FOUR councillors are at the centre of a “double subsidy” row after it was revealed they have been given free city-centre parking spaces as well as free bus passes.
Eleven of the Capital’s 63 councillors have no-cost access to parking either at council headquarters at Waverley Court or under George IV Bridge, close to the City Chambers.
The council said free parking was assigned on “a first come request, depending on availability”.
But in answer to a question at today’s full council meeting it emerged four of those with free parking – Tories Jason Rust and Iain Whyte and Labour’s Ricky Henderson and Lezley Cameron – also have a free bus pass, which is offered to all councillors.
And while bus passes have to be declared as a benefit, there is no requirement on councillors to declare the fact they have a parking space. Parking in the street near Waverley Court would cost £37 for a full day.
Green councillor Gavin Corbett said the situation was “absurd” and criticised the council for encouraging councillors to bring their cars into the city centre while urging everyone else to opt for public transport, walking or cycling.
He said: “This isn’t about singling individual councillors out; rather it is about the council getting its own house in order. With mounting problems of air pollution and congestion in the city centre, the council is quite rightly looking at how to reduce the volume of traffic in the centre. In doing that, it needs to lead by example.
“So I am sure there will be public surprise and anger that 11 councillors enjoy free car parking in the heart of the city. Even more surprising, four those councillors also have free bus passes.
“What is more, there seems no rhyme nor reason as to which councillors get free car passes. It is time for this to stop. The council is looking at measures like a Low Emission Zone and workplace parking levies to reduce pressure on the city centre. All councillors need to be leading from the front.”
Councillor Henderson said: “I use my bus pass all the time and the parking space maybe once or twice a month.
“My ward covers a large area to the south-west and if I’m going to different commitments in the ward and then the city centre, occasionally it’s handy to use my car. ”
The other three councillors named did not respond to requests for a comment.
A council spokeswoman said: “Parking spaces have historically been made available for councillors, who are often required to make trips from the city centre to their wards.
“We do, however, encourage the use of public transport and active travel wherever possible by all council staff and councillors.”