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Carlisle hospital defends doubling of car parking charges for staff

Car parking charges for staff at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary have almost doubled.

Nurses and other hospital workers have seen the monthly cost of a permit rise from £5.21 to £9.17 since the beginning of March. The increased charges do not affect patients.

Bosses say staff will barely see a difference if they opt into a new scheme allowing them to pay the monthly charges direct from their gross salary, before tax is deducted.

The changes affect all staff at both the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven.

There are two payment tiers – £9.17 a month, which works out as £110 a year, for those on an annual salary of less than £46,620 or £11.08, the equivalent of £133 a year, for those earning more.

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospitals, stressed that the rise only applies to staff and will not affect patients, visitors or the general public.

A spokeswoman explained that as long as staff opt into the new salary scheme, there will be very little difference between the amount they pay under the new fee level compared with before.

“From March 1, car parking charges have increased for staff at the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital,” she said.

“To help with this increase for staff, the trust has extended the current salary sacrifice scheme to include car parking.

“If staff have chosen to opt into the scheme, their parking costs are being deducted from gross pre-tax pay rather than from net pay. This is the same tax-efficient method used in the Cycle-to-Work scheme and for Child-Care vouchers.

“To enable the trust to keep the parking increases as low as possible, there are two levels of charge, based on the employee’s tax rate, to try to keep the net position the same for all staff.

“If staff have opted into the scheme and pay their car parking charges through salary sacrifice, they should have seen no real change in their take-home net pay.”

But one healthcare assistant told The Cumberland News that even though they pay the new charges, they are still not guaranteed a parking space.

“Our biggest gripe is that we are only allowed to park in designated areas, and there are not enough spaces to start with. If you can’t get one and park somewhere else you get harassed,” she said.

The part-time worker also said it was unfair that she had to pay the same annual parking charge as full-time colleagues who earn more and use the car park for more of the day.

She added that she did not know about the increase until she saw her pay slip.

The spokeswoman, however, said staff had been informed of the changes by email, which were also advertised on the staff intranet and in the newsletter.

Parking charges paid by public sector workers – such as council and police staff – across Cumbria vary significantly. Some have free parking, others have to pay and some have to make their own parking arrangements.

Cumbria County Council said that even within its own organisation there are vast differences – an issue they are addressing.

A spokesman said: “Historically we’ve had a variety of approaches to staff parking due to the many different services and sites/locations.

“This isn’t ideal or necessarily fair for staff, so we will be developing a new policy that will ensure a more consistent approach.

A Cumbria Police spokeswoman added: “There is limited free parking available at the majority of police sites across the constabulary. When this is taken, officers and staff use normal public car parks.”

Have your say

I would like to think that the nhs trust would put this car park revenue into building a multi story car park behind the hospital to relieve the current problem of lack of spaces at most times of the day.

Posted by Tony Morland on 7 April 2012 at 01:12

Wow I would say that is cheap my car parking charge here in Essex is currently £150 for 3 months yes £150 if I parked at the hospital it would cost me up to £15 per day if I did a long day.Our hospital only has a limited number of concessionary car park places so I have no choice but to park in a council run car park near to the hospital.I did used to park in a private car park but when I got of late a couple of times I ended up with a £70 pound fine.I would prefer not to drive but the train/bus journey would take at least 1 and half to two hours compared with 30-40 mins

Posted by smcd on 5 April 2012 at 21:46

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