Edinburgh Labour group leader Cammy Day has defended new powers for councils to tax office parking spaces after it was revealed the party’s Scottish conference will be asked to come out against the policy.
Train drivers’ union Aslef has tabled a motion for the gathering in Dundee this weekend opposing the Workplace Parking Levy, arguing public transport is not good enough for people to rely on it to get to work and claiming public transport workers on first and last shifts will be particularly hit by the charge.
Scottish Labour transport spokesman Colin Smyth added his voice to the opposition, saying the levy would not deliver the investment needed in public the transport system or tackle the threat of climate change.
He said: “It will hit lower paid workers hardest and will do nothing to plug the huge holes in council budgets which are facing £230 million more cuts this year.
“Labour supports more power to local government but this is a regressive tax on working people. The company boss will pay the same as the company cleaner.
“The exemptions made by the SNP mean a health board chief executive on over £100,000 a year won’t pay but a carer working for a charity on the minimum wage will.”
But Councillor Day said Labour in Edinburgh had campaigned at the last local elections in 2017 for councils to get powers to bring in a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL).
“We have argued councils need powers like the tourist tax and the workplace parking levy.
“What we have committed to do is consult with the city about whether the WPL is appropriate for the Capital and if so how that would look – and that’s what we are about to do.
“It’s not about taxing cars, it’s about creating a new environment for people to work, live and enjoy the city.
“It’s not about targeting motorists, it’s about creating a more sustainable Edinburgh.
“This is one of the tools we should be looking at and I hope conference will accept that.
“Absolutely there have to be clauses for people who need their cars for their jobs. There has to be protection for certain groups of workers.
“I agree with some of what Colin Smyth says – how it should not target low-paid workers while benefiting chief executives. That’s exactly what we want to talk to the city about.”
Councillors, party members and the city’s Labour MSPs are understood to have been involved in drawing up the 2017 manifesto.
Cllr Day said: “If conference decides to pass this motion I hope it comes with caveats that understand local government is struggling over powers to raise finance and this is one we have asked for.”