Mayoral candidates tear into council’s new parking charges at motorcyclists’ hustings

Motorcyclists staged a protest over the charges last year. Photograph: Julia Gregory

New parking charges for motorcyclists in Hackney have been slammed as unfair by mayoral candidates.

The criticism came at an online hustings hosted by Save London Motorcycling (SLM) and the National Motorcyclists Council.

The event was attended by more than 30 residents and was designed to put mayoral candidates on the spot about their plans for travel in Hackney.

It follows a campaign calling for Labour-run Hackney Council to scrap parking charges for motorcyclists which could see commuters forking out £2,000 a year.

Conservative candidate Simche Steinberger pledged: “We would not be charging a penny. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

He said motorists are paying a tax through charges.

Independent Peter Smorthit would also bin the charges.

He called for more dedicated parking bays for motorcycles in Hackney.

Zoë Garbett, who is the Green candidate, said: “We think vehicle size should be a factor in parking charges. These parking charge proposals do not seem to be proportionate.”

She said she is concerned about provision for motorcycles on car-free developments in Hackney.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate Annoesjka Valent said: “The tax on parking is atrocious. People need to get into work to sustain themselves. I would overturn every parking charge, every low traffic neighbourhood.”

Candidates were asked if they would back motorcyclists using bus lanes.

Smorthit said: “It’s a no-brainer.”

Steinberger responded: “I would go further than just motorbikes. At times you are driving down roads and they are polluted, and the bus lanes are empty. If bus lanes are empty, you should be able to use them.”

Garbett said she was not aware of the data which suggested safety is not affected if motorcycles share bus lanes.

She said she would be happy to investigate because of safety concerns and the deaths of motorcyclists on the roads.

Valent said she would promote the motorcyclists’ campaign to use bus lanes.

She said she was concerned about pollution and wanted to support public transport.

“We can have less tax on motorbikes because they are less polluting than cars,” she added.

Audience member Vitali commented: “I feel safer being on a motorcycle than on a bike in London, as I’m not pushed to the side of the road and can ride in the middle of the lane.”

Colin Brown wanted to know how candidates would ensure that minority groups who are affected by council policies get their voices heard.

Steinberger said: “If you do a consultation, you should actually follow through on the results of the consultation.”

Garbett pledged to hold citizens’ assemblies to discuss difficult issues, “because residents are experts in their lives”.

She added: “Let’s see the council going out to people where they are.”

Valent said she would consult people.

Smorthit said this does not work and feels that “consultations are deeply flawed”.

He favoured giving people a vote on key issues.

Resident Catherine Philpotts asked candidates how they could support delivery drivers who face longer journeys because of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), which close roads to motorists.

Smorthit said: “The LTNs are not green at all, going round the long way is not green. They would be scrapped on day one.”

Garbett supports LTNs but said: “I think there should be some exemptions.”

Garbett has previously spoken of the importance of talking to residents and looking at exemptions for people with caring responsibilities and Blue Badge holders.

She said she also supports drivers in Dalston who are campaigning for a place to wait to collect fast-food deliveries without being moved on.

Valent said: “Delivery drivers need to get through.”

Steinberger said: “I would rip up LTNs because they make no sense.”

The hustings were attended online by more than 30 people. The candidates who attended were invited to comment on the absence of the Labour candidate Caroline Woodley.

She sent a message saying she was unable to attend and was committed to the new parking charges for motorbikes.

Woodley said previously that would not be attending any hustings and is concentrating on campaigning on the doorstep instead.

Smorthit said he was not surprised by her absence.

Valent said she would not comment.

Steinberger said: “The fact that the Labour candidate did not turn up and has the audacity to carry on with charges – nothing changes.”

Garbett commented: “It is incredibly disappointing that Caroline has not been here to listen to you.”

The Liberal Democrats candidate Simon de Deney was unable to attend but was at the Hackney Cycling Campaign hustings the previous day.

The candidates standing for election on Thursday 9 November are: Zoë Garbett, Green; Caroline Woodley, Labour; Peter Smorthit, Independent; Simon de Deney, Liberal Democrats; Simche Steinberger, Conservatives; and Annoesjka Valent, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

Residents will need to bring photo ID to the polling station for the first time.

Update: this article was amended at 1.55pm on 7 November 2023 following a clarification from Green candidate Zoë Garbett about her comments regarding LTNs.