A fundraising campaign has been launched to support a possible appeal against a court ruling that has left nursing staff in Cardiff facing hefty bills in unpaid car parking tickets.
A court ruling on Friday means around 75 members of hospital staff owe thousands of pounds, after they unsuccessfully challenged the company that runs their employer’s car parks.
“We need to investigate the plausibility of an appeal against judgement”
A judge at Cardiff Civil Justice Centre ruled that private company Indigo could collect the charges from University Hospital of Wales staff, meaning they must pay £128 per outstanding parking ticket.
There were three lead court cases and the result was binding on 72 others, according to a local campaign group, which has been backing the NHS staff in their fight for the past nine months.
Staff had permits that allowed them to park in designated areas for £1.05 a day, but a lack of spaces meant staff had been forced to park in unauthorised areas, said the campaigners.
“By the time I get into work, there are usually no parking spaces”
They said Indigo, which has a contract to manage and maintain the hospital’s car parks, has around 1,250 spaces there, though its health board website quotes a total of 3,121 spaces at the site.
A staff nurse, Felicity Richards, said: “I have to allow 45 minutes to an hour extra to park my car every morning to find somewhere to park.
“By the time I get into work, there are usually no parking spaces and I have to park off site and quite often I have to park a 20 to 25 minute walk away,” she told the BBC.
In the wake of the ruling, Sue Prior, from the Taff Ely Parking Action Group, set up a crowdfunding page on the JustGiving website. It has so far received pledges totalling £30,000.
“We need to investigate the plausibility of an appeal against [the] judgement made on the 14th July 2017,” she said.
“The full transcript of the three-day trial is required – approximately £3,000. We then need to get legal assistance to assess the information and see if there are grounds for appeal,” said Ms Prior.
“This isn’t about all staff not paying for a parking ticket, it is about being unable to park,” she added.
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, which runs the hospital, has previously noted the “on-going challenge regarding the provision of car parking”.
It highlighted that Cardiff is one of the country’s fastest growing cities, its sites are facing increased levels of activity, and that all its financial resources were currently focused on clinical care.
“It is disappointing that a few people have chosen to refuse to co-operate”
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
In contrast, car parking at its other sites, University Hospital Llandough, Barry Hospital and St David’s Hospital is free.
The health board said it had been following “this court case with interest” and stated that 98% of its staff complied with the parking regulations.
“It is disappointing that a few people have chosen to refuse to co-operate with the contractors Indigo Parking Services UK and have chosen to pursue this through the courts,” it said.
“All staff and others visiting University Hospital Wales are encouraged to comply with the parking regulations in order for us to keep the site, safe, free- flowing and allow access to emergency vehicles and vital health services,” the board said in a statement.
“We have worked tirelessly on our sustainability plans and offering alternative modes of transport to the site, such as a park and ride scheme, already in operation and future re- development of a travel hub,” it said. “We will continue to develop these options and encourage all staff, patients and visitors to use them.”
Regarding its employees involved in the court case, the board said it was “aware there are significant financial costs and the financial hardship the staff have placed themselves in,” it said.
“We encourage all staff to engage with Indigo Car Parking Service UK at the earliest opportunity to avoid mounting legal and court costs,” the health board stated.
“The court’s ruling has justified our decision to take this action”
Indigo Car Parking Service UK
It added: “We have arrangements in place for vital services that require easy access quickly such as on call surgeons and midwives and those whose skills are required urgently for patient care. The vast majority of posts are covered by shift patterns and rotas that do not require the level of urgency claimed.”
In a statement, Indigo said that the health board and itself had “agreed a new set of measures to improve car parking on the University Hospital of Wales site” in April last year.
A spokeswoman said that, as a “gesture of goodwill”, parking charge notices issued up to the end of March 2016 were cancelled and the cost of a notice was cut to £10, if paid within 14 days.
“Despite this, a number of people refused to pay for parking at the site,” he said. “They also ignored the resulting parking charge notices and declined to use the formal appeals process.”
She added: “As the company responsible for managing parking and ensuring the free flow of traffic at Cardiff UHW, we have an obligation to ensure enforcement of parking restrictions. The court’s ruling has justified our decision to take this action.”
The situation in Cardiff reflects similar disputes between staff and employers about car parking charges over many years in different parts of the country.
- Hospital nurses paying ‘extortionate’ charges to park
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- Nurses set for car parking showdown with Glasgow hospital bosses
- Trust accused of ‘immoral’ stance on parking charges
- Exclusive: Hike in car park charges could force student nurses to quit
University Hospital of Wales is one of the few hospital sites in the country still to charge for car parking, following a policy announcement made in 2008 by the Welsh government.
Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, said: “In 2008, Welsh government health minister Edwina Hart announced that parking in hospitals in Wales should be free. In the case of University Hospital of Wales this will commence in June 2018 when the current car parking contract runs out. We look forward to seeing the car parking charges at UHW scrapped.
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“The crux of the issue here is that the University Hospital of Wales does not have enough spaces to fulfil the need of approximately 6,500 staff that are estimated to require a car parking space at some point in the day,” she said.
“We know that people are having to park a long way off site or walk to work and have to return to their cars or walk home after a twilight shift in the dark,” she said. ”More car parking spaces are needed close to the hospital where staff who start and finish work in the dark can feel safe when returning to their vehicle.
“Due to the current cap on pay, nurses are contacting us with hardship issues and car parking charges only add to their financial problems. A solution to this issue needs to be found,” she stated.
As of 31 December 2008, car parking was made free for patients, visitors and staff at most hospitals in Scotland. In the run-up to the general election, Labour pledges to introduce the same policy in England.
- Labour pledges to ‘end NHS car park charges’ in England
- Scotland to implement ban on hospital car parking charges
- Wales plans free hospital parking
Nursing Times campaigned on the issue of parking charges in 2008-09. Our Free Parking campaign called on trusts to drop “unfair” charges for staff.