Harrogate Lib Dems call for free parking for NHS staff to continue indefinitely after coronavirus crisis

Harrogate's Liberal Democrats have called for free parking for NHS staff to continue into the future.

Concerns that healthcare staff could soon be hit with charges were sparked when the government's health minister Edward Argar said in a written statement the support necessary to continue free parking "cannot continue indefinitely".

This comes after workers were told at the end of March the government would cover their parking fees for "going above and beyond every day" as they tackled Covid-19.

Coun Geoff Webber, leader of the Liberal Democrats on North Yorkshire County Council, has now expressed his desire for the perk to continue at hospitals across the region - and will ask councillors to support a motion at a meeting later this month.

Liberal Democrats have called for free parking for NHS staff at hospitals including Harrogate to continue into the future.

He said: "This motion is not a political move and, indeed, I hope that councillors of all political parties will support it.

"What it does do is to recognize the immense contribution made to the nation’s health by frequently underpaid and overworked NHS staff, many of whom are on minimum wages.

"To charge them for parking in order to care for the sick is an absolute injustice.”​

A spokesman for Harrogate District Hospital said parking remains free for now but added any future decisions will be made at a national level by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).

And although the DHSC has said parking will remain free during the pandemic, it has also given strong signals that the scheme can't continue beyond the crisis, saying only "key patient groups" and staff in "certain circumstances" will be able to park for free.

GMB, the national union for NHS staff, has also made calls for free parking to be extended indefinitely.

Robyn Read, GMB activist and leader of the campaign, previously said: “It’s no good for the government to back them just when there’s a global pandemic, they need to put their hands in their pocket and support our NHS staff workers all year round.

“Once this crisis is over it’s no good heading back to business as usual – it’s time for us all to repay our huge debt to our NHS workers, and we can start that by ensuring they don’t have to pay to be at work”.

Parking at Harrogate Hospital is currently free for staff, patients and visitors, and any changes would be publicly announced, the hospital spokesman said.

Parking at Ripon Community Hospital is also free.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter

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