Edinburgh workplace parking levy: Public consultation to go ahead on controversial scheme

Charge could help Edinburgh reach net zero target
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The public are to be asked for their views on the idea of a workplace parking levy in Edinburgh.

SNP, Lib Dem and Green councillors on the city's transport committee combined to approve plans for a consultation on a new charge despite the opposition of Labour and the Conservatives. A workplace parking levy (WPL) could raise between £5 million and £14.9m for public transport and active travel projects, helping the city reach its net-zero target, Employers could be charged between £500 and £750 per year for each parking space they provide which is used by staff and it would be up to each company or organisation to decide whether the cost was passed on to the employee. A WPL would take a minimum of two years to introduce.

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Transport convener Scott Arthur said Labour continued to have concerns about displacement parking – where people would stop parking at their workplace but instead move into surrounding residential streets – as well as the impact on shift workers. And he said trade unions had known concerns.

But SNP councillor Danny Aston said the success of a WPL could be seen in Nottingham - the only UK city to have one – where it had financed a major tram network extension, electrification of the bus fleet and grants for sustainable transport options for workers. Cllr Aston said: "We have targets in this council to reduce our emissions to net zero and to reduce the kilometres driven in private cars in the city by 30 per cent, both by 2030 - very ambitious targets and far from easy to achieve. It's clear we need to take decisive action sooner rather than later to get there."

He said it was vital to involve trade unions in taking the plans forward. "It's a workplace levy so the views of workers have to be central in considering its merits and how to implement it." Amid concern over the impact on the low-paid, he said: "The best mitigation for low-paid workers and shift workers is for their employer to pay the levy, not pass it on to them." And he continued: "There are massive transport inequalities in this city - 45 per cent of residents have no access to a car, many of those who do are compromising on other things in order to be able to afford once. The WPL could help level that playing field."

Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang gave the WPL plan a cautious welcome, but said there were significant issues to be worked through. He said the council had the basis of a workable scheme. "It's right and appropriate that we now go out and ask people, trade unions, residents, companies, organisations what they think." But he added: "I'm not without my anxieties about some of the potential unintended consequences if we don't get it right, in particular that risk around displacement parking and how you would deal with that."

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Green councillor Caire Miller said a WPL was central to her party's policies. The council had ambitious targets on net zero and reducing car kilometres. "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 to take us in that direction."

Tory transport spokeswoman Marie-Clair Munro said her party had opposed the WPL from the outset. And she claimed it would drive business away from the Capital. "We believe it taxes businesses and workers at a time when we know food prices, fuel costs and energy bills are rising, whilst unfairly burdening people who live long distances from work and have no other means of getting there. If you were to ask the residents of Edinburgh if they wanted a WPL I think the vast majority would not be happy with it."