Colleges in England have made £2.4 million from charging staff to park their cars over the last three years, a Tes investigation has revealed.
Out of the 175 colleges that responded to Tes’ freedom of information request, 21 charged staff to park during term time, with many deducting an annual sum from staff salaries. In 2018-19, the colleges collectively made £863,768.
Gateshead College charge the most for permits, with staff who earn more than £80,000 or more paying £450 per year. And Plymouth College of Art have the highest daily rate at £5 per day.
The University and College Union (UCU)’s general secretary Jo Grady said that hefty parking charges were an unwelcome cost given staff have seen their pay fall in value by 25 per cent.
She said: “Colleges need to work with UCU to ensure car parking policies are fair and don’t disproportionately hit the lowest-paid staff, while also supporting and encouraging their staff to use greener transport alternatives.”
Background: College teacher pay continues to drop
Parking charges 'effectively a pay cut'
City College Norwich made £324,687 between September 2016 to August 2019 – making them the biggest earner overall. The college charges £3 a day, £1.50 for a half-day, or 50p per hour. Staff can also apply for an annual permit – which is priced at £390, £273 or £156, based on salary.
The college introduced the charges six years ago to cover the cost of resurfacing the staff car park.
A spokesperson from the college said: "We charge for car parking to cover the maintenance costs of college car parks and access roads, so that students, staff and visitors are provided with safe, secure and appropriate parking.
“Maintenance costs include resurfacing, repainting bays, providing ticket machines, lighting for our car parks, and keeping them safe and accessible in adverse weather conditions.
“In recent years, we have made a significant investment in these facilities – including £289,000 on resurfacing and other improvements to our staff car park. Further investment in our parking facilities is planned as we look to install more electric vehicle charging points to accommodate increasing use of electric vehicles."
An anonymous lecturer at the college told Tes that staff were told charges were to offset the costs of the resurfacing, but that happened six years ago.
"If they’ve made £300,000 in three years, they’ve made £600,000 overall. Where has that money gone?" he asked.
He also said that even with annual permits, staff struggled to park.
"The biggest concern from staff is that they pay X amount per year for a permit, and still aren’t guaranteed a space. People come in at 7am to make sure they have a space. These people do then leave earlier, but still the spaces per permit is an issue," he said.
When the charges were introduced, staff saw it as a pay cut, he said.
"People don't realise [how much money the college made]. These figures are very startling and for people here, it will be a wake-up call."
Parking 'limited and costly'
Leicester College was the second biggest earner, making £238,000 across all three years. During the holidays, parking is free, but from 9am to 3.30pm during the term, staff are charged approximately £1 a day. This can be made in monthly instalments, costing staff who park five days a week a total of £200 per year.
A college spokesperson said: “We are a city-centre-based college and parking in and around our campuses is limited and costly. The money used from charging a small fee for car parking is used to support green travel initiatives, such as an inter-campus minibus, which reduces the number of journeys staff make between campuses; improved facilities for cyclists such as a bike servicing facility that regularly visits each of the college’s campuses and can be used by staff and students; and a green travel plan coordinator.”
Chichester College Group charges staff, students and visitors to park and made the third biggest total at £237,272. Staff are given the option of an annual amount being deducted through payroll or paying 50p per day. Around £66,387 was deducted through payroll over the three years.
A Chichester College spokesperson said: "Parking is at a premium, with extremely limited space, and the income generated through charges is used for maintenance and upkeep of the parking facilities. It has also supported some environmental projects to improve greener methods of travel. These include the provision of secure cycle shelters, mini-bus costs for student trips as well as purchasing and maintaining college pool cars which can be used by staff for travel between college campuses and other offsite visits."
Darlington College and South Essex College made £182,100 and £165,791 respectively between September 2016 and August 2019.
A spokesperson for Darlington College said that having a managed permit system for car parking was one of the original conditions for the planning permission prior to the college being built.
They said: “The original car park management agreement was signed for seven years and extended to 10 years at year five. The capital costs for all of the equipment were spread over that 10-year period. Over the last three years, income that has been accrued has gone into college reserves for other capital projects.”
A spokesperson from South Essex College said: "Our campuses are based in a number of different locations, two of them in town-centre locations which means they come with limited parking available to staff and students. We would always encourage staff to use public transport to get to these sites as they are easy to access and it is more beneficial to the environment.
“Where we do have town-centre parking we run a permits system and staff contribute if they are awarded a permit, instead of paying for public parking. We do not seek to make a profit from staff, all money generated is used towards general maintenance and upkeep of the car parking facilities across our sites, some of which are currently free for staff to park in as they are based on more industrial areas and therefore harder to access via public transport.”
The impact on monthly income
One learning support assistant at an FE college described her shock when she realised that she would have to pay for parking.
She said: “A space in the staff car park is not a given. I need to join a queue and am warned that it could be as long as a year's wait before I gain this privilege. However, the staff car park charges are not on a sliding scale dependent on income, so, again, this will have a detrimental impact, particularly on support staff. In the interim, I’ll have to park at the public car park. It occurs to me that, as a learning support assistant, this amounts to a crippling 5 per cent of my salary."
Five of the 21 colleges that charged staff for parking operated a waiting list. The longest was at Chesterfield College, which had 51 members of staff on it.