Belfast City Council 'may introduce staff parking charge'
HUNDREDS of staff at Belfast City Council may soon have to pay to park when they come to work, the Irish News understands.
It will make it the first local authority in the north to impose a charge on their workers, who have for years been able to park for free.
And although the Council won't confirm the move, a senior source at City Hall indicated that the introduction of the tariff - which will prove hugely unpopular - was an "inevitability".
Unions are also thought to have been notified of the potential for car park charging, but would not comment when approached by the Irish News.
Belfast City Council employs around 3,000 staff, though only a fraction park their cars in Council-controlled free spaces.
It is understood staff likely to be affected by the move would pay a monthly parking rate which would be below the commercial standard for private sector workers.
Doctors and nurses at many hospitals across the north - including those within the Belfast Trust - are already charged to park, with fees in the region of £200 a year (or just under £17 a month).
Of the 11 councils across the north, none currently charge their staff for parking at their offices.
But despite the Council's firm denial that it is not pushing ahead with the charge in the near future (a spokesperson said "There are currently no plans to introduce car parking charges for staff"), other local authorities are keeping a watching brief.
A spokesperson for Derry City & Strabane District Council confirmed that there is at present no charge to staff using council office car parks and said that staff are encouraged to travel by foot, bike or public transport when possible.
"Car parking facilities are under review but there are no current plans to introduce charges to staff for the use of council offices car parking facilities," they added.
The Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council said they also do not charge staff for parking and "there are no plans to introduce staff car parking charges".
The response from the Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, however, was less definitive.
"The council does not currently charge staff for parking in car parks associated with council buildings where they work," they said.
"A strategy for car parking is currently under consideration, where all options will be explored."
Belfast City Council currently operates out of four bases across the city - City Hall, the Cecil Ward Building on Linenhall Street, Lanyon Place and Wellington Place, with an estimated 3,000 staff across the various council departments.
In 2015 the Council bought the Clarendon House building on Adelaide Street for £24.7 million with plans to demolish the structure and build a new 100,000 sq ft office building, in which they would centralise all their current premises across the city.
The city council is already responsible for 31 car parks in Belfast, 14 of which are free to use and 17 charge a tariff.
Some of these car parks charge as much as £1.20 per hour, will others are as low as 30p per hour.