Westminster council has a problem with air pollution and FOI requests

Westminster council wants people to help it improve air quality by reporting drivers running their engines when parked but hasn’t got a clue where the worst offenders are located, according to a Freedom of Information request made by a Fitzrovia resident.

Sign saying: "Switch off engine. Reduce emissions.
Signs in Hanson Street remind drivers to switch off their engines.

Yet despite what the FOI response revealed the council maintains it does keep a record of complaints about engine idling.

Edward Kellow got so fed up with reporting drivers running their engines in Hanson Street — and no sign of council enforcement officers to issue an £80 fine — that he made the FOI request to try to find out why nothing was being done.

“I’ve been trying to find out whoever deals with engine idling at the council for about two years. Even with the help and support of Councillor Pancho Lewis, no-one from the council contacted me,” he told Fitzrovia News.

“The #dontbeidle site asks for registration numbers, vehicle make and colour, and a postcode. So it should be possible to analyse the hotspots,” he said.

Kellow asked how many reports the council had received in total since 2016, how many drivers had been fined, and how many reports there were in the W1 area.

FOI response.
The FOI response said the location information was not available.

In response the council stated that there were 1467 reports for engine idling, of which 322 came via the #dontbeidle web page and 42 drivers had been fined since 2016. But was “unable to determine how many reports have been received specifically for the W1 area” as the software used doesn’t give a location.

In other words, Westminster council it seems has no idea where to deploy its enforcement officers to stamp out the problem in the worst affected streets.

“The message I take is that #dontbeidle is ‘greenwashing’ and it seems the council is not putting any resources into monitoring hotspots,” said Kellow.

When challenged on this Westminster council denied they were clueless.

“Our teams keep exhaustive records of all idling complaints along with street names and locations which determines where enforcement action and awareness-raising days are located around the borough, allowing us to focus our efforts and continue to lead the way in tackling air pollution in Westminster,” said a spokesperson.

Instead they blamed the FOI process for giving an incorrect answer.

“The FOI request in this instance asked for specific locations from a W1 postcode, and from a specific source (Westminster.gov/don’t-be-idle). Our teams do not categorise locations by postcodes but rather by street names, and this was the reason for the specific response to the questions raised,” they said.

“The #DontBeIdle campaign is about raising awareness and changing behaviour, not just fining motorists who may not yet realise the impact of engine idling, and we are making a real difference – with over 14,000 drivers and 20 of Britain’s biggest, freight, delivery and taxi services pledging their support to cut idling and improve air quality,” said the council.