Lambeth urged to take action on Westminster Bridge gambling

A former advisor to Boris Johnson has urged local authorities to get a grip on illegal trading and gambling on Westminster Bridge as part of a think-tank report on the state of the area around Parliament.

Lambeth urged to take action on Westminster Bridge gambling
An ice cream van and rickshaws on Westminster Bridge in 2022

Former BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan – who was a special advisor to Boris Johnson in Downing Street – has written a report for think tank Policy Exchange titled Tarnished Jewel: the decline of the streets around Parliament.

Gilligan notes that "someone taking the ten-minute walk from, say, Waterloo Station to Parliament could easily pass as many as half a dozen breaches of the law, from the illegal vendors and confidence tricksters on the bridge, to the pedicabs blocking the traffic, to the bellowing loudspeakers of the protestors, to the people camping in the shop doorways.

"None individually is serious, but they have an important cumulative effect."

A section of the report is devoted to the nearest bridge to Parliament: "On Westminster Bridge, the pavement is blocked with crowds of tourists gathered round illegal scam games and unlicensed hot chestnut salesmen.

"The pedestrian crossing is blocked by a pedicab parked on the pavement.

"The bus lane is blocked by three more pedicabs and a van selling £7 hotdogs.

"The cycle lane is blocked by a line of customers waiting to buy the hotdogs."

Gilligan recommends that Lambeth Council should renew its Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) covering its half of the bridge, which expired in September 2022.

He added: "Parliament and the councils should consider employing more civilian wardens to deal with non-political disorder (a few are already employed by the GLA), filling gaps in the police presence.

"Dealing effectively with low-level nuisance and lawbreaking is a matter of consistency and repetition, but current efforts appear sporadic and unsustained. Seizing illegal vehicles which cause danger to others should happen every day until it stops, not once every ten years."

Although Lambeth Council does not currently have a PSPO covering gambling on the bridge, police officers from the Waterloo & South Bank Safer Neighbourhood Team have recently been carrying out Operation Phormium to tackle crime on Westminster Bridge.

Since December they have made 10 arrests, issued 25 community protection warnings, seized four rickshaws and two ice cream vans.

The local police team says the operation will continue "throughout the summer".

We asked Lambeth Council for an update on their plans to renew the PSPO but we did not receive a response.

Tags: Lambeth, Politics & local government, River Thames

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