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Should Norwich businesses be taxed for their staff car parks?

PUBLISHED: 15:49 12 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:49 12 March 2019

Norwich City Council is being called on to bring in a workplace parking levy. Picture: Nick Butcher

Norwich City Council is being called on to bring in a workplace parking levy. Picture: Nick Butcher

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Should Norwich businesses be taxed for offering parking to their employees?

That is the question that is being put to Norwich City Council, with the issue set to be debated by councillors next week.

Norwich is being urged to follow Nottingham’s lead, after, in 2012, its city council became the only council in the country to use powers granted by central government allowing it to charge a workplace parking levy.

The levy, which taxes any business providing 11 or more parking spaces to employees, would specifically fund transport schemes.

Now, Norwich City Council is being urged to follow in its footsteps and bring in a similar levy in a bid to help reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

Norwich BID launches business plan for the next five years.
Stefan Gurney.Norwich BID launches business plan for the next five years. Stefan Gurney.

In a question to full council, environmental student Matt White, of Silver Road in Norwich, will ask if the council would consider adopting the scheme.

Mr White, 36, who has also campaigned for the city to have a car-free day, said: “Since its introduction, Nottingham has made millions from the levy, so it feels like we’re missing a trick.

“For me, it is a no-brainer. At a recent meeting the city council said it would be keen for trams in the city and this would be a great way of raising money towards that.”

Mr White, who lives with a lung condition, added that the levy could serve as a disincentive for people to drive into work, with businesses often shunting costs to their employees.

Workplace parking levy vox pop - Olivia Howlett. Picture: Ella DevereuxWorkplace parking levy vox pop - Olivia Howlett. Picture: Ella Devereux

However, Norwich Business Improvement District director Stefan Gurney has warned the measure runs the risk of a punitive impact on businesses in the city.

He said: “It must be kept in mind that these companies do already pay business rates, so this would effectively be taxing them twice.

“Not everybody has access to public transport and with Norwich having a big rural surrounding some businesses do have to offer parking to make these jobs accessible to everybody.”

Mr Gurney added that it could potentially drive businesses out of the city and damage the local economy.

Workplace parking levy vox pop - Kalen Farrow-Fyfe Picture: Ella DevereuxWorkplace parking levy vox pop - Kalen Farrow-Fyfe Picture: Ella Devereux

The issue will be discussed at a full meeting of Norwich City Council next week.

Previous discussions

The idea of a workplace parking levy has been discussed in the City Hall council chamber before, with the issue debated around a decade ago.

In 2010, a question similar to Mr White’s was posed to the city council, asking whether they would follow suit.

Workplace parking levy vox pop - Adam Davies. Picture: Ella DevereuxWorkplace parking levy vox pop - Adam Davies. Picture: Ella Devereux

However, the response from councillors was that the decision would be “political suicide”.

Brian Morrey, who was the city council’s executive member for sustainable city development, said at the time: “While workplace parking charges may be a way forward in an ideal world where actions do not have consequences, it would be an act of political suicide to even contemplate it in our imperfect world.”

However, it remains to be seen whether the city council will take a different stance this time around.

Since the powers were made available to councils, only Nottingham City Council has taken it on as a policy.

However, other cities, including Cambridge, Oxford and Glasgow are exploring similar schemes.

Your views

People in Norwich have given a mixed view on the levy.

Adam Davies, a 23-year-old sales assistant who lives in the city centre, said: “If public transport improved because of the tax, people would be more likely to choose it over using their cars.”

Olivia Howlett, 19 and of Sprowston, said: “A parking tax would not be welcomed by younger people who work for bigger businesses. The expenses of being in full-time work at a young age means people like me already pay a lot just to be there - a parking levy would be another unaffordable expense.”

Kalen Farrow-Fyfe, 21 and of Bowthorpe, added: “I’ve had experience of employers trying to promote a healthy lifestyle by making car parking more expensive to encourage use of public transport, but it is not always easy to find an alternative form.”

In an online poll, 81pc of those who participated said the levy would be a bad idea.

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