Controversial workplace parking levy being considered in Sandwell in bid to combat climate change

Drivers who get free parking from their employers could end up paying under proposals to tackle climate change.

A workplace parking levy has been proposed by Sandwell Council bosses despite a survey which showed 93 per cent of people think it is a bad idea.

The levy on businesses’ car parks has been included in a strategy to make Sandwell carbon neutral by 2041.

Councillor Wasim Ali, deputy leader of Sandwell Council, won initial approval for the charge earlier this month when he said global warming was more dangerous than Covid.

He told councillors: “The cabinet endorsed the strategy in August. Despite the challenges the current pandemic poses climate change remains the most significant long term threat to our existence.”

He added: “The benefits of addressing climate change are widespread and include improved air quality, reducing fuel poverty, ensuring the long term viability of our businesses and enhancing the image of Sandwell through an extensive plan of tree planting.”

Council officers have suggested the levy could help pay for the climate change programmes.

Controversial

Nottingham Council is the only authority to operate a workplace levy which charges companies, with more than 11 parking bays, £415 a year per space.

The Local Government Association has said since being launched in 2012 over half of the businesses charged have passed on the cost to their workers.

The controversial suggestion was included in Sandwell’s strategy even though a council run consultation showed only seven per cent of people backed the idea.

The scheme has also got a lukewarm reception from business leaders.

A spokesman for the Black Country Chamber of Commerce said the levy would be another burden on firms, saying: “In the current climate of economic recession, a global pandemic and Brexit, businesses need to avoid any additional costs which impact their ability to do business.

“Businesses need to be fully consulted on any proposal which impacts their ability to do business and we offer our support to Sandwell Council to do this.”

Asked why the proposal was included in its climate change strategy despite having little public support and how much money it was expected to raise, a Sandwell Council spokesman, said: “Our Climate Change Strategy includes several action plans which cover the main areas that need to be addressed to help Sandwell support the government’s ambition for the UK to be carbon zero by 2050.

“The action plan is separated into actions that can be taken by the council, by residents, by businesses and by partners.

“In respect of the action regarding ‘workplace levies for parking’, this was an activity which was suggested businesses could ‘consider’ taking.

“Unfortunately, we are therefore not in a position to say when levies would be introduced, how many companies would be affected, or how much money would be raised, as this would ultimately be down to each business to consider and implement.

“Regarding the question about why it was included in the strategy, we would simply point out that in order for Sandwell to take its fair share of meeting the UK’s 2050 target, it will be necessary to look at all areas of life which emit carbon dioxide and devise solutions accordingly.”

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