Saturday, 1 August 2009

Commuters who drive to work 'face workplace parking levy'

Have you heard the news that councils will be able to start charging businesses up to £350 for providing car park spaces for their staff from 2012? Well, I understand that councils need more money to cover their increasing running costs and debts. But for us employees or business owners this is simply a ridiculous demand.

Let's look at this from our point of view:

We are in the middle of a recession. Small, medium and even large businesses (who will ever forget the collapse of Woolworth) are fighting bankruptcy, lack of liquidity and are finally forced to close down. Countless companies are struggling and are reducing their head count to be able to keep their business going. Mass redundancy, crisis on the housing market, lack in consumer spending and an ongoing reluctance by banks to start lending all play their part in making this a very hard time to live in.

If councils will start to charge businesses for providing car parking spaces to their staff this will result in one of the three consequences depending on the business:

- The business absorbs the cost
For employees that's the best solution. But it will have a further negative impact on the business' liquidity and ability to survive these hard times. There are likely to be no pay increases or there even will be pay cuts. Potential recruitment of new staff will be further delayed. This certainly won't help to improve market conditions.

- The business passes the cost on to staff
With many people already struggling to pay their bills and mortgages and often no reasonably easy accessible public transport available this will have a major impact on staff. Employees might have to find parking spaces outside the office block, double parking residential areas or walking a long way to work from alternative car parking or public transport. This will increase stress levels and productivity. And there also will be staff - in particular young mothers working part-time - who will have to quit their jobs as this additional levy doesn't make it profitable any more to go to work and pay for childcare in the meantime. Again, this will do our struggling economy no favours.

- Companies stop providing car parking spaces
I worked in city centres before where only limited car parking was available - and this was reserved to senior management. The 'normal' staff like me had to find their own way to work. In my case there was the option of using public transport (which would have taken me 2 hours each way and would have resulted in me having to leave work early to avoid missing my last bus home), paying for car parking in the close vicinity of my office (which would have cost me nearly as much as my net salary per day was) or to find a car parking space in residential areas and walk 30 minutes from there. I chose the last option and was often terrified walking through isolated parks in the dark on my way to and back from work. This stress didn't improve productivity by any means. Do we really want to get to a point where this is the norm?

I believe that businesses should rather be rewarded for providing car parking spaces for their employees by taking the cars off the public roads than being penalised. Motorists are already charged a lot of money for roads that often leave a lot to be desired. Isn't it time we start looking at how to get public spending under control rather than putting more strain on businesses and motorists who already struggling to make ends meet in the middle of a recession? I really think there must be better ways to solve the financial issues faced by councils.

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