Norfolk County Council ‘earn more, pay more’ staff parking charges plan branded ‘selfish’

Alexandra Kemp ENGANL00120131028142036

Alexandra Kemp ENGANL00120131028142036

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Plans for Norfolk County Council to charge its own staff to park at authority buildings have been branded “disgraceful” and “selfish” by one of its own members.

Union leaders have also criticised the proposal, which is due to be put before a key council committee next week.

But officials say a new approach is needed to tackle the growing pressure on parking provision, particularly at the authority’s County Hall headquarters in Norwich.

A report to go before the policy and resources committee next Tuesday, September 1, urges members to support the principle of asking workers to pay for parking.

It says daily charges should be applied, but that staff who earn more should pay more.

Simon George, the council’s executive director of finance, said the charges should cost more than the city’s park and ride provision, in order to encourage more drivers to use public transport.

And the document even suggested that councillors themselves could be charged in the future.

When the council’s budget was set in February, members agreed plans to reduce the authority’s property estate, which officers estimate will save at least £7 million over three years.

But the report said there is already “considerable” pressure on parking space at County Hall and Mr George says the problem will only get worse if nothing is done.

He said: “It is likely that pressure for car parking spaces will continue to rise and, as such, a new policy is required.”

The report added that County Hall would be the first site where charges would be introduced.

But Clenchwarton and King’s Lynn South councillor Alexandra Kemp, an independent, has urged members on all sides to oppose the idea, which she described as a “tax” on people going to work.

She said: “Charging staff to park at County Hall is a disgraceful, selfish idea. It should be firmly opposed by all members.”

Jonathan Dunning, secretary of the council’s Unison union branch, has also urged councillors to block the idea.

He said: “Many staff cannot afford to pay. We have members who are on the minimum wage. In real terms our members pay has reduced by over 20 per cent in the last few years.

“Now is the time to appreciate the work staff do, not impose a charge at a time when their income is already under pressure.

“Car park charging will, to many of our members, feel like a poke in the eye.”

But Mr George said the idea of imposing higher charges on more senior staff was specifically designed to address concerns over the impact on lower-paid workers.

The report also asks members to consider whether staff who live within three miles of County Hall should be charged more or not.