‘Shedding staff’ could be hidden agenda in Somerset council parking charge row, says Unite
Questions are being asked whether plans by Somerset county council to charge its staff £250-a-year to park at the council’s Taunton headquarters could be a way to force workers to leave the authority.
Unite, the country’s largest union, points out that the authority has conceded that some of the 800 staff affected could resign if the charges are introduced in September. The union said that there would be only permits available for 267 staff out of the 800 at any one time.
Unite regional officer Heathcliffe Pettifer said: “Questions have to be asked whether or not there is a hidden agenda here which forces employees to leave on their own accord, saving the council redundancy payments and reducing its workforce.
“Somerset is a very rural county and people need their cars to get to work at county hall because of the threadbare nature of public transport.
“The paltry one per cent pay rise in April has already been wiped out by the rise in national insurance so this parking charge is a pay cut made after years of enforced austerity.
“We call on the county council to scrap this proposal as a way of retaining dedicated workers who keep increasingly stretched public services, such as social care, functioning efficiently on a daily basis.
“Staff morale has been hit by this misguided announcement, especially as the council also admits that there is no guarantee of a parking space, even if staff fork out £250.
“In reputational terms, the council has scored an own goal; especially if councillors themselves find a way of avoiding this charge by claiming it back on expenses.”
A council memo to staff said: “A parking charge for all permits, except for Blue Badge holders, will be introduced. An annual charge of £250 is proposed (for five days a week parking). Payments will be deducted from salary on a monthly basis. The changes will take effect later in 2016.”
The proposal is now out for consultation.
HR Policy Committee 13 June 2016
Item No. 6 Workplace Travel Plan Project –Parking at County Hall
1. The Workplace Travel Plan Project has produced a County Hall specific Travel Plan that is in line with adopted SCC policy (although the Travel Plan for County Hall is subject to adoption by the Council). The County Hall Travel Plan identifies a need to achieve a more transparent and more equitable arrangement for parking in line with current and emerging business needs and to bring County Hall parking in line with other working hubs where charges are already in place for staff car parking.
2. Current parking allocations on the County Hall campus are based on the old operating model (pre 2012) and as such are not reflective of either service or individual business needs for parking. Those staff who benefit currently from a parking permit may not need to use their cars regularly for business purposes – in effect, they therefore enjoy a benefit of between £500 – £1300 per annum over staff without permits who have to pay for parking elsewhere.
3. We don’t have enough parking to satisfy demand. The current parking on the campus is out of line with business need and therefore we need to prioritise what parking there is for those with the greatest business need but even then there is insufficient capacity hence the introduction of a charge which will manage demand and allow those with greatest business need to purchase a space.
Read more http://www1.somerset.gov.uk/council/Board37%20HR%20Policy/2016%20June%2013%20Item%206%20Car%20Parking%20at%20County%20Hall.pdf
COUNCIL staff who use their private cars for work are being hit with a new £250 annual charge to park at County Hall – even though they won’t be guaranteed a space.
Somerset County Council admits scrapping free parking could lead to some employees refusing to use their own vehicles for work to avoid the permit fee, putting pressure on the authority to provide more pool cars.
It also acknowledges that some workers could resign over the issue.
A similar charge could be imposed on councillors, although it is believed they would be able to reclaim the fee on expenses.
A union boss said the charge comes after staff were awarded a one per cent pay rise, which was wiped out by the rise in National Insurance contributions in April.
UNITE branch secretary Nigel Behan added: “The chief executive on Friday praised all the staff for their hard work, then this happens. It sends the wrong message and has done nothing for staff morale.
“The decision was made by councillors, yet they are being consulted separately and a decision hasn’t been taken yet as to whether they’ll have to pay as well.
“The council will probably have to increase the number of pool cars it has as some people could possibly withdraw the availability of their cars for work.”
Taunton resident Dave Orr has criticised the move, saying: “The unions weren’t consulted properly and councillors will probably reclaim the fee on expenses if they have to pay it.
“It doesn’t smack of leadership with much integrity to me.”
Under the scheme, Blue Badge holders will be able to park for free, part-time staff will be charged pro rata, and car share workers, who will have to park in Burton Place, will also be charged.
But Adrienne Parry, the council’s strategic manager, business support, in a report to councillors, said “there is no guarantee that a space will be available at any one time” even if staff have paid.
She added: “Those staff who benefit currently from a (free) parking permit may not need to use their cars regularly for business purposes – in effect, they therefore enjoy a benefit of between £500 and £1,300 per annum over staff without permits who have to pay for parking elsewhere.
“Due to the additional financial cost, some employees may consider looking for employment outside of Somerset County Council.”
Income raised from the parking permits will be used to “improve on-site facilities and travel options for staff” and could include shower facilities.
Around 800 staff will be directly affected by the new scheme from September, with bosses saying the current system is “unfair” as staff working from ‘hubs’ in other areas of the county are currently charged to park.