Friday, 31 July 2009

Trams and Workplace Parking Levy

Something slightly different today. Firstly, its about an NCC policy I absolutely approve of and wish them all power for a speedy implementation and secondly, we're sort of going into media studies mode. Well, more accurately were re-awakening our little used 'comments by the twats' feature.

So. The Tram phase 2 has got the go-ahead along with the workplace parking levy. Obviously we get an article or two about it in the 'Post' but, for added fun, the 'Daily Fail' has chipped in too, complete with its army of reactionary commenters. And the 'Daily Torygraph'. Nottingham really is the talk of the media today.

The Mail opens its piece by claiming that the WPL has been condemned by critics as a "tax on jobs" but then fails to list any critic that actually uses this phrase. In other words, the Mail is saying its a tax on jobs but they want to give you the impression that somebody who has a clue of what they're talking about thinks this is the case.

Let's deal with the 'tax on jobs' BS because it won't take us long. It's actually a tax on parking. Most of the tax I've paid in my life has been via income tax. I have a job, I get taxed on its proceeds. THAT'S a tax on a job you numpty. Most people in their heart of hearts accept the need for it.

Both the Mail and the Torygraph quote an AA spokesdroid who rather sensibly hasn't provided their name, presumably because their job unfortunately requires them to talk shit today.

"It is discriminating against those employers who have parking spaces, which gets vehicles off the street." s/he bleats.

Note the use of the word 'discriminating' here in an attempt to evoke the language of the struggle against oppression. I mean for pity's sake.

No, you haven't imagined it, the spoke really does go on to claim that parking spaces "get vehicles off the street". And I suppose they do but ONLY AFTER SOMEONE HAS PUT THEM ON THE FUCKING STREET TO DRIVE THEM TO THE SODDING PARKING SPACE. Which probably wouldn't happen if they didn't have a parking space at work provided for them. Sheesh.

No disrespect to the nation's car mechanics but if you needed the spark plugs changing on your car you wouldn't go looking to some Oxbridge educated MP's political assistant to tune the beast up for you. Similarly, I'm not going to ask an organisation of spanner monkeys how to do politics and social policy.

When I used to commute to work on the bus (I'm not working at the mo btw, it's not that I've gone and bought a car) at least 10 minutes was added onto the journey time because Hucknall Rd was jammed with rush hour traffic. It was all too apparent that the vast, vast majority of vehicles concerned were cars with only one person in. So how selfish is it possible to be of a morning? You pollute the atmosphere increasing the chances of global warming and take up far more of your fair share of road space and you complain of a bit of extra tax?

But the real fun starts when you start to look at some of the comments submitted by, presumably, the nutters NOT on the bus. A bit of local logic first from the Post -

"...there were trams on st ann's well road in the early 1900's, look what st ann's is now, a cess pit!"

Priceless eh? Any problems St Ann's has is due to trams over a hundred years ago.

From the Twatgraph -

"Brilliant, a tax on going to work. The 2001 census showed that 14.5 million people travel to work by car, against 3.4 million using public transport."

Ooh look, he's got the 'tax on jobs' chestnut in, that bodes well. Let me explain, slowly and gently, the fact that lots more people currently commute by car is part of the point. Sensible people want that to change so the atmosphere gets better and the roads are actually usable by more people.

But for pure fruit loop nonsense, nobody does it better than the Daily Fail commenter. Take it away tinfoil hat brigade -

"The middle class being targeted by the state, this is like East Germany in the Cold War."

Yeah right, because it just so is, isn't it?

"Highway robbery is this what fighting for your freedom means ,totally shameless..."

Technically speaking, I think you'll find that it's OFF-the-highway robbery. LOLZ!!!111!!! See what I did there?

"Nottingham City Council are a gang of car-hating lefties who loathe the middle class and are interested only in the underclass. They're turning the city centee into a desert - malls full of empty shops, deserted car parks, "traffic" systems designed to block traffic.Anyone decent goes elsewhere to shop as no prestige stores will open there and everything is geared to brat-toting "single mothers"."

Bloody hell, where do you start with that one? Spelling mistakes author's own...

I'll stop with the vox pop now before I lose the will to live. But it's reassuring to know that Britain's reputation as a liberal and philosophical nation remains intact, I'm sure you'll agree.

So yes, we're going to get some more trams, that's a good thing, and something's going to have to pay for it which is inconvenient. Get over it.


James Stuart said...

I'm more concerned that Nottingham City is punishing exactly the large-scale employers they need to be attracting. Those who do pass on costs will come up against serious employee hostility; those who swallow it are at a competitive disadvantage to those who have set up business elsewhere. These are both compelling arguments to move to Derby, Leicester - or even somewhere in the County such as Mansfield.
I am, however, fully supportive of Net #2; I just grow tired of watching them piss money up the wall. Nottingham City could cover this without WPL quite easily, if they showed a little aptitude.

