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Parking tax: UK cities to impose parking taxes in bid to reduce pollution | Environment
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Parking tax: UK cities to impose parking taxes in bid to reduce pollution | Environment

Anne Hidalgo

As a response to the climate emergency, UK councils are using radical strategies for reducing the number polluting vehicles on the streets.

Leicester city council hopes that a new parking fee on work will improve air quality, finance public transport, and encourage walking and cycling.

Labour introduced the power to raise a workplace parking tax (WPL) from local business more than 20 years ago. However, parking is so controversial in local government, Nottingham is the only UK city to have a program.

Now, Leicester is poised to be the second. It is currently consulting on proposals to charge companies that have more than 10 spaces for parking 550 per year starting next year. Employers can decide whether to pay the cost or pass it along to their employees. It could raise up to 450m in the next ten years to invest in new electric buses, a larger cycle network, and station renovations.

Adam Clarke, Leicester’s deputy mayor for environment, transport and community, wants to expand the use of the workplace parking tax levy to reduce car dominance.

Clarke stated that they were a historic town. The road network was built in a Roman style and was constrained by the introduction of the motor vehicle in the postwar period. This attracted more cars to the city.

We have done a lot to encourage a shift to walking, cycling and buses. However, if we are to address our environmental, economic, or health challenges, there must be more than a mere step change.

Some businesses, opposition councillors and motoring groups have condemned the plans. Nigel Porter, a Liberal Democrat Leicester councillor, stated that the current proposals are just a stick and there is no carrot. You could be a nurse or doctor and attend shifts at different times of the day or night. There isn’t always going to bus service for you. There seems to be an agenda. [among]Some Labour Party members want to charge people off the road.

According to the economic impact study by the council, several local businesses described WPL as a stealthy tax that would impose large costs, while one employer simply called the plan insane.

Clarke stated that the council was open to working with employers to identify specific solutions to the gaps in the transport network. This includes demand-responsive buses and cycle storage.

Others expressed concern about the impact of WPL on low-paid workers. A spokesperson for AA said that WPL is a flat rate local tax which is passed on to employees. Therefore, it impacts lower-income workers more than others.

Anne Hidalgo
Anne Hidalgo is the Paris mayor and a champion for the 15-minute model. Photograph: Vincent Isore/Rex/Shutterstock

According to the council, employers could choose to charge higher earnings than low-paid staff if they pass on the fee. Leicester wants to replicate the 15-minute city model that Anne Hidalgo, Paris mayor, championed. It is a place where all the essential amenities can be reached in a 15 minute walk or cycle. It is a compact city, and only 25% of car trips are less than 1.25 mi. The average trip is 3 miles.

Clarke said that while we know that most journeys in Leicester are easily walked or ridden, there are many opportunities to improve public transport. If we could do that we’d be able provide real alternatives, and those who really need to drive a car will be able benefit from the reduced traffic.

Local authorities are increasingly looking at a workplace parking tax as a viable option. They are often short of cash and have to meet tough air quality targets. Oxfordshire county council will soon launch a charging area to cover Oxford city center. Bristol, Cambridge, and other cities have expressed interest.

In Scotland, where Edinburgh is exploring options for workplace parking, this has become a contentious issue.

Labour and the Conservatives have strongly opposed the plans in Scotland, with Neil Bibby, Labour transport spokesperson, calling it a commuter-tax and a shameless attack upon workers’ pay packets.

Other councils have established clean air zones in which older, more polluting cars are subject to fees in order to encourage sustainable transport. London’s ultra-low emission zone is in operation since 2019. Birmingham was the second city to implement a zone that applied to private cars last year.

However, plans to create a clean air zone within Greater Manchester have been halted by Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester. He wants more funding to encourage people to switch to greener vehicles.

Nottingham’s workplace parking levie has been used to raise over 83 million since 2012 and unlock 600m more grants.

One study found that it has had a modest impact on commuters’ travel patterns.Academic evaluation8.6% of commuters reported that they had given up their car due to the levy.

Sue Flack, who delivered Nottingham’s programme, now consults to local authorities.

They would prefer to have transport but not the tax, but it doesnt work this way.

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