Uproar over levy
Car park tax ‘would cost public sector bodies £5 million’
Car park tax aims to cut congestion
A proposed car park tax will come under a joint attack from Labour and Tory MSPs today amid claims that it could cost public sector organisations £5 million.
Scottish Labour says public bodies accountable to the Scottish Parliament have at least 37,082 parking spaces, of which 10,764 are exclusively available to workers. If each of these worker-only spaces is charged at £417, this would leave public sector bodies with a bill of £5,036,526.
Colleges and universities, accounting for 25,537 parking spaces of which 2,708 are exclusively for staff, could face a bill of £1,129,236 in Workplace Parking Levy payments.
The figures were obtained through freedom of information requests ahead of a debate on the Transport Bill in the Scottish parliament.
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, who lodged the FOI requests, said: “The Workplace Parking Levy has been sold as a new revenue stream to fund struggling public services – but in reality it will hit public sector budgets for £5 million they simply don’t have, thanks to Tory austerity passed on by the SNP.
Councils need adequate funding – not a sticking plaster which will hit the poor and siphon funding from colleges and universities– Jackie Baillie
“When cash-strapped public bodies are handed the bill, it’s more than likely that – like other employers hit by the car park tax – they will pass it on to their workers.
“It’s time for ministers to come clean. Scottish Labour will vote against this punitive new tax on Wednesday. Councils need adequate funding – not a sticking plaster which will hit the poor and siphon funding from colleges and universities.”
Labour MSPs have tabled a series of amendments to be considered when the Transport Bill reaches Stage 3 at Holyrood. If MSPs of other parties vote down an amendment from MSP Neil Bibby to remove the tax altogether, Labour will seek to protect low-paid workers from being hit the hardest.
Scottish Labour Transport spokesperson Colin Smyth and Labour MSP Pauline McNeill have tabled amendments which would exempt lower-paid workers and single parents, as well as the drivers of ultra-low emission cars.
The Scottish Conservatives say they will support the Bill, but only if the car park tax is dropped.
The Tories will back other proposals – such as measures on low-emission zones, changes to bus franchising and tackling pavement parking.
On the car park tax, Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Jamie Greene said: “If the SNP wants our support with its Transport Bill, it can get it – but the car park tax must be scrapped now.
“This isn’t about localism or tackling climate change, if this tax was so important to the SNP why wasn’t it in the original bill presented to parliament?
“This has the potential to be one of the most hated policies brought in since the SNP came to power and has been roundly criticised from all quarters.”
The Scottish Retail Consortium gave both written and oral evidence to the Holyrood inquiry scrutinising the WPL. In its Scottish Budget submission, published in August, it said that if MSPs are determined to proceed with WPL then there should be a cap on the amount charged, a sunset provision on the duration of any levy, and consistency amongst councils implementing it.
SRC director David Lonsdale said: “Workplace parking levies are a charter for extra cost and complexity and it is disappointing MSPs appear ready to give their backing to them.
“The introduction of a levy will see firms taxed twice for the parking places they provide for staff, on top of the business rates already paid on those spaces. The dearth of any business and regulatory impact assessment to accompany the introduction of this new tax is frankly bewildering, and suggests MSPs risk voting for a pig in a poke.”
However, supporters of the tax argue that workers will not be affected directly and that employers will bear the cost.
They also note that in Nottingham the levy has successfully achieved its goal of reducing congestion and raising capital that has been invested in its tram network.