An extra tax on workers and employers across the north-east has been ruled out by parties contesting the local elections in a move hailed as a “victory for common sense”.
The controversial workplace parking levy (WPL) will not be introduced in the north-east following a campaign led by Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC).
The chamber hailed the success of its crusade after it secured a cross-party consensus against the introduction of the proposed tax in both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
It said Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat and SNP groups in both local authorities have confirmed they are against the proposals — meaning that they are unlikely to become a reality regardless of the outcome of the local elections.
The proposed Holyrood legislation, widely opposed by the business community, allows local authorities to decide whether to impose an annual tax on car parking spaces provided by employers.
AGCC’s manifesto challenged all parties standing on 5 May to recognise that the added tax was “ill-suited” to Aberdeen city and shire – despite giving cash strapped councils an extra source of potential revenue.
AGCC chief executive Russell Borthwick described the move as “a victory for common sense”.
“While we want to see local authorities empowered to make good decisions for the communities they serve, a workplace parking levy could set business recovery back at a critical moment,” he said.
Encourage people back to city centre
“Councils need to encourage footfall into our city and town centres, get people back safely into workplaces and give businesses the best chance of getting back into their stride.
“The north-east of Scotland is such an interdependent region — with 100-mile round trips a daily reality for work, shopping and leisure.
“The focus of policymakers should be on the much-needed upgrades to infrastructure, investment in public transport and EV charging points to make low carbon travel options more attractive, not demonising motorists who need to get from A to B.”
The move to reject the tax by parties most likely to form local authority administrations following the elections was welcomed by both chamber members and the wider north-east business community.
Already taxed to the hilt
Callum McDonald, managing partner at Raeburn Christie Clark & Wallace, a solicitor firm with offices in Aberdeen, Banchory, Stonehaven and Inverurie, said the business already paid “substantial” tax in the form of business rates and that more costs heaped on businesses already struggling with inflation was “the last things any sensible council should do”.
“As a business with offices across the region we rely on our car parking facilities for partners, staff and clients, and we already pay substantial rates which are assessed in part because of our parking provision,” he said.
“Imposing further costs on businesses as we battle our way out of the pandemic while struggling with high inflationary cost increases is the last thing any sensible council should do, and it is refreshing to hear that all of the major parties support that view.”
Derren McRae, head of Aberdeen office at property firm CBRE, said the move would benefit people living in more rural areas with limited access to trains or buses to commute jobs in the city.
He said: “For many people who live and work in the area, there are limited alternative modes of public transport to get to and from work, especially for people who have set up home in more rural locations.
“It is therefore pleasing that there is cross-party support to ensure there is to be no additional financial burden on office-based businesses or their employees at a time when we are now starting to see the economic benefits of people returning to the workplace.”
Jacqueline Law, managing partner at Aberdeen Considine, which has eight offices and hundreds of staff across the north-east, including in Peterhead, Ellon, Dyce and Westhill, said: “This is an excellent result and an extremely welcome step in the right direction.
“It is the right decision for all those who contribute to the wider economic success and prosperity in the region and all those who live and work here.”
Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, the granite city’s business improvement district, said: “This is welcome news and it will come as a huge relief to the businesses of this region as they try to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.
“A workplace parking levy would be a bad fit for Aberdeen, given just how many of our workers and visitors live in the neighbouring shire.”
Yesterday in parliament, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross urged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to drop a “triple whammy of anti-driver taxes” ahead of the local elections.
He also took aim at the potential implementation of toll roads in Glasgow and a proposed congestion charge in Edinburgh.
He said: “If the First Minister carries on down this road, Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP candidates are going to force Scotland’s economy into the slow lane.
“The commuter tax should be abandoned, toll charges should be ruled out and her workplace parking tax should be ditched.
“First Minister, will you drop this triple whammy of anti-driver taxes?”
Glasgow and Edinburgh are currently examining whether to introduce the levy – with Glasgow estimating that it could raise up to £30m a year.
Nottingham is currently the only place in the UK where employees are charged to park at their work.