Edinburgh workplace parking levy: go-ahead for next step

Officials will prepare strategic business case for charge

Council chiefs have been given the go-ahead to take the next step in preparing plans for a Workplace Parking Levy for the Capital.

Lib Dem and Green councillors on the transport and environment committee voted with the SNP to instruct officers to develop the strategic business case for a levy and undertake initial stakeholder engagement.

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SNP councillor Lesley Macinnes, who was transport convener up until the local elections in May, said it had been agreed under the previous SNP-Labour administration that a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) was an idea well worth exploring, but the shape and scale of it had yet to be established.

But the current minority Labour administration found itself in a difficult spot, she said. “Despite having support the WPL through the work of the coalition in the last term, they were issued with a centralised diktat from Scottish Labour pre-election that WPL schemes were unacceptable.”

Cllr Macinnes quoted Labour MSP Neil Bibby saying in the Scottish Parliament that the party’s MSPs were “working with Edinburgh’s Labour council on ways to get people out of their cars which does not include a WPL”.

And she accused Labour on the council of wanting to halt the scheme altogether. “They are clearly intending to find ways to wriggle out of their earlier commitment to it.”

She said: “This is a real opportunity to build an effective, carefully thought-through scheme which will deliver a financial boost to this city’s ability to deliver faster and better transport options for the city while helping to change the city positively by reducing car kilometres and congestion.”

A workplace parking levy in Edinburgh could raise up to £19 million to invest in the city's transport infrastructure. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

Labour transport convener Scott Arthur said Labour did not oppose a WPL on ideological grounds, but did have some concerns about its impact . He said: "It’s important to note that while we did have a national position, we set our policy in Edinburgh for Edinburgh. Our party, which involves trade unions, did have some concerns about about the WPL. And I hope this city can get to a place where we have a WPL that does address those concerns.”

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He cited problems for workers like those in waste depots who started very early and had no viable public transport to get to work and bus drivers who had to provide the first bus service of the day and therefore did not have public transport to get to work.

"Our concerns aren’t ideological – it’s about trying to get a levy that works for us an our city. We want to shape a WPL to ensure that low-paid workers don’t feel the worst of this, to look at the issues around shift workers and to have a solid plan around displacement parking and also rewarding workplaces who can show positive progress in reducing car kilometres.”

Lib Dem leader Kevin Lang said: "We’re keen to see a robust business case being brought forward so all of us can make informed choices.” He stressed the WPL needed to go hand in hand with big improvements in public transport. And he continued: “It is important that we take this work forward – it’s about trying to change attitudes and behaviours, it’s about trying to get some much-needed investment so we can make the kind of change to public transport an active travel that we talk a lot about but are often held back from delivering because we simply don’t have the money.”

Green councillor Claire Miller said her party had been pushing for a WPL for years. It was about trying to change behaviour among both employers and employees. “We see a lot of benefits in working with employers who are willing to change and providing a stick for those who aren’t.”

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Tory transport spokeswoman Marie-Clair Munro said Conservatives were firmly against a WPL. “It taxes businesses and workers at a time when food prices, fuel costs and energy bills are rising, while unfairly burdening people who live long distances from work and have no other means of getting there. Drivers who want to par at work will be forced to pay an annual fee that could amount to hundreds of pounds if the bill is not footed by their employer.”