University Hospital of North Staffordshire U-turn over staff parking charge
CONTROVERSIAL plans to make thousands of hospital staff pay more to park have been suspended after protests from workers.
Officials running the University Hospital of North Staffordshire had planned to introduce the new charges from April.
But the move has been delayed until October to allow parking problems to ease at the Hartshill centre.
And the proposed parking charge tariff for the hospital's 7,000 staff is also being reviewed.
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The hospital had planned a new parking tariff based on 0.5 per cent of each employee's basic salary to replace the current flat-rate £6.11-a-month charge.
But only those earning less than £14,664-a-year would have seen their parking fees fall, with workers on £30,000-a-year charged twice as much.
More than 1,000 members of health union Unison signed petitions and as anger increased, the branch consulted staff about taking action.
The U-turn was last night welcomed by staff leaders.
Royal College of Midwives senior steward Julia Ellis said: "Common sense has prevailed.
"This was going to be brought in without any consultation or negotiation.
"With car parking that process does not have to happen under our terms and conditions of employment but in the interests of good relationships it would have made sense.
"We are pleased that it is not going to happen after all.
"Our position is that we would support an increased tariff if the car parking situation was improving.
"But in reality it is getting worse and as more demolition of old buildings takes place over the coming months it will be harder than ever to find a space.
"Therefore the trust could not have justified charging more at this time."
The hospital has 1,900 parking bays but plans to add 300 more by next year as old structures are knocked down and the £400million superhospital re-development of the City General site is completed.
Staff currently use a park and ride scheme at the Royal Infirmary where the last patient services closed before Christmas.
Andrew Ashcroft, hospital senior communications manager, said: "During the past three weeks we have listened to the concerns of staff about the availability of parking spaces at the City General.
"The trust has therefore decided to review the key changes to the staff tariff increase and is likely to defer the implementation date until October.
"Between now and then we will be working with staff to revise the proposed policy. "However, car parking is going to be increasingly challenging during the next stages of the site's redevelopment, including demolitions this year."
The hospital has also revealed plans to increase parking charges for patients and visitors from £2 for four hours to £3 from April 1.
It is also proposed to charge disabled blue badge holders to park for the first time from the same date.