Government accused of making parking ‘U-turn’ to screw over keyworkers

The government has been criticised after ending the free parking for keyworkers that was available during the pandemic. From 21 June, keyworkers will no …

By Jasmine Norden

The government has been criticised after ending the free parking for keyworkers that was available during the pandemic.

From 21 June, keyworkers will no longer be able to apply for free parking passes for local-authority owned car parks, after new guidance was issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG).

Since March 2020, keyworkers have been able to apply for the parking passes from NHS Trusts, the Royal Volunteer Service and councils. The pass allowed them to use local authority owned on-street bays or off-street car parks.

As coronavirus (Covid-19) case rates begin to rise again, the decision has prompted opposition.

“An already demoralised workforce”

Unions and NHS employees came together at the beginning of the pandemic to petition the government to introduce free parking. This followed a long-running campaign for free parking for NHS staff.

GMB Union said it was not consulted or notified about the change in free parking guidance. The union urged the government to reconsider in order to keep keyworkers safe.

Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary, said:

It’s clear Minister’s priorities are all in the wrong places and some are increasingly becoming the penny-pinching bad bosses we see in the private sector.

They might have thought they’d get away with secretly lifting free parking for NHS & social care staff – well they can think again.

We know the public are on our side.

The government need to back down and continue with the free parking we secured at the start of the pandemic. If they don’t, they risk stirring up an already demoralised workforce who will want to respond strongly to resist further cuts to their pay, terms, and conditions.

Parking problems

The Department of Health and Social Care has committed to continuing free parking at hospitals until the pandemic is over, though it hasn’t committed to making the scheme permanent.

Many hospitals are stretched in terms of parking. For example, there aren’t enough parking spaces for staff in any of the hospitals in the South East. Darent Valley Hospital has just 1,500 spaces but 4,000 members of staff.

This comes on top of the government prompting outrage by offering some keyworkers only a 1% pay rise earlier this year.

Local council responsibility

In a statement the MHCLG said:

Following the publication of the government’s roadmap for lifting COVID-19 restrictions, a decision has been taken to withdraw the emergency parking pass guidance by 21 June 2021.

Local councils are responsible for setting their own local policy on parking. Therefore, current or potential pass holders are advised to contact their local council find out about any local plans for the future of the parking pass, or to check whether they are eligible for other local parking permits.

A government spokesperson told the Mirror:

NHS staff have performed an incredible role at every stage of this pandemic and they will continue to benefit from free parking at hospitals throughout the pandemic response, thanks to our funding.

On top of this, we are supporting hospitals to provide free parking to thousands more NHS patients and visitors, including disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of children staying overnight and staff working night shifts.

Wider local paid-for parking will resume when we move on to the next step of the roadmap but councils can continue to offer this if they wish.

Continuing need

Over the last seven days, 23,418 people tested positive for coronavirus – a 28.8% increase on the previous seven days.

GMB warned that the increase in infections meant ending free parking on 21 June is “beyond belief”.

Featured image via Flickr/Frankie Roberto & Flickr/Garry Knight

By Jasmine Norden

This post was originally published on The Canary.


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