Public and Unions Want Levy to be Scrapped

By Michael Barker and David Holloway, officers of the Campaign Against Leicester’s Workplace Parking Levy – stopleicesterwpl.com

Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and his deputy, Adam Clarke, understand that the world faces a climate emergency, but their flagship Workplace Parking Levy will only hinder our city’s response to this emergency. This explains why their plans for this regressive tax have faced a monumental political backlash from ordinary workers and the broader trade union movement.

Last year when the Council undertook their first (largely invisible) consultation on their WPL, Soulsby misrepresented the views of the local trade union movement by saying that he’d had “encouraging” conversations with them. Further investigations by trade unionists revealed that the few union representatives who had communicated their views to the Mayor had not expressed support for a WPL. This was a view that was shared by the majority of people who’d engaged in this limited consultation.

In mid-December the City Council then launched a full (three month long) public consultation on their WPL. And given the punishing nature of the levy, public opposition has been increasing ever since. (The primary exception to this resistance existing among a small layer of Green Party activists.)

Kicking things off, in January, a political motion was passed by Unison, the biggest union representing Council workers in Leicester, which raised serious concerns with the WPL.

The following month, representatives from the Leicester and Districts Trades Union Council met with Council officials responsible for the WPL and came away from this meeting with even more concerns. There followed a joint statement from five education unions opposing the levy, and a joint statement released by the three main unions representing council workers in the city raising other serious problems.

The GMB Leicestershire Branch then passed a motion opposing the WPL which highlighted how it was “just a regressive tax on workers” that “would only serve to undermine efforts to promote inclusive environmental action.” Then in mid-March, just days after the Council’s public consultation ended, this motion received the unanimous support from the Trades Council, a body which represents unions from across Leicestershire, and it was decided that a campaign should be launched to oppose the levy.

Following this decision, the Campaign Against Leicester’s WPL had their first organising meeting on March 24, and since then our campaign has published scores of letters in the press (which were brought together in a 42 page pamphlet, available online), held a public meeting (in May), distributed thousands of leaflets, authored detailed reports on the WPL and our proposed alternatives, organised a protest against the Council (in July), and we challenged the Council leadership to debate their proposals in public (a proposal which has been ignored… ridiculously the City Mayor ‘offered’ to just chair a debate but would not participate).

Supporters of our campaign have achieved other significant outcomes too. We succeeded in getting a political motion passed in Leicester South Constituency Labour Party (the branch which includes Soulsby and Clarke amongst their leading members) which called for the immediate scrapping of the WPL. And earlier this month a historically significant motion was passed in a Unite branch (Leicestershire Central) that agreed that the regional leadership of their union should refuse to fund any future election campaigns of any Labour councillors in the city if they ignored the trade union movement and supported the imposition of a WPL.

But still the people of Leicester and Leicestershire are left in limbo waiting for the results of the public consultation that ended in March!

Surely now the City Council will scrap their backward plans. And if not, we will need to mount a huge protest to fill the streets to force them to see sense.

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