The Nottingham Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) is an annual tax paid since 2012 by larger employers. Net proceeds are ring-fenced for investment in local transport. Police, fire and NHS premises are exempted, as are disabled parking bays and businesses with ten or fewer staff parking bays.
The levy is currently £415/year per liable parking space. It raises just under £10 million/year, net of costs. Since 2012 it has raised £64 million, against which the council has been able to borrow hundreds of millions of pounds to fund extensions to the tram network. It has also invested in expanding the bus network and improving transport integration at the railway station.
8.6% of those who use public transport, cycle or walk to work in Nottingham do so largely because of the WPL and transport measures it has funded. WPL has incentivised some employers to remove car parking space or to charge staff to use them. That has driven a significant and sustained modal shift from driving to work.
Scotland recently passed legislation to allow cities, starting with Edinburgh and Glasgow, to introduce a WPL. Oxford (with the support of Oxford University), Leicester and three London boroughs are proposing to introduce a WPL.
Yet, Cambridge seems to have ruled it out, faced with strong opposition from Cambridge Ahead. The business group’s membership includes both city universities, Arm, AstraZeneca, and other major employers, land owners and developers. In the 2015 City Deal Call for Evidence, Cambridge Ahead and the University of Cambridge both advocated consideration of a WPL. What has changed their minds?
Several of the concerns expressed by the recent Citizens’ Assembly (e.g. disproportionately affecting small businesses, or money not being reinvested in transport) are addressed in law for the Nottingham WPL. The initial levy, discounts and rebates can be set to ensure the impact is equitable.
We are trapped in a circular argument of people objecting to paying new taxes until there is better public transport, and local authorities having no money to improve public transport without raising new taxes. Phasing in a WPL is possibly the only way to break this deadlock.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 11 December 2019.