Edinburgh Workplace Parking Levy could raise over £10m a year

Friday March 3rd 2023


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

A workplace parking levy could raise over £100 million for Edinburgh’s public transport system over 10 years, estimates have revealed.

However, city councillors remain concerned over the “unintended consequences” of the scheme which they are yet to rubber stamp.

The council’s transport convener said the Labour administration still looks at the idea of charging people to park at work “with some nervousness.”

Other political groups also remain cautious about further taxation on businesses and workers.

Despite misgivings councillors agreed to move to the next steps, which will involve putting plans to the public to gather views on what the scheme should look like in its final form and what revenue raised by it should be spent on.

Drivers are charged an annual fee for parking at their place of employment under a workplace parking levy (WPL) if the cost is not footed by employers.

A report showed the cost could be between £500 and £750 in the capital which the council says has a maximum of 35,000 parking spaces that would be liable for a charge.

Based on those figures, it’s estimated the levy could raise between £5 million and just under £15 million a year for investment in public transport and active travel depending on the size of the WPL zone and extent of exemptions for certain workers.

The council has modelled much of its business case on Nottingham’s WPL which brought in over £25 million in its first three years.

However, significant work still has to be done in Edinburgh and it is likely to be at least another two years before it is implemented – if councillors give final approval.

The transport and environment committee discussed the latest update on the WPL on Thursday and agreed to move towards launching a public consultation.

Labour transport convener Scott Arthur said his party continues to have concerns about parking being displaced to streets surrounding workplaces and the impact on shift workers who commute to and from work at times when there are less regular or no public transport links.

He added: “I think we also know that trade unions have known concerns.”

Under the powers agreed by Holyrood in 2019 NHS workers and blue badge holders will not be charged. Other exemptions, which could be agreed by council include waiving fees for small and medium sized businesses.

Furthermore, the report said a ‘task force team’ could be set-up to monitor and respond to any displacement parking issues that arise.

Kevin Lang, Lib Dem group leader, said he was worried about the WPL being “all stick, no carrot” and called for information around the specific opportunities for investment in projects to be detailed in the consultation.

He said: “I think we’ve got the basis of a workable scheme.”

However, he added: “I am not without my anxieties about some of the unintended consequences of this if we don’t get it right.”

Councillor Lang pointed out the council has “very ambitious plans particularly around public transport and active travel.”

He added: “I think it is right and proper that we look at how do we go about getting the transformation money that is necessary if we are really going to drive forward the kind of improvements that give people public transport alternatives to the car – alternatives that simply don’t exist at the moment.”

He said the Lib Dems gave the plans a “cautious welcome” and were “keen to move forward” but added the group still needs reassurance on “significant issues.”

Christopher Cowdy, Conservatives, called it “an unnecessary tax on workers,” adding: “We just don’t see this as a good policy.”

With the authority’s Labour and Tory councillors opposed to it going ahead, support from the Lib Dems will be crucial if the SNP and Green-backed WPL is to get final approval.

Although it is not believed the workplace parking charge will directly reduce congestion in the city, subsequent investment in buses, trams and active travel could eventually take more motorists off the road, helping to meet the council’s goal to reach net zero and reduce the number of car journeys by 30 per cent, both by 2030.

Green councillor Claire Miller said: “In order to deliver targets like that we have to do our best to use all of the levers and policies we have at our disposal.”

The SNP’s Danny Aston stressed the levy could raise “substantial revenue for transport projects.”

He added: Pretty much any city-wide scheme would generate above £10 million a year.

“Any of us having come through the budget process last week with all the discomfort and pain that that involved would welcome those funds to do many of the things we know our city needs.

“The best mitigation for low paid workers and for shift workers is for their employer to pay the levy, not to pass it onto them. There are massive transport inequalities in this city right now – 45 per cent of residents have no access to a car, many of those who do are compromising on other things in order to afford one. The workplace parking levy could help level that playing field.”

Councillor Arthur pushed for the scheme to be put on pause if trade unions are “not seen to be in support” following engagement, however the move was not supported by SNP, Greens and Lib Dems, whilst the Conservatives abstained from voting.

Councillors agreed the consultation should be completed by the end of February 2024.

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