Fleet News

Workplace parking levy: the national picture

Exclusive research by Fleet News has found that 11 cities have already investigated introducing a workplace parking levy.

Workplace parking levies (WPL) allow councils to charge local businesses for every parking space they provide to employees.

However, small companies that have fewer than 10 employee parking spaces will escape the levy. 

Spaces for company vehicles that are used to commute to and from work fall within the levy’s scope.

The country’s first WPL got the green light earlier this year when Nottingham City Council got approval to introduce a levy in 2012.

For forging ahead with the controversial scheme, it received over £500m worth of Government local transport grants.

Businesses in Nottingham will be charged £265 a year for every space they provide in the ground-breaking charge that will raise as much as £14 million a year for the city’s public transport infrastructure development.

Now Fleet News has discovered that Southampton, Oxford, Bristol, York, Winchester, Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham, Newcastle, Exeter, Plymouth and Cambridge have all investigated WPLs in their own cities.

The likelihood that more cities will follow Nottingham’s lead was raised after a local government think-tank said councils need to consider “novel ways” to meet investment needs.

The New Local Government Network said local authorities should explore “alternative revenue raising powers including the workplace parking levy”.

It proposes that local authorities “generate new revenue stream opportunities through modest user charging, including WPL implementation, when the recovery allows”.

Even Chambers of Commerce, which oppose WPLs, appear resigned to more levies being introduced.

“If WPL is seen by other local authorities to create modal shift from the car to public transport and to create a significant revenue stream for authority investment in infrastructure and other priorities, then local politicians will see it as a good thing and the Nottingham model or similar schemes will be introduced elsewhere,” concluded Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

However, there may be a reprieve after the Tories tabled an early day motion last week trying to derail the legislation allowing WPLs.

“The Conservatives have made it clear that we oppose the introduction of workplace parking levies,” a party spokesman told Fleet News.

“Therefore it follows that when the Government tried to slip through secondary legislation on the subject, we prayed against the proposals to try to enable a debate and vote to take place on this important issue in Parliament.”

The Conservatives would not be drawn on whether they would repeal WPL legislation if they win next year’s election.

But should they get into power, there will be pressure to prevent further WPLs being introduced from business groups, such as the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses, which recently dubbed WPLs “a stealth tax upon business”.

But if Labour remains in power, WPLs – or alternatives such as local congestion charging - are likely to spread to the 11 cities identified by Fleet News.

What the councils are thinking:

Those councils that have investigated WPLs have discovered that support would be sparse.

Glasgow considered a levy, but discovered strong opposition as well as questions about the improved air quality that a WPL was meant to achieve.

Its consultation into a draft action plan, which contained a WPL element, found that:
“This action was likely to receive strong resistance from both public and business sectors. Consultation responses also indicated that this action was unlikely to improve local air quality.”

As a result, Glasgow did not progress plans to introduce a WPL.

Plymouth went as far as approaching the Department for Transport (DfT) for funding but also abandoned plans for a WPL after its bid for Transport Innovation Fund funding was rejected.

Cambridge also investigated a WPL, but is now planning to introduce a local congestion charge instead.

While none of the city councils quizzed plan to introduce a WPL yet – it is a lengthy and complicated process to get Government approval – Bristol, Exeter and Newcastle appear the keenest and are watching developments in Nottingham closely.

Exeter City Council passed the baton to the county council, which it said was taking the lead in any WPL introduction.

“The county council has been looking for some time at the long-term transport strategy for the city and, as part of its assessment work, has considered the appropriateness of a workplace parking levy,” said a spokesman.

“As far as I am aware, no decisions have been taken regarding that long-term strategy and research work still continues.”

Meanwhile, Bristol has joined forces with adjacent councils in its bid to get Government approval and funding.

“The West of England Partnership, which comprises Bristol City Council and the three adjacent councils, has been examining a variety of demand management options as part of a potential bid for funding. The technical work commissioned as part of this study included an examination of the role that a WPL might play,” a spokesman for Bristol City Council said.

The West of England partnership is still in discussions with DfT, but currently this does not include any WPL component.

“However, the council is aware of the Nottingham proposal and will be keeping an eye on the introduction of the scheme there.”

Newcastle is also watching Nottingham’s scheme closely.

“We are always keen to learn from the experiences of others, although it is too early to confirm whether such as scheme would ever be introduced in Newcastle,” said the city council’s transportation officer, Kieron Bridges.

Southampton confirmed it has also considered imposing a parking levy on its local businesses, but has decided “not to impose a WPL at this time, but this will remain under review”.

Oxford city council is also not planning to introduce a WPL, but a spokesman said: “I am advised that Oxfordshire County Council might be considering the introduction of such a scheme.”

While a spokesman for York City Council confirmed that it too has discussed how to introduce a WPL, saying it will not do so imminently but “this does not preclude such a levy being raised in the future.”

Winchester City Council was investigating a WPL five years ago as part of an investigation into air quality in city. However, a spokesman said: “No steps have been taken to introduce a WPL and there are no current plans to.”

Birmingham was also investigating WPLs several years ago, but rejected it because of concerns over the impact it would have on local businesses.

“We considered options for use of WPL as a demand management mechanism in 2001/02,” said a city council spokesman.

“A report on the options and implications was produced alongside use of congestion charging. It was felt to be potentially detrimental to the local economy so further work was undertaken on the latter only. This was considered further using Transport Innovation Fund grant but was also rejected in 2008.”

Stoke-on-Trent has also been looking at WPLs for several years. “Past transport studies on the North Staffordshire area have looked at the role of 'demand restraint' mechanisms, such as workplace parking levies and congestion charging,” said a city spokesman.

“However, this has been purely a technical appraisal and Stoke-on-Trent City Council has never proposed the introduction of a WPL, nor does it have any intentions of making such a proposal at the current time.”

The situation is different in Scotland where Scottish law prevents city councils from introducing charges based on the number of parking spaces available at work places.

As a result Edinburgh considered a congestion charge scheme based on the use of vehicles in its ‘preferred transport strategy’. A referendum scuppered its plans after residents voted for an alternative scheme that did not include congestion charging.

 



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