Staff perks targeted as St Albans council reels from grant cutbacks
EFFORTS to slash council costs in the wake of government grant cuts may extend to staff perks such as free car parking and its car leasing scheme.
St Albans district council is considering charging staff �2 a day to park in its own Civic Centre car park as part of a bid to boost “green travel.” Councillors are able to park without payment in nearly all the district’s car parks except Drover’s Way.
Council employees currently park free of charge during business hours at the the car park behind the Alban Arena.
At last Thursday’s overview and scrutiny committee meeting, corporate improvement manager Simonne de Vall said: “Some of the things we are thinking about are to actually start charging for parking here, a potential charge of �2 a day.
“We’ve done some work researching what other authorities are doing… certainly Watford has been charging staff for parking for a considerable time. We are also looking at our car leasing scheme. Currently the car leasing scheme costs us over �300,000 a year and that is something we do need to investigate.
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“The scheme is currently open to everybody that is an essential car user and all staff that are on a certain grade... and above, so it’s quite a generous scheme.”
She said the council was also looking at its essential car user allowance because the current policy rewarded staff for travelling by car rather than trying to persuade them to use public transport or other green methods of travel.
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Pool cars might also be considered where staff needed to use cars for business purposes. Rather than having to bring in their own cars in to the offices they would be expected to travel by public transport with a pool car available to them to use for business needs.
But the measures did not win immediate support from councillors with Cllr Katherine Gardner questioning both the cost to staff and the practicality of parking elsewhere in the city.
She asked: “Talking about car parking for staff, the charge of �2 a day on the face of it doesn’t sound very much… but if you’re working full time, that’s �10 a week, �520 a year. What measures are you considering that would stop staff from parking on the local roads instead, and therefore causing a nuisance to the council’s neighbours?”
Amanda Foley, head of HR and customer services development, said the �2 charge was part of a wider plan to promote green travel, including possibly increasing the number of staff working from home.
She said another option was to encourage staff to park in council car parks elsewhere such as Westminster Lodge where there was some provision for free parking.
But Cllr Gardner maintained that was not practical with staff facing trekking up Holywell Hill daily with files and possibly with laptops.
Committee chair Cllr Geoffrey Turner voiced concerns about staff morale as the council works on plans to reduce its budget by �5.5 million over four years because of government cuts.