John Finnie MSP, supported by the Scottish Government, has introduced amendments to the Transport (Scotland) Bill that would allow Scottish local authorities to introduce a workplace parking levy (WPL), if they think it appropriate. If agreed, this would bring the law in Scotland into line with that in England and Wales. This blog aims to answer some of the key questions raised about the WPL.
What is the WPL?
The WPL amendments would allow a local authority, either on its own or working with other authorities, to levy an annual charge on workplace car parks. The WPL is not a national scheme and local authorities would be free to decide whether, or not, to introduce a WPL.
The WPL would be collected by way of a licensing scheme. Employers that provide their staff with on-site parking would be required to apply to their local authority for a licence for each car park. The cost of the licence would be based on the maximum number of vehicles that each workplace car park can hold, with a set charge for each parking space. A licensing scheme could exempt smaller workplace car parks from payment, e.g. the Nottingham WPL scheme exempts car parks with 10 or fewer spaces from paying for a licence.
While all workplace car parks would require a licence, not all employers would be required to pay. Each scheme could set out local exemptions from the requirement to pay for a licence. In addition, there would be a number of Scotland-wide exemptions, where payment cannot be levied. These are:
- all NHS properties
- GP surgeries
- disabled persons’ parking places.
A licensing scheme could allow for variations in WPL charges according to different days, different times of day, different parts of the licensing area, different classes of motor vehicle or different numbers of licensed spaces.
Why introduce a WPL?
John Finnie MSP, who proposed the introduction of the WPL, states that the WPL has the potential to disincentivise private car use, particularly single occupancy trips which:
“…can play an important role in reducing transport emissions by promoting public transport and active travel modes, potentially leading to reductions in traffic congestion and improving air quality.”
This is consistent with research which has concluded that “reduced access to free workplace parking stands out as one of the most effective ways of reducing car use on work trips.”
How do I make my views known about the WPL?
The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee is gathering views on the WPL through a short online survey, which is open for submissions until 20 May 2019.
Does anywhere else have a WPL?
Who might have to pay the WPL?
The WPL would be paid by employers with car parks that meet the criteria for payment set out in any WPL scheme. Employers could choose to pay the WPL or pass on some, or all, of the charge to those employees who use workplace parking spaces.
How much might the WPL cost?
WPL charges would be set by each local authority that chose to introduce a WPL scheme. Nottingham City Council has set a charge of £415 per workplace parking space from 1 April 2019.
What would any funds raised by the WPL be spent on?
Funds raised by a WPL scheme, after meeting scheme expenses, must be spent on policies, programmes or projects set out in the relevant local authority Local Transport Strategy.
How many people might have to pay the WPL?
The number of employees liable to pay the WPL would be dependent on the number of local authorities that introduced a WPL scheme, the terms of those schemes and most importantly the proportion of employers that chose to pass on the charge to employees who chose to park in a workplace car park liable to the WPL.
Taking the experience of the Nottingham WPL, the following provides a tentative estimate of how many employees might be liable to pay the WPL in Edinburgh, were a similar scheme introduced in the city.
The Nottingham WPL applies to approximately 25,000 workplace parking spaces, from a total of 42,000 spaces. Nottingham had a population of 329,209 and Edinburgh a population of 513,210 in 2017 (ONS data). Assuming a similar density of workplace parking spaces in Edinburgh and that workplace parking spaces are proportional to population, Edinburgh would have 39,000 workplace parking places liable for the WPL.
A BBC report states that eight out of 10 employers in Nottingham require employees to pay the WPL. Assuming the same proportion of Edinburgh employers require employees to pay, and that parking spaces are evenly distributed between employers, then the WPL would be paid by 31,200 Edinburgh employees.
There were 333,000 employees in Edinburgh in 2017. This would mean that the WPL would be paid by 9.4% of all Edinburgh employees, or to put it another way – nine out of 10 Edinburgh employees would not pay the WPL following its introduction in the city.
Would the WPL have a bigger impact on people on lower incomes?
Does the WPL impose a greater burden (relative to resources available) on those with lower incomes? This is difficult to assess without knowing the details of any particular WPL scheme. However, Transport Scotland statistics clearly show that the higher a household’s net income, the more likely it is that employed adults within that household will drive to work, as set out in the chart below:
In addition, Transport Scotland data shows that possession of a full driving licence is also strongly related to net household income, as set out in the chart below:
These charts show that the majority of people in employment living in households with a net income of less than £15,000 do not drive to work, with many not even have the option of doing so. Given this, while some people living in low-income households (defined as households with an average income below 60% of median income – £15,800 in 2017/18) will pay the WPL, it is likely that the majority of people who drive to work and park in dedicated workplace car parks will be from middle and higher income households.
It is worth noting that reducing motorised vehicle traffic disproportionately benefits those living in deprived communities. Research indicates that those living in deprived communities are both more likely to experience higher levels of local air pollution from vehicles and are more susceptible to the effects of that pollution. In addition, research highlights that people living in the most deprived communities, particularly children, are up to five times more likely to be killed in traffic collisions than those living in the least deprived areas, with similar patterns also observed for injuries.
What impact has the WPL had in Nottingham?
Independent academic research into the impact of the Nottingham WPL on traffic congestion concluded that there is “…a statistically validated link between the introduction of a WPL and a reduction in congestion.”
Further academic research into the economic and business investment impact of the public transport improvements funded by the Nottingham WPL concluded that public transport developments funded by WPL revenue had a positive impact in attracting inward investment to the city.
Alan Rehfisch, Senior Researcher, Transport and Planning