Bristol Mayor proposes ‘parking tax’

Bristol Mayor George Ferguson seems intent on hurting motorists in Bristol, regardless of its impact on local traders. Mayor Ferguson is now proposing to raise the cost of business parking permits by up to 400 per cent. He wants local businesses to pay close to £500 per annual customer permit. ‘The whole point is to reduce the amount of traffic on the roads by commuters at peak hours,’ he claims. It’ll certainly help reduce the amount of business in the city.

The increased business permits will come as part of a scheme to create 18 residents’ parking zones (RPZ) throughout the city over the next 18 months. Normally, RPZs are introduced as a result of a consultation process with residents, but in this case Mayor Ferguson appears to want to impose them regardless of whether residents want them or not. Residents will have to pay between £48 and £192 for their parking permits.

‘The principle of RPZ is fine, in areas where people want them,’ says an opposition councillor. ‘But this one-size-fits-all scheme—which is being imposed on people whether they like it or not—is nothing less than a parking tax.’

‘They're probably about a quarter of what the commercial charge for a parking space would be—albeit not a dedicated space,’ argues Ferguson. But local traders are already concerned about the impact on their businesses.

One painter and decorator said it would eat into his profits and when he works in a current RPZ zone he has to waste 1½ hours a day driving backwards and forwards to drop off his equipment. ‘I was painting an unoccupied flat so there was no one to give me a permit,’ he explained. ‘I had to drive from Kingsdown with my equipment, drop it off, drive back and then walk back to Cotham in order to work.’

‘My issue is recruitment—we have about 40 staff who work for us,’ says a nursery operator, ‘and there are several that genuinely need to park near to work.’ A council official told one of her members of staff, who lives seven miles away, to ‘use public transport or walk to work—this was impossible as she had to bring her child in every day so the only option she felt she had was to leave.’

‘Local business is already suffering from the loss of the parking at Bristol North Baths,’ says a spokesman for Gloucester Road independent traders. ‘If this toxic plan comes to fruition, one by one the traders will go and the high street will no longer be present.’

This is not the Mayor’s first proposed assault on Bristol car drivers and traders. He recently announced he is considering introducing a congestion charge to the city. ‘I've talked to Ken Livingstone about it,’ said Ferguson. ‘He was the first and the bravest in terms of taking some leadership on this issue.’ Although he conceded the concept was unpopular and had been dropped by all other cities throughout the UK.

‘Bristol is not London,’ responded a spokesman from the RAC. ‘We don't have the investment in public transport, we don't have a comprehensive underground system. The idea of just slapping on a congestion charge to Bristol as it stands will have a negative impact on motorists and the city's economic livelihood.’

It seems that Mayor Ferguson is starting to suffer from the same tendency of other mayors, who often feel they need to embrace some grand transport scheme as their legacy. It invariably ends up costing the local taxpayer, driver and entrepreneur.

Tim Newark, South West TaxPayers’ Alliance

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