This Observer said...

Excellent post, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, even if I do happen to disagree with you.

I'll try to avoid arguments which, I suspect, simply boil down to a fundamental difference of opinion on taxation.

Instead I shall merely say that as I'm Edinburgh based, I know only too well that you ought to beware of any publicly funded tram works. They can quickly degenerate into a farce.

Anonymous said...

Strange how much more easily traffic in and around Nottinghyam flows when the schools are on holiday. That suggests a very low cost way to reduce congestion is to encourage children to walk to school.

Not very glamorous, but instantly effective and measurable.

alanadale said...

Nice post NCCLOL's. An analysis of the situation that I can thoroughly agree with (and it made me laugh).

On the point that James Stuart makes, whilst accepting that it has some validity, private companies always use this argument to get their own way and at some point their bluff has to be called. I would guess if other towns - or other parts of Nottingham - suited the purposes of their business, they would have gone there in the first place.

I've also got some sympathy with the point about schools. If more schools were active in encouraging their pupils - and their parents - to walk to school or use public transport, a lot of unnecessary car use could be avoided.

Matt Wardman said...

Disagree completely here.

As a tax on employers to provide an essential facility for some employees, a tax on jobs is exactly what it is.

An excellent way to reduce Nottingham's competitiveness, while punishing businesses which have provided parking, and doing quite some damage to businesses on the outskirts.

In my view general Nottingham parking policies have been opportunistic for years, complete with swoops by teams of wardens on Saturday nights to enforce fines on "cars blocking access to roadworks" which do not work at weekends.

My solution is to visit far less than I used to do. My last real project in Nottingham was a 1 week art exhibition where the parking cost more than the gallery.

This blog of all places knows that significant savings are possible in NCC.

Their policy; their choice; their cost; their loss.

allnottinghambasearebelongtous said...

Matt, you should have used one of the Park and Rides you'd have saved a fortune.

Alan has it right, too often the private sector throws its rattles out of its pram over the tiniest inconvenience. Sometimes they have to take some of the responsibility for making the place a bit better.

I think there might be an interesting argument as to whether the WPL is a better solution than a congestion charge and I have to say that I'm not sure on that one myself.

A WPL has an advantage that it will hopefully encourage employers to devise green transport policies to encourage workers out of their cars. Local authorities can't solve congestion/environmental problems alone and neither should they be expected to. Employers and individuals also need to play their part.

I would be amazed if a single business allows the WPL to affect any location decision it makes. In a worst case scenario they could pass the entire cost onto employees for less than £2/day, not the sort of industrial relations issue that winters of discontent are made of. Other employers may be all too glad for an excuse to dig up car parks which after all are hardly the most productive uses of space.

Businesses will have noticed that many other local authorities are looking at the possibilities of a WPL so the cost and inconvenience of moving out could simply take them out of the frying pan into the fire. Those business just starting up will have to make the choice between, say, a location in Nottingham taking the WPL into account or setting up in Derby or Leicester under the old rules and being caught out in the future. Most will go for the devil they know.

Yes, NCC could make efficiency savings but the planned local contribution is approx £100, most of which has to come from the WPL. That's around 1/5 of NCC's annual budget to put it into context, not really back of the sofa money. That's a gross simplification of the financial issues obviously but, simply put, you can't initiate a scheme of this size without establishing a new funding stream.

A congestion charge has a number of merits although it has the significant disadvantage that it focuses on individuals. Individuals have votes, businesses don't...

Essentially we need a new paradigm on personal transport that says that its no longer possible or desirable to assume that everyone has an inalienable right to use a car. Tackling commuting is a big part of that and it has to start somewhere. In 25 years other cities will only just be starting to deal with that but Nottingham will already be way ahead.

Next general election permitting...

allnottinghambasearebelongtous said...

"...but the planned local contribution is approx £100, most of which has to come from the WPL."

Before anyone suggests a whip round or bring and buy sale, that should of course be £100 MILLION.

alanadale said...

What about Boots then James Stuart? I'm sure they would agree with your 'competitive disadvantage' argument but it would appear that a potential cost of £500,000 is pretty small beer in view of their profit margins. As I've just said in my own blog, for once I agree with Graham Chapman's analysis of this particular situation.

Radnor said...

There was some research done a few years about by Nottingham City Transport which said that 90 odd percent of the people living in Nottingham living within a 10 minute walk of a bus stop.

So you could argue that most people have no excuse not to get on a bus.

If people do insist that they have to use a car (what valid reasons are there?), then at least they should ensure that they don't travel alone. 95% of cars you see coming and going out of the city have single occupants.