The so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), that Astroturf lobby group that claims to represent all taxpayers while in reality speaking for less than one tenth of one per cent of them, has a problem with public transport, especially when this impinges on the supposedly inalienable right of car owners to drive and park their vehicles where they please at no additional cost to Themselves Personally Now.
More guff from Tufton Street
To this end, Andrew Allison, the TPA’s “national grassroots coordinator” – which, as the TPA has no grassroots, is therefore the epitome of a non-job – has complained loudly about the city of Nottingham, where the local authority has set up a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) on employers who provide more than eleven spaces at their place of work. This is held by the TPA to be A Very Bad Thing.
Even worse for Allison is that the Nottingham WPL is increasing with the change in financial year, as was set out when it was brought in. The WPL was introduced in preference to such alternatives as a congestion charge, which in London was going to cause businesses to leave in droves, but then they didn’t. The WPL is going to fund public transport improvements in Nottingham.
The city is in a unique position: its local bus services are still run by the council, and there is therefore no problem with providing Park and Ride (P+R) services, or co-ordinating routes with the city’s tram system, the main beneficiary of the WPL. All this is anathema to the TPA: no free marketeer can agree with co-ordinated public transport, except of course in London where most of them work.
So out come the claims that businesses are being driven from the city because of the WPL, which this year stands at £334 per parking space per annum. That employers could cut back the number of spaces and encourage workers to use the P+Rs that ring the city centre is not allowed to enter. When Allison bleats “driving to work is the only viable option”, he is being disingenuous.
The WPL is not levied on parking spaces used by disabled blue badge holders. Most other employees can use public transport, or drive as far as the nearest P+R. The city centre benefits from lower traffic levels – remember, car usage in London has been falling for a while – and therefore a more pleasant environment. And new tram routes bring a very popular service to more of the population.
Whenever the Netherlands’ car owning population complains about motorway traffic jams – and the Amsterdam ring has them every working day – or baulks at parking charges or one-way systems and pedestrian streets, the response is a shrug and “you have a public transport alternative”. Nottingham is the least car dependent city in the UK. Because there is a credible public transport alternative.
Andrew Allison and the TPA think this is wrong. Except it’s they who are out of step.
While I abhor most of what bilge the TPA spit out, they are not wholly in the wrong about this. The Workplace Parking Levy is not a bad proposal in theory, and it is providing a much needed new extension to the tram route, but the transport infrastructure in Nottingham does not provide a realistic alternative for many commuters.
For example, one of the biggest employers in Nottingham is Boots support office in Beeston. Once the WPL came into action, they passed that levy directly onto the employees. Of course, you'd say, 'get the bus instead', but the P&R service that serves the Beeston site was already massively oversubscribed. You would sometimes have to wait for 2 or 3 packed buses to pass before you could find one to squeeze on to. And this service has hardly been expanded since. Not to mention that the tram extension will not even extend to the Boots site!
The council run Nottingham City Transport is usually fantastic, but there were a lot of things to put right before the WPL came into being. One of the things you need to ask is, why on earth does the 'least car dependent city in the UK' even need a levy on car parking spaces?! It doesn't help the opinion in Notts that the council are just money grabbing bastards.
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