An informal meeting of a NYCC scrutiny committee called to discuss a way forward for the Liberal Democrat motion to request Hospital Trusts in the area to continue to provide free on-site parking for NHS staff had to be abandoned when Tory members failed to turn up.
Richard Cooper (leader of Harrogate Borough Council and also a county councillor) has tabled an amendment removing all reference to free parking which, if passed, would effectively negate the original intention of the motion. Unfortunately, despite having notice of the meeting he was “unavailable”.
Cllr Geoff Webber, leader of the Lib Dem group on NYCC, said:
I am extremely disappointed that the Conservatives not only seem to be tabling amendments designed to wreck our support for NHS workers, but now also seem determined to bury it with bureaucracy, ensuring that nothing will be decided until the New Year.
This is not democracy – it is an elective dictatorship. County Tories are clearly following the example of their parliamentary masters
The county council chairman had originally decided to debate the motion at the last council meeting on 22 July but changed his mind and referred it, with amendments, to a scrutiny committee. The scrutiny committee doesn’t meet again until October and the next council meeting will be January 2021.
Councillor Richard Cooper said:
In moving the amendment I consulted senior environmental campaigners at Zero Carbon Harrogate.
A senior member of the group emailed me and said: ‘I would agree that we want to support our very valuable public sector workers and show our gratitude.
However, offering what is effectively an inducement to drive more is not good for their health or the health of our community. Obviously from a carbon reduction perspective this is taking us in the wrong direction.
But also from a health perspective it is rather perverse to be offering an incentive to drive when we know air pollution is a major cause of respiratory problems.
Councillor Cooper continued:
My amendment did not exclude free parking. That is up to the trust. But we must emphasise sustainable travel options and protecting our environment.
We should encourage trusts to install electric charging points, increase salary sacrifice schemes for people to buy bikes and electric vehicles, look at coming to deals with public transport providers to incentivise bus and rail travel, to reward people for car sharing.
Another member of Zero Carbon Harrogate told me: ‘I think the comprehensive set of suggestions you offer is much more forward-thinking while clearly showing support for the general principle of rewarding NHS workers’.
The trusts can give free parking if they want. But they should also consider other environmentally-friendly ways to reward staff that
don’t make hypocrites of those like me who have voted to reach net zero carbon emissions as soon as we can do it.
One year ago the County Council passed a motion proposed by me committing to reach net carbon zero emissions in North Yorkshire.
We need to live up to the fine words we use on the environment and we can do this while meeting our aspirations to recognise and
reward key workers.
Text of motion and amendment:
The original Lib Dem motion – NHS Parking
“That this council makes known to all NHS Hospital Trusts in North Yorkshire that this council supports and encourages free on-site parking for NHS staff at their workplaces.”
Amended by Tories (Cllr Richard Cooper) to:
“That this council makes known to all NHS Hospital Trusts in North Yorkshire that this council supports and encourages measures which enable their staff to travel to and from work sustainably in accordance with carbon reduction and sustainable travel commitments. The council invites them to consider how parking policy and grants for using sustainable travel options for NHS staff at their workplaces can best achieve this alongside the understandable wish for NHS staff to be recognised for the work they do.”
We requested comment from Cllr Cooper, but haven’t received a response.