DOZENS of councillors and staff at Edinburgh City Council face losing their free parking perks as part of planned £22 million budget cuts.
The local authority wants to impose parking charges at its headquarters in the city centre and at reserved spaces in a nearby car park.
The move, which is proposed as part of the council’s budget from April, is expected to raise £65,000 a year.
It would be accompanied by increases in parking charges of up to 20 per cent elsewhere in the city centre, which is said would make Edinburgh the most expensive place in the UK to park outside London.
Some 36 staff and councillors park free at the council’s Waverley Court offices, at the east end of Waverley Station, and the Market Street undercroft, under the Fruitmarket gallery at the west end of the station car park.
A council budget report stated: “Current users may be reluctant to pay. However, there are no contractual rights to free car parking.
“This proposal also promotes the council’s own sustainable and green transport policies.
“Affected users will be made aware of all the other sustainable transport options that are available.”
However, the main union representing council staff said it would fight any charges for those who needed a parking space for their job or other reasons.
John Stevenson, president of Unison’s City of Edinburgh branch, which represents half of the council’s non-teaching staff, said: “We are not sure which staff members can access these parking places.
“If it were staff who need their cars for work, like social workers and housing workers doing home and site visits, then we would be very much opposed to them having to pay.
“This would also go for staff who need to work outside normal hours and may need to use their cars for safety reasons or because of the lack of alternative transport.”
Joanna Mowat, transport spokeswoman for the council’s Conservative group, and a city centre councillor, said: “We will decide whether it should be a budget saving/income generator during our budget discussions, although it is difficult to justify not taking this income given the sums the council requires to save.
“Historically, this has not been declared on councillors’ expenses, or as a benefit.
“In the interests of transparency, this should be declared.”
Support for the move also came from the Greens.
Nigel Bagshaw, its transport spokesman, said: “It came as a surprise to me that some councillors and staff were already parking for free.
“At a time when there are other budget proposals which seek to raise parking charges generally to invest in transport, the council has to lead by example.
“Clearly, it would be much better if councillors and staff used public and active transport to get to work as part of the drive to improve the quality of the city’s environment.”
A council spokeswoman said: “With rising demand for services and budget pressures, the council has to look at ways of generating income.
“These spaces are currently provided free of charge to users, and if the proposal is approved it could raise around £65,000.
“It also supplements our sustainable and green transport policies.”
The council’s budget plans include increasing home care charges and care home fees to boost income.
Other proposed savings include closing public toilets outside the city centre.
Care home placements for older people would also be cut by ten per month to shift the balance of care from residential to home-based services.