Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Friday, 31 July 2009 11:56 UK

Tories attack office parking levy

Tram and cars in Nottingham
Critics say the charges will force firms to relocate

Plans to charge employees for using parking spaces at work have been criticised by the Conservatives.

The UK's first office parking levy scheme is to be introduced in Nottingham to help pay for an extension to the city's tram network.

Ministers have approved the council's proposal but said it cannot start until 2012, two years later than intended, to give businesses time to adjust.

The Tories say the annual fee of up to £350 per space will hurt businesses.

Ministers gave local authorities the powers to introduce workplace parking charges to fund public transport improvements in 2000 but Nottingham Council is the first to request them.

'Hit enterprise'

The government approved Nottingham's tram extension on Friday and said it would contribute £530m towards the project.

It also said the council could go ahead with a levy on office parking spaces to help pay for its share of the project as well as the redevelopment of the city's railway station.

But it said this could not begin until April 2012 - later than the council requested - due to the impact of the recession and to allow firms and employees time to consider transport alternatives.

Schemes may only be introduced if they will contribute to the achievement of local transport policies
Department of Transport

From then, workers at companies with 11 or more parking spaces could be liable for charges.

The Conservatives said the tax would be an extra burden on business when it could least afford it.

"At a time when jobs are under huge pressure, it is wrong to hit enterprise in Nottingham with a workplace parking levy," shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers told the Daily Telegraph.

"These new charges will be a real blow to the city and we oppose them."

Business groups oppose the plan, saying it could force firms to re-locate. They are concerned other councils will follow suit, regarding it as an efficient money-raising idea.

But transport groups say the plans are sensible and will help to reduce congestion, to the benefit of local firms.

The Department of Transport said it was "entirely" up to councils to decide if workplace charges were an appropriate way of paying for public transport improvements and reducing congestion.

"Schemes may only be introduced if they will contribute to the achievement of local transport policies, with all revenues reinvested in local transport," a spokeswoman said.

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