The government is accused of sinking to a “new low” after announcing NHS heroes and key workers will no longer be able to park in council car parks for free from next month.
Calls have been mounting for the free parking – brought in to protect healthcare workers and volunteers at the start of the Covid pandemic – to be extended, with the crisis far from over.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) says this will end on June 21 – potentially leaving thousands of Covid heroes out of pocket.
Furious trade union leaders say they were not notified about the move, with the GMB saying the UK government “has sunk to a new low”.
National Secretary Rehana Azam fumed: “It’s clear Minister’s priorities are all in the wrong places and some are increasingly becoming the penny-pinching bad bosses we see in the private sector.
“They might have thought they’d get away with secretly lifting free parking for NHS & social care staff – well they can think again.
“We know the public are on our side. The government need to back down and continue with the free parking we secured at the start of the pandemic.
“If they don’t, they risk stirring up an already demoralised workforce who will want to respond strongly to resist further cuts to their pay, terms, and conditions.”
Ministers are already under fire after offering a measly one per cent pay rise for NHS staff who have helped the country through the crisis.
The government has said that individual councils will be able to fund free parking themselves if they choose.
The withdrawal of free parking in council-owned car parks coincides with the proposed final stage of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, with would see all legal restrictions end.
A statement on the MHCLG website said: “Following the publication of the government’s roadmap for lifting COVID-19 restrictions, a decision has been taken to withdraw the emergency parking pass guidance by 21 June 2021.
“Local councils are responsible for setting their own local policy on parking. Therefore, current or potential pass holders are advised to contact their local council find out about any local plans for the future of the parking pass, or to check whether they are eligible for other local parking permits.”
It does not affect free parking for NHS staff at hospitals.
Last year Health Secretary Matt Hancock bragged that health service staff were not being charged to park at hospitals – only for the Mirror to identify three places where they were.
Parking charges for hospital staff in England were suspended in March “during this unprecedented time”.
But in July the government said the subsidy “cannot continue indefinitely” and would end “when the pandemic begins to ease”.
Campaigners are calling for the scrapping of parking charges to be made permanent.
A government spokesman said: “NHS staff have performed an incredible role at every stage of this pandemic and they will continue to benefit from free parking at hospitals throughout the pandemic response, thanks to our funding.
“On top of this, we are supporting hospitals to provide free parking to thousands more NHS patients and visitors, including disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of children staying overnight and staff working night shifts.
“Wider local paid-for parking will resume when we move on to the next step of the roadmap but councils can continue to offer this if they wish.”