Councillors right to get free parking, claims Welwyn Hatfield Council leader

PUBLISHED: 15:23 26 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:30 26 January 2018

John Dean, leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council

John Dean, leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council

Archant

Welwyn Hatfield Council’s leader has claimed that members correctly get free parking because current allowance levels would otherwise leave them out of pocket.

Earlier this month it emerged that WHC’s 506 officers, as well as its 48 elected councillors, all have free parking at the Hunters Bridge, Campus West and Campus East Lower sites.

The revelation sparked hundreds of mixed responses, with some claiming they should pay at public car parks like everyone else, while others said it was an understandable perk of working for the council.

Most of the debate focused on council officers, but WHC’s Tory leader John Dean has told the WHT he has “firm views” on whether councillors should also get free parking.

He said: “Councillors deserve free parking at the council car parks during the time they are in the council offices and it’s the same with the staff providing they are at work, it’s part of their employment package.

“If councillors had to pay for parking at the present allowance level they would be out of pocket. It doesn’t even start to cover the time that councillors are expected to put in serving the community.”

Members are not paid a formal salary but are given allowances to compensate them for time spent on council business.

All WHC councillors receive £5,001 annually, while cabinet members get £9,580 and the leader scoops £15,002.

“A councillor’s time is as valuable as anyone else’s,” Cllr Dean added. “If you are giving up evening after evening to go to the council offices, while it is voluntary, it also rewards you for the time you are away from home.”

Annual permits at the car parks cost around £900, and recent figures showed WHC garnered £1.5million through its three sites’ income last year.

Lib Dem leader Cllr Malcolm Cowan said: “If councillors are going in to the offices for a meeting, it seems reasonable that they can use any spare spaces.

“They are part of the democratic process after all. Many of those meetings are in the evening when no one else would be using the spaces.”

Labour leader Cllr Kieran Thorpe added: “I don’t drive but I don’t think anyone should have to pay to park at their place of work.”

*What are your thoughts? Email letters@whtimes.co.uk

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