15th Oct, 2019

REVEALED: £100k Coventry taxpayer bill for free parking permits prompts 'special favours' claims

Felix Nobes 20th May, 2019 Updated: 20th May, 2019

FREE PARKING permits to two major Coventry organisations have cost the taxpayer more than £100,000 – sparking allegations of council ‘special favours’.

Council responses to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests reveal that since 2014, 101 permits have been issued to Coventry University and since 2015 a further 24 have been granted to the Belgrade Theatre.

Campaigners point out that struggling city centre traders, other individuals and small businesses have to pay for the permits.

Coventry City Council’s website states that a monthly permit costs £200 while an annual exemption costs £2,000.

The permits are issued by the council when a vehicle is being parked for longer than permitted – or in a restricted area.

Coventry city centre is a Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ), which prevents motorists parking except in designated bays. The council has collected tens of millions of pounds in fines from drivers parking where double-yellow lines used to be.

The 101 waivers for vehicles from Coventry University mostly ranged from between three and six months.

If the council had charged for the permits, it could have generated about £70,000, based on the council’s own permit costs.

But the FoI request regarding the university’s waivers states: “No charges were levied for the permits as Coventry City Council has chosen to provide the permits free of charge.”

The large sum has sparked a debate about the council’s potentially ‘unfair’ preferential treatment of larger institutions.

The Belgrade Theatre, a registered charity, has been granted six annual waivers per year since 2015, which could have raised £48,000 for council coffers.

The request states the Belgrade Theatre permits have been ‘provided at nil cost’.

Road safety campaign group CovRoadSafety told us: “At a time when small businesses are struggling to make ends meet more than ever, we are concerned to learn that the special favours in Coventry seemingly continue.

“Large, profitable partners of Coventry City Council are furnished with free parking permits, year after year.

“After years of the public being unfairly fined and small businesses having to pay for parking permits, to learn that those who can afford to pay for permits haven’t bee, is a real kick in the teeth of the people of Coventry.

“Why should ‘John the plumber’ have to pay £30 to come in to the city centre and fix the boiler of a local business, when other large, hugely profitable organisations can go about their commercial activities without such financial burden?

“And any assistance with the Belgrade’s running costs should be in the form of transparent grants from the council, rather than just not charging at all.”

A Belgrade spokesperson pointed out that the theatre is a registered charity rather than a profit making business – and most of its revenue is reinvested in its own productions and in its community outreach and education projects across the city.

They added: “The theatre is allocated a small number of parking permits each year which enable us to park trucks and vans outside the loading bay at the rear of the theatre in order to receive the theatre sets that go onto our stages.

“The Belgrade Theatre does not own this land, but in order to function as a theatre, we have been given permission by Coventry City Council, one of our major funders, to use this land.”

Coventry University and Coventry City Council have not responded to our questions sent last week.

We have also asked how many other institutions are receiving free permits.

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