Finance

Workplace parking levy plans may be vetted by ministers amid business fears

SNP ministers have been urged to scrap controversial plans to charge people to pay at work after business leaders warned the proposals are “a recipe for extra cost and complexity” for firms recovering from the pandemic.

The Scottish Government is giving local councils powers to introduce a workplace parking levy – with the funding raised to be spent on local transport strategies.

The plans have been opposed by the Scottish Conservatives, with the party’s transport spokesperson Graham Simpson set to table a motion to annul the plans at Tuesday’s meeting of Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee.

Concerns have been raised that councils can levy as much as they want on businesses per car parking space under the scheme and it will also be up to local authorities to decide the threshold of spaces for vehicles a business has before the tax kicks in.

But an SNP minister has now said that the Government may examine a council’s proposal to ensue details including the amount to be charged, are appropriate.

Ahead of Tuesday’s crunch meeting, David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, has called on MSPs for a rethink – warning that “the pandemic has been tumultuous for much of Scotland’s retail industry”.

Mr Lonsdale has stressed that “230,000 Scots are employed directly in the retail industry, some of whom drive to work”.

READ MORE: ‘Astonishing’: SNP minister Jenny Gilruth confirms no upper limit fee for workplace parking levy

He added: “The numbers of staff parking at work can be more prevalent during shift times when public transport options can be less accessible or non-existent. We would therefore suggest meaningful alternative means of getting to and from the workplace are in place before levies are implemented.

“We remain concerned that workplace parking levies remain a recipe for extra cost and complexity. This is especially so as firms already pay business rates on the parking places they provide for staff, and so could be taxed twice for such parking spaces.

“This may lead some employers to consider whether they ought to recoup some or all of the cost of the levy from staff, so this policy could well have a bearing on the cost of living and/or the ability of employers to retain or recruit staff .

“The introduction of workplace parking taxes during the coming financial year could introduce fresh unpredictability into firms’ budgeting. As such we continue to recommend that any implementation be paused over the coming financial year to aid firms’ recovery from the pandemic.”

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, has pointed to the “additional financial burden” it is believed will be placed on traders – adding that “businesses face a postcode lottery on charges” due to councils being able to shape their own Workplace parking levy scheme.

She added: “Many businesses are still recovering from the financial impact of the pandemic, which has severely reduced trade and significantly increased costs over the past two years, hitting our town and city centers hard.

“To support Scotland’s businesses and economic recovery Scottish Chambers of Commerce believe the workplace parking levy should be scrapped or, at a minimum, further deferred.”

SNP Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth has written to MSPs on the committee, suggesting that ministers could carry out an “examination of a proposal” drawn up by a councils, “which could include the amount of the license charge”.

She insisted that the powers “will provide local authorities with the tools on workplace parking licensing already held by councils in England and Wales and welcomed in Scotland by our local authority partners in Cosla”.

Ms Gilruth added: “The decision on the appropriate level of license charge is a matter of local authority discretion and accountability.

“If they consider it appropriate, Scottish ministers may initiate an independent examination of a proposal and specify the matters which they consider the examination should consider, which could include the amount of the license charge.

“We expect that local exemptions may arise in practice. In addition to the national level of exemptions, local authorities may create local exemptions in their schemes, which would reflect their local circumstances. These could, but are not required to and not limited to include, for example, an exemption for businesses with a small number of workplace parking places.”

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