Plans to introduce a workplace parking levy (WPL) in Leicester should be scrapped while businesses struggle with the impact of Covid-19, according to a city councillor.
Leicester City Council’s Labour administration is drawing up proposals for a parking levy, which it says could generate a long-term source of funding to pay for public transport improvements.
But Liberal Democrat opposition city councillor, Nigel Porter, told the Leicester Mercury the pandemic had shifted the landscape of the city centre and urged the council to drop the idea.
He said: “I wasn’t convinced this levy was a good idea when the council first suggested it and I think it is an even worse one now."
Leicester is considering following Nottingham City Council's lead, which introduced the country’s first workplace parking levy in 2011.
But Porter said: “Companies will let their offices go rather than keep unnecessary overheads like rent and rates and that will mean fewer work parking spaces to tax because there will be fewer work car parking places to tax.
“It only works in Nottingham because they have a tram system. Leicester’s plan never had any such ambition.
“It only wants buses.”
Coin Porter added: “The analogy I use is the council is waiting to cross the road, it looks left and right, see a car coming and steps out anyway.
“By pursuing this it will be ignoring the obvious and showing again that it cannot be nimble.”
Labour deputy mayor councillor Adam Clarke said no decisions had yet been taken and there would be a full public consultation before any new scheme was introduced.
He said: “We have people working for us looking at the feasibility of the workplace parking levy and the potential parameters of the levy to support our objective of providing regular ongoing funding to radically improve the city’s transport.
“The future is a bit of an unknown because of Covid and we will bear that in mind but when you start looking at the potential impact of a vaccine you can start to see a world where people will return to working in city centre’s like ours.”
The research will inform a future public consultation on whether a workplace parking levy should be delivered.
Coun Clarke added: “Of course the impact of Covid will be reflected on what we finally put to the public to show the benefit or otherwise of introducing the levy.
“We do know that there are businesses who are really keen to have quality city centre office space and that there was, pre-Covid, an undersupply of office space.
“Things will change from the current position but whether things will change so radically that make a workplace parking levy unviable?
“There is no evidence to suggest that yet and if the levy can achieve what we think it will still then why would we not continue to investigate its potential.”
The city council is planning a formal consultation on its long-term transport proposals in March and April which, said the deputy mayor, will then set the direction of the conversation about the workplace parking levy.
Any organisation with 11 or more parking spaces might be liable to the tax but key workers would likely be exempted.
Leicester City Council has also suggested a charge of just over £400 a year per space in line with Nottingham.
No actual boundaries to the zone within which the levy would apply but the Leicester inner ring road has been suggested.