Heated debate sparked by news that St Albans councillors can park for free

PUBLISHED: 13:10 02 February 2018 | UPDATED: 13:10 02 February 2018

The Civic Centre Car Park. Picture: Danny Loo

The Civic Centre Car Park. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2018

Heated debate has been sparked by the revelation that St Albans councillors and staff enjoy free parking in the city centre.

The Civic Centre Car Park. Picture: Danny LooThe Civic Centre Car Park. Picture: Danny Loo

The Herts Ad revealed last week that all 350 officers and councillors working for the district council (SADC) can park without charge in the Civic Centre car park on Bricket Road.

The news follows the controversy which surrounded increases in parking charges for the city centre in 2016 and a campaign against the introduction of Sunday parking charges in 2014.

The Civic Centre car park was originally a private space exclusively for council employees, but was opened up to the public in 2014.

Shoppers, visitors and people employed elsewhere around the city centre have to pay £3.30 for up to three hours on Monday to Friday between 7.30am and 6.30pm in the Civic Centre car park. After 6.30pm it is free for everyone.

SADC argued it is offered as a perk to attract talented staff who are coming and going throughout the working week for meetings, inspections and site visits.

Emily Banks reacted to the news: “It’s pretty shocking really, residents are paying to park their cars somewhere in the vicinity of their houses and the council workers can park for free? If we have to pay to park outside our homes, they should have to pay to park their vehicles.”

Michael Corley agreed: “Quite frankly, council employees should pay to park like everyone else. I’m sure there are other workers in the city centre who come and go, estate agents for one, so the excuses by the council leaders are tosh.

“Just because they own the train set, it doesn’t mean it’s fair.”

Sarah Ellis said: “I cannot think of one good reason why St Albans council staff should receive free car parking, they already get nice salaries and final salary pensions courtesy of the rate payers and now they want free parking.”

She noted the money generated could be used for road repairs, grass verges, and street lighting which “have deteriorated”.

Natasha Smith added up the potential revenue: “350 council staff a day - £3,500 a day in parking, £17,000 over a five day period, £51,000 a month. That’s a grand total of about £600,000 a year that goes on council workers not paying to park.

“If they want to hand out freebies, use that money to provide help to the community. That way they help everyone and not themselves.”

However, Mark Lomas was more sympathetic: “There are several issues here. Private sector employers often provide parking for their staff. The council is simply being competitive. Charging for parking that is currently free would represent an unfair drop in salary for council staff.

“Shops who complain that shoppers are attracted by free parking at out of town shopping centres ignore the fact that those shopping centres are absorbing the cost of parking precisely because it attracts shoppers.”

Bob Gabbey said: “No, make them pay. The lost revenue this perk is costing the rate payers should be put to better use.”

Katie Clark added: “No way, nursing staff have to pay to park while they are on shift so why shouldn’t they?”

Hertfordshire Libertarians commented: “What a joke. Taxpayers already pay for these people’s jobs and now we see we pay for their unlimited parking as well.

“One rule for those in power and another for the rest of us.”

Hannah Myers disagreed: “Whilst I agree parking is a joke - except Sundays and Bank Holidays where we’re lucky it’s only £1 all day - council members have to work in St Albans. Say what you want about the council, we need it to run the huge town of St Albans. People chose to open shops there.”

Join the debate and email hertsad@archant.co.uk

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