"Are any of this Government’s promises worth the paper they are written on?" asks Labour's Parliamentary Candidate, Cllr David Ellesmere.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt recently announced with great fanfare that he was overhauling “unfair”hospital parking charges. There was talk of reduced or even free parking for some patients, relatives and staff. He was going to end “rip-off”fees once and for all.
This sounded like a welcome u-turn. The last Labour Government promised to phase out parking charges but this was scrapped by George Osborne in 2010.
Look a little deeper though and it’s clear that this is just “guidance”from the Government. It doesn’t have any force at all.
One proposal was to change hospital parking to “pay on foot”. This is the system where you pay just as you’re about to leave so you don’t have to worry about how long to get a ticket for.
This is a sensible idea. On the couple of occasions when my dad was admitted to hospital, we had no idea how long we were going to be there. It’s not a time when you should be worrying about whether there’s enough time left on your ticket.
The problem is, though, that the Government isn’t giving hospitals any money to install pay on foot so, realistically, how many hospitals are going to do it?
And Jeremy Hunt’s promises rang even more hollow when Ipswich Hospital announced that it was consulting on actually increasing the parking charges paid by staff. This is a real kick in the teeth for caring and hardworking NHS staff who have already had their pay cut by 15% in real terms since 2010.
It would be bad news for residents in the surrounding area too. Their roads are already choked with the cars of people trying to avoid charges at the hospital. This will only get worse if parking fees are increased.