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Free parking permits for Brighton and Hove council staff
Hundreds of public servants receive free car park permits which cost ordinary residents up to £1,500 a year.
The Argus can exclusively reveal Brighton and Hove City Council issues about 400 of its workers with free passes.
The local authority is now considering revoking some of the permits, which can be used during week nights and at weekends when staff are not at work, as part of a widespread review to save money.
However, elected councillors, who are also given the option of parking passes to use at two city car park, will be exempt from the review after some claimed they needed them for their duties.
Union representatives claimed it was “double standards” adding the workers save the local authority – and taxpayers’ – money as they use their own cars for work.
But, others have asked how, when the local authority must find tens of millions of pounds of savings in the next few years, public sector staff can continue to receive the “perks”.
Steve Percy, who founded the city-based People’s Parking Protest, said: “I think it’s disgusting.
“We all have to pay for our parking irrespective of who we work for and council staff should be no different.
“If it’s included as a perk then it would have to be taken as part of their salary but that’s not going to wash with anyone.”
But Alex Knutsen, secretary of Brighton and Hove branch of Unison, said: “I believe there are double standards at play.
“We are supportive of any review into the system but officers and elected members need to be aware which workers actually receive these permits.
“There are a number of staff who need their cars for their work.”
Car part permits
A council spokesman said in total 247 staff permits are currently in circulation for the public car parks in London Road, Regency Square and Norton Road, which is opposition Hove Town Hall.
He added there are a further 152 permits for the local authority-owned Kings House car park with even more staff also given short-stay access.
Among those to receive the permits are social workers, home care staff and planning enforcement officers, all of whom unions claim need to travel for their jobs.
However, The Argus understands the local authority believes there are some “commuters” who use the passes while they remain in the same office all day.
Mr Knutsen rejected this view as “absolute nonsense”.
A council spokesman said: “Clearly with parking spaces in the city at a premium, and residents being asked to pay rising charges, we need to be sure that any parking arrangements for staff are seen to be fair.
“Existing allocations were last reviewed in 2005. Subject to talks with unions, changes are expected during the summer. We can’t yet speculate as to how much might be saved – that would be part of the review.”
Councillors have the option to receive either parking permits for Norton Road and The Lanes car parks or a free annual bus pass worth £450. About half of the 54 elected members receive the passes with a council spokesman adding it allowed politicians to “attend meetings, often at unsocial hours”.
The local authority charges residents £1,000 for an annual season ticket in London Road car park.
The fee for Regency Square car park is £1,500 and Hove Town Hall is £750.
An annual ticket for The Lanes, where only councillors receive free permits, is £2,500.
Only one of the 23 Green councillors – leisure cabinet member Geoffrey Bowden – has a parking permit.
The remaining 26 parking passes are taken up by Conservative and Labour councillors.
The Green administration last night said it was looking to discuss the issue of councillor parking permits with other groups in the coming weeks.
Conservative Geoffrey Theobald said: “My understanding of the review is that staff who need vehicles will be able to keep their permits. Councillors are coming from all areas of the city and rushing to meetings.”
Labour group leader Gill Mitchell said: “We want to know more about this review and its purpose. If it is to ensure that passes are being used correctly and not for simply commuting to work, then this will not apply to councillors.”