PEOPLE are being reminded to make their views heard in a public consultation on proposals for a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) which runs for two more weeks.
The city council is proposing the citywide scheme under which larger employers would pay to provide car parking spaces for their staff – with the income from the scheme helping to fund a radical overhaul and long-term modernisation of the city’s public transport, cycling and walking networks.
An extensive 12-week public consultation runs until Sunday, March 13, giving people and employers the chance to find out more details about the proposed WPL and how it would work, and to comment on the scheme.
The improvements are key to meeting tough climate emergency and air quality targets set by both the Government and the city council itself, as well as dealing with congestion and connecting new housing developments with sustainable transport.
Under the WPL, most employers with more than 10 spaces would pay £550 per space per year for a licence to provide car parking for their employees. The high number of small businesses in Leicester means that around nine out of 10 are too small to have to pay.
Employers can decide to reduce their spaces, and also decide if and how they want to pass charges onto their staff.
The income from a WPL could be around £95million over the first 10 years, and would enable the city council to match-fund with other grants to invest up to £450million. It would mean the council could plan for long-term transport investment rather than just relying on uncertain Government funds.
The WPL is designed to encourage people who travel into the city regularly for work to use alternatives to cars for their daily commute, while financing the improvements needed to ensure the city’s public transport, cycling and walking networks provide realistic alternatives to car travel.
Plans for a WPL were featured as part of the council’s Draft Leicester Transport Plan 2021-2036, published last summer, which set out priorities in meeting the city’s transport needs over the next 15 years. Transport priorities which a WPL would help fund include:
- Over 400 high-quality electric tram-like buses by 2030, running on 25 Mainline services across city neighbourhoods, and five express Greenline commuter services linking six park and ride sites.
- New bus services on the outer ring road and free bus travel on a city centre loop.
- Giving buses priority on key routes to ensure they run regularly and frequently, using tickets which can be used across different bus services, and featuring real-time bus information.
- Affordable bus fares with discounts for elderly, disabled, young and unemployed people and the ability for all travellers to get the ‘best fare’ on any journeys across the city.
- A comprehensive city-wide network of cycleways linking existing city centre routes to local neighbourhoods.
- Investment in the railway station to ensure good regional and national connections and to build on the £22m of funding recently secured to revamp the station.
A WPL has been operating successfully across Nottingham for nearly 10 years, and Leicester City Council has been working closely with both Nottingham City Council, and Leicester’s De Montfort University, to assess the economic, environmental, transport and health impacts of such a scheme in Leicester.
Several other local councils, including Bristol and Oxford, are also considering introducing a WPL.
The scheme would require Government approval, after which the scheme could start in early 2023. The city council would work closely with local employers well in advance to prepare them for its introduction. Between 450 and 600 larger businesses across the city are likely to be eligible under the scheme.
Leicester deputy city mayor leading on transport and the environment, Cllr Adam Clarke, said: “The proposals are designed to address the climate emergency, as well as health inequalities and pressures that will come with predicted city growth over the next 10 to 15 years.
“Income from a levy would directly fund measures which are vital as we strive to achieve net zero, reduce life-limiting poor air quality and minimise costly congestion.
“We have produced a short film, setting out our vision and how a WPL could help us to achieve it.
“Nottingham City Council has been operating a very similar WPL for the last 10 years or so, and they are sharing their experience and expertise with us.
“We’ve gathered evidence of how the charge has been levied fairly and designed a scheme intended to widen opportunity to all, including the many people in the city who cannot afford a car.
“We need to radically extend, enhance and electrify public transport if people are to be persuaded to leave their cars at home, leaving those that still need to use their cars and vans with less congestion, saving them both time and money.
“We have no fixed timetable proposed for the introduction of any levy, which would need to be sensitive to wider economic circumstances.
“We know that there are other concerns and of course need to reflect on any potential unintended consequences. We need to hear from people across the city to know their concerns as well as what they would want from such a scheme, and how to make it work as best as it can for Leicester.
“Before responding to the consultation I would urge everyone to look at the frequently asked questions (FAQs) page on our website, dealing with the issues and misconceptions we have picked up in our many meetings across the city over recent weeks.”
The WPL proposals are the latest stage of work to address the city’s transport needs. The city council is also working on its Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), setting out ambitious plans which would vastly improve bus services, vehicles and routes across Leicester in an innovative 10-year project involving a formal partnership between the city council and local bus operators.
Leicester City Council also recently clinched £19million from the Government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme, towards a £47million programme that will see the introduction of almost 100 new electric buses.
To read the frequently asked questions, watch the short film and take part in the consultation visit here.