Graham Turner: Car park charges are a tax on workers

Surface Carpark beside Parkway

Surface Carpark beside Parkway

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We had a visit in the office last week from Mark Cordell, chief executive of business group Bid4Bury, to introduce his new colleague, Neil Boast.

The conversation eventually turned to Mark’s battle with St Edmundsbury Borough Council for a fair parking offer in Bury, particularly for shoppers.

Town centre traders are desperate to encourage people into the town and so far seem to be disappointed with the council’s efforts.

I share their disappointment, but on behalf of people who work in the town centre and have to use a car.

When I started working in Bury around 10 years ago, I paid 50p a day for the Parkway car park, today it is £2.20 – an increase of 340%. I only wish my salary had risen by the same level in that time.

My biggest beef is that St Edmundsbury uses its car parks to milk motorists (excuse the bovine word play) to subsidise other services – a couple of million pounds at the last count.

The phrase ‘user pays’ seems to be trotted out at regular intervals when the subject of parking charges is raised, but this should surely also apply to the services that I’m subsidising.

It’s also a phrase that should be used sparingly in the arena of public services – it could equally be applied to the NHS, schools, even fire and police.

I also rather think that us car drivers are already being quite generous in our contribution to the public purse: VAT on car purchases, road fund licence, VAT on fuel, duty on fuel, tax on insurance premiums; Council Tax, Income Tax, National Insurance, VAT on other goods . . .

Of course, I could use public transport, but (with apologies to Monty Python) I’d have to get up half an hour before I went to bed in order to get the bus to work and should I ever need to travel on a Sunday, I couldn’t – the bus company having decided that the folk in my village should stay at home on the Sabbath.

Neil, the new man at Bid4Bury, has his own answer to the car parking problem – he rides a motor cycle. Unfortunately, motorbikes terrify me and my views on riders’ liberal interpretation of the Highway Code will no doubt feature in a future column.