Drivers to face workplace car parking charges?
"War on motorists" may be far from over as councils consider new revenue streams
People driving to work in some parts of Britain could soon face having to pay to park their cars at their place of work, according to press reports. The news could help encourage some to give up four wheels for two as they take to bicycles to save money on their commute.
Two of the local authorities that are reported to be considering introducing a levy on employers providing more than 11 car parking spaces are York and Bristol, both of which enjoy Cycling City status.
Proposals for the implementation of the levy, which would see employers charged £250 for each parking space provided, with the option of absorbing that cost themselves or passing it onto their employees, were thought to have receded once the coalition government came to power and promised an end to the so-called “war on motorists.”
However, faced with massive budget cuts, many councils are now reported to be considering implementing the measure, according to the Daily Telegraph, including Bournemouth, Devon, Hampshire, Leeds, South Somerset and Wiltshire.
With more than 10 million people estimated to drive to work each day – although many of those of course will work for employers that either offer no parking or that have too little provision to be subject to the proposed rules – the revenue raised could help councils offset the impact of budget cuts, with Bristol City Council said to be exploring using such a charge as a “revenue stream” to help fund other transport initiatives.
Nottingham City Council is expected to be the first council to introduce the levy, while Hampshire County Council, in a consultation document, raised the prospect of implementing staff parking charges in the south of the county, an area including Southampton and Portsmouth, to "redress the imbalance between free commuter parking for some staff at office complexes" and "parking for other staff in public spaces where payment is required".
South Somerset District Council is another that is looking at bringing in parking charges, with a spokesman saying: "Looking at reducing car travel to offices is something we are required to do, and the possibility of introducing some form of parking levy is one of many ideas that have been floated within our council."
Meanwhile, next month councils in London will be attending a seminar that has an agenda including the workplace parking levy on the agenda, and other local authorities, including Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes, are all said to be interested in exploring parking charges.
Hilary Holden, a transport analyst at the consultancy Arup, which is helping a number of local authorities draw up plans for how such a scheme might work in practice, told the Daily Telegraph: "This will be the way forward. The squeeze on councils’ finances will put workplace parking levies way up the agenda."
She continued: "Based on Nottingham it would probably work out at about £1 a day. Whether companies would pass the cost on to their staff may vary. This may not change behaviour but could raise money for public transport."
A spokesman for the AA insisted: "Far from ending the war on the motorist, it now looks like town halls are going to open another front," while David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, claimed: "This is the worst possible time for it to be introduced as we are trying to get businesses to grow all over the country."
Some are in favour of the move, however. Stephen Joseph, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport, told the newspaper: “We support any move on a workplace parking levy, but it needs to be part of a broader strategy with the money linked to alternatives to the car, such as in Nottingham where the money is going into a local tram scheme.”
Others said that in the current environment, local authorities had few options when it came to exploring new revenue streams and that drivers represented a natural target. “Councils are going to look at that kind of a thing as an option,” explained Caroline Green, a policy consultant at the Local Government Association. “Traditional forms of money raising will not be sufficient,” she added.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “It is for local authorities to consider what measures are appropriate for improving transport and tackling congestion in their area.”