Parking prices drive Bath Spa staff to distraction

Plans to charge staff to park at Bath Spa disputed by unions. Jack Grove reports

October 2, 2014

University staff can endure many hardships, but interfere with their car parking privileges at your peril.

That observation – first made decades ago by University of California president Clark Kerr – is certainly true at Bath Spa University, where it is not so much pensions, pay or performance indicators that are causing uproar as new parking charges.

Both the University and College Union and Unison have lodged formal disputes with the university and called on staff to boycott a parking permit system that is due to be introduced in January.

Bath Spa students with a car will also be hit by £120 a year charges, while those living in certain areas of Bath will be banned from parking on the Newton Park campus altogether.

“People are really upset and angered by these charges,” said a UCU spokesman, noting that the issue had “exercised the membership in a way that rarely happens”.

The charges, equivalent to 0.2 per cent of staff salary, are being introduced because the local authority has told Bath Spa to cut parking by 11 per cent – about 85 spaces – by 2020.

That edict was a condition of Bath Spa’s gaining planning permission for new student accommodation after concerns were raised over congestion in the city’s historic streets.

But union leaders say that parking could be reduced without resorting to charges, which they argue amount to a tax on the many staff who have no other option for their daily commute.

“The university is down a mile-long drive and on the outskirts of Bath, so it’s not that easy to reach by public transport or on foot,” a UCU spokesman said. “One union member lives 10 miles away – that journey could take him two and a half hours a day if he couldn’t drive.”

The university should explore incentives to encourage car sharing or public transport use as staff are “absolutely opposed to charging in principle”, he continued.

Parking charges differ significantly among universities. Some staff benefit from free parking in or around their campuses, but charges at some institutions can exceed £800 a year.

Annual permits cost up to £360 at the University of Sussex, £423 at the University of Warwick, £553 at the University of Nottingham and £833 at the University of Bristol, with charges often linked to engine type and salary band.

A Bath Spa spokesman said that it had revised its plans after consulting with staff and students, offering different payment options “to accommodate a variety of circumstances”.

It already offers subsidised bus passes for staff and students, a car share scheme, a bike hire scheme and interest-free train season ticket loans, he added.


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