The Government has announced the UK’s first-ever tax on parking spaces in Nottingham – but councils in the West Midlands could be set to follow. Deputy head of business Graeme Brown spoke to business leaders about whether they’d be happy to pay to park.
Congestion costs West Midland businesses an estimated £2.2 billion a year – but charging them to park is not the answer.
That is the view of Midland business leaders after it was announced that the first-ever Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) will be introduced in Nottingham in 2012.
The scheme, which could see people charged up to £350 a year to park at work, is designed to cut congestion and help pay for the expansion of Nottingham tram network.
But businesspeople have said it is “all about money-raising and not about reducing congestion”.
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry is opposed to the levy being introduced in the West Midlands and senior policy adviser Katie Teasdale said she doubted the scheme would achieve the desired results.
She said: “Business understands that congestion is a major problem. We understand the desire to identify funds for more, better public transport. But the Workplace Parking Levy is neither an effective mechanism for tackling congestion on a large scale, nor a fair way of raising funds for public transport improvements.
“In the real world where businesses are operating in the most difficult circumstances for 80 years, its introduction will see many firms choose to relocate out of the chargeable area or pass the substantial cost on to their employees.
“The levy is also basically unfair in that for many, there is simply no public transport option available.
“Businesses will be forced to pay a tax to fund investment, that could and should be sourced from other areas. If introduced, the WPL will damage business competitiveness, reduce investment and cost jobs at this, the worst possible economic time.”
Plans for the WPL were unveiled by Transport Minister Sadiq Khan on Friday, with the promise it could net Nottingham City Council £11.3 million a year through the fees. It has been suggested that WPL could cost firms £3.4 billion a year if rolled out nationwide.
The scheme has been strongly opposed by the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, which has warned that many businesses could relocate rather than pay the charges.
John Dowson, the chamber’s head of policy and representation, said today: “We are very disappointed. This is all about raising money and will do nothing to relieve congestion. It adds an unnecessary tax burden on businesses.
“We support the tram extension but now that WPL is coming in, we are concerned that costs will escalate.
“We have tried, in vain, to talk to Government ministers about this. They have been very reticent to discuss it.”
The British Chambers of Commerce has expressed fears that if the Department for Transport approves Nottingham’s bid to introduce the tax, other councils will submit similar plans.
The chamber believes it would be an unpopular move among businesses in the West Midlands if a similar scheme was enforced here.
Phil Orford, chief executive of the Forum of Private Business, said: “While we try not to use such terms lightly, we believe that the introduction of the WPL scheme is scandalous and is little more than a stealth tax.
“It’s the business equivalent to introducing a driveway tax to charge people for parking outside their own homes. This announcement could not come at a worse time for smaller businesses, who are struggling with rising costs on almost every front and trying their best to make it through the recession.”
Ken Sheridan, an advocate of remote working and Director of Remote Employment, applauded the Government for exploring a number of initiatives to cut urban traffic, pollution and carbon emissions, but said he questions the timing of this new tax.
“With so many jobs under threat, introducing a workplace parking levy will hinder businesses growth,” he said.
“We would like to see the government and local councils take an imaginative approach to offering financial incentives for home working. This would provide another means of reducing congestion and a company’s carbon footprint.”
Richard Hebditch, Campaign for Better Transport’s campaigns director, said: “Nottingham City Council has shown good common sense in seeking to improve transport in the city by implementing WPL.
“The levy will raise vital money to invest in great public transport improvements to help to reduce local traffic problems – which is good news for local businesses and local people.”