Green councillor, Eleanor Combley, is calling on colleagues from all parties to give up their free parking spaces at next week's budget meeting, saying the money saved could be used to support some of the city's most vulnerable instead.
She has put forward an amendment to the council budget to stop the issuing of free parking permits to councillors, ex-councillors and senior staff, saying this would allow the spaces to be used for paying customers, raising much needed income for the city. The amendment proposes that this income is put towards the Supporting People budget which funds preventative services that support vulnerable people to live independently.
Councillor Combley said:
"First and foremost this is about fairness and about us following our own rules. The council's constitution is very clear that the allowance we are given is also to cover travel costs within the city. Any councillor getting the bus or the train pays for their own ticket, so why are we using taxpayers money to subsidise councillors who choose to drive by paying for their parking?"
"I suggest spending the income on Supporting People services instead because these services are highly valued by the people who use them, including people with mental health issues, learning difficulties or sensory impairment and people living with HIV. Cutting this support may also prove to be a false economy as without help to remain independent, people may well end up back on our books needing a higher level of care and support in crisis."
Local residents have expressed surprise that councillors still have subsidised workplace parking instead of showing leadership to promote public and active transport. Bristol resident Johanna Ziegler, said:
"I work in the city centre and my workplace used to have free car parking, which I always saw as a special luxury rather than as something expected. We don't have parking provided any more now and everyone still manages to get to work. I think secure cycle storage and good public transport are much more crucial."
Despite the council's dire financial situation, and despite the council passing a Green Party motion on the need to address air pollution in Bristol, Cllr Combley said it is far from certain that the motion will pass. She said:
"I know I have the full support of the other councillors in the Green group, but I don't know whether councillors from other parties will vote to support my amendment. I hope they will see that finding an excuse to cling onto this perk when we are cutting desperately needed services in this city should be unacceptable."
Councillor Eleanor Combley’s amendment can be found on p596 here: https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/documents/g263/Public%20reports%20pack%2021st-Feb-2017%2014.00%20Full%20Council.pdf?T=10