Members employed by the London Borough of Bexley may have seen an HR announcement recently that parking charges for staff will be increasing later this year.

The agreement to introduce such charges came into effect in 2011 and does allow for the employer to change the rates whenever they wish, subject to consulting your UNISON branch and other trade unions.

Consultation with us initially began several years ago on changes that were worse in several ways than these final proposals. Consideration was being given to introducing charges for staff on all pay grades and the part (or complete) removal of the Essential Car Users allowances (as has already happened in Bromley and some other boroughs!).

No increase in our members’ outgoings is ever welcomed, especially after so many years of real-terms pay cuts under government austerity. We do however believe that, in the circumstances, the scheme that is going forward is better than it could have been.

There are of course some major disappointments, especially in respect of staff based at other council sites who have not had to pay to park until now but are now expected to do so. If any UNISON member feels they have been disproportionately impacted by this, or wishes to make specific representations to the Council in this regard, they are advised to contact the Branch for further information and support.

We will be fully participating in the council’s working group on travel options going forward.

In particular, we have been strongly advocating the replacement of the one-off up-front parking permit charge with a (heavily discounted) daily staff parking charge instead, so that you can benefit from saving the cost on a day-by-day basis every time you are able to work from home or choose a greener travel option to get to work. While the parking charge remains an up-front fee, staff know they’re wasting that investment in a parking space every time they leave the car at home, and talk of the charges encouraging alternative transport methods sound like ‘greenwashing’ what is effectively a pay cut for anyone who needs to come in by car a few dozen times a year.

We will continue to press the council to change to a low-cost ‘pay-as-you-go’ parking charge for staff instead – and would also welcome hearing from you about what else you’d like us to put forward in future discussions with HR around the topic of travelling to and from work.