Parking levy 'will put off business'
TWO of Bristol's leading politicians are backing a campaign against plans to tax businesses for providing their staff with parking spaces.
Bristol is set to become only the second city in the country to introduce a workplace parking levy for city centre companies.
Business organisations opposed to the proposals are now being joined by MP Charlotte Leslie and Tory mayoral candidate Geoff Gollop.
Under the plans businesses would pay a tax of £1 per day for every staff parking place they provided, with the option of passing on the charge to their workers.
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The money raised would be used to plug a £4 million shortfall in the £200 million bus rapid transit scheme.
The Federation of Small Businesses has already spoken out against the plans and is being joined by the Tax Payers Alliance.
Mr Gollop and Bristol North West Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie will join the group on Saturday to launch the campaign, which is also being supported by the Association of British Drivers.
The campaigners claim Bristol will send out a message that it is not business-friendly if the parking levy is introduced. There are fears that the levy would lead to even more bureaucracy for small businesses already struggling to survive.
Tim Newark, the south west coordinator for the Tax Payers Alliance, said: "Residents should also be concerned as this levy could mean an increase in the number of cars parked in residential roads, which would in turn lead to a proliferation of permit parking schemes and more charges and paperwork they have to deal with."
Guy Kingston, chairman of Bristol Branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "The council has a duty to support the local economy. Yet it persists in crazy schemes like this, which the entire business community is opposed to.
"The economy will only recover when politicians start listening to people with the nous to make it recover – people who run businesses that can grow."
Brian MacDowall, spokesman for the Association of British Drivers, said: "This is yet another stealth tax on cash-strapped drivers to help pay for a Bus Rapid Transit scheme that will no doubt haemorrhage millions of pounds of taxpayers' cash."
Mr Gollop said: "I am totally opposed to a workplace parking levy. It is a disincentive to employment and a further tax on employers and employees at a time when we need to be creating jobs. It is a muddled concept that has no support amongst employers and penalises those whose work requires them to be mobile."
Other candidates have also expressed opposition to the levy.
Labour's Marvin Rees said: "Bristol needs policies to improve transport in the city, not a crude tax on people who already have too few choices. This is simply a flat-rate tax on business. We face a challenge to reduce traffic levels but we can only do this by making public transport more attractive by reducing cost and improving frequency and reliability."
Independent Andrew Thorne said: "If the firm owns the land then why should the council charge them? This opens the way for charging homeowners and tenants for parking in the future."
Respect's Neil Maggs said: "Another daft idea from the Lib Dems, just when we are supposed to be helping small and medium sized businesses through a double dip recession.Firms that pass the cost on will be effectively cutting staff pay by £20 a month. Where is the justice in that?"
Independent Save Filton Airfield candidate Tim Collins said: "I am opposed to road pricing and the workplace levy on car parking spaces. Every firm should introduce a transport plan for their employees to use more sustainable modes of travel. I will introduce a Bristol Metro and other alternatives to the car in my first term of office."
Independent Eric Mutch said: "Why not just introduce a tax on all spending across the board? A small percentage tax whenever money is transacted, turned over or spent? Then we wouldn't have to punish businesses or people for reducing the number of cars parked on the streets."
But Green Party candidate Daniella Radice supports the levy.
She said: "The sum proposed is low compared to daily commercial car park charges in the city centre. It will encourage walking, cycling and the use of trains and buses, and so decrease congestion and air pollution, and the money raised will go towards improving public transport.
"Where it has been implemented in Nottingham, the levy only applies above a certain number of car parking places per business and this should be considered, to reduce the impact on small businesses."
Liberal Democrat candidate Jon Rogers said: "The only discussion about the workplace parking levy that I am aware of is in connection with the possible business contribution to BRT costs.
"Those discussions are not resolved, as far as I am aware, and are also looking at supplementary business rate options, or perhaps even linking with city deal. These are sensitive discussions, and I would not wish to interfere at this stage."
Independent George Ferguson was not available for comment yesterday.