal challenge. Mouchel has disputed Westminster City Council’s decision to award the £50m contract to rival parking firm NSL Services. The council has already had to defend its conduct during the long-running process, after it received heavy criticism from the Labour opposition, which called for a full explanation of the ‘mismanaged fiasco … revealing serious failures’.

The council was accused of spending more than £1M trying to award the contract, which was initially awarded to Mouchel, before being revoked and reopened for tender. Sources close to the negotiations then revealed to The MJ that NSL Services was the preferred bidder but Mouchel contested this on the final day of a ten-day cooling off period.

NSL is the firm formerly known as NCP – the incumbent operator of the council’s parking contract. The council’s cabinet member for parking, Cllr Danny Chalkley, has already stepped down from his role to be replaced by Cllr Lee Rowley. But Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour leader in Westminster, said people must still be held accountable for ‘this very unsatisfactory and expensive fiasco’. ‘We are calling on the new cabinet member to wipe the slate clean, scrap the charging of motorcyclists and call a summit of all those stakeholders involved in parking to flesh out a sensible approach. ‘Whether Cllr Chalkley was dropped or has jumped, it cannot hide the fact Westminster parking is in tatters and needs new direction, instead of being used to prop up the council’s finances.’

Cllr Colin Barrow, leader of Westminster City Council, demanded Mouchel ‘see sense’ and drop the challenge which he branded ‘unfounded and misconceived’. ‘We believe it will be dismissed by the high Court. However, if they persist on pursuing this course of action it will inevitably cost taxpayers thousands of pounds in officer time and council resources spent defending the claims. This is all the more pressing at a time of planned deep cuts across the public sector.’

The council's approach to procurement has already been tested in the High Court, which threw out a claim by Apcoa for an injunction earlier in the year. The council is confident this challenge will be similarly unsuccessful.

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