What would a Workplace Parking Levy mean for Edinburgh?
Plus: Christmas Markets choose big name city brewer; sewer source heat plan for Granton; and new boss at the St James Quarter
The city is pressing ahead with plans to become one of the first in the UK - after the trailblazers Nottingham - to introduce a local tax on workplace parking.
The council has launched a consultation on a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) despite its own transport convener, councillor Scott Arthur, expressing concern about the impact on low-paid workers.
The scheme would see companies charged at least around £650 a year per parking space to discourage the provision of free parking.
The council and supporters including Friends of the Earth believe it could be transformational for public transport and the environment in the Capital.
There is however widespread concern among businesses about the impact on the city’s post-Covid economic recovery as well as the impact on certain workers.
The pros: The council believes the scheme will help cut air pollution and traffic congestion. It also expects it to raise more than £100 million over the next decade towards public transport and active travel projects, such as the extension of the trams.
The cons: The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has warned that it will hit firms at a crucial time in their post-Covid recovery and questioned whether it is more about raising funds for cash-strapped councils than improving the environment. There are also concerns that it will make it impossible for some working parents to drop children at school and get to work on time.
Who will pay? Some workplace parking is exempt under the legislation enabling the tax, including all NHS properties, GP surgeries, hospices and disabled parking spaces. Council properties are not exempt. It is up to companies to decide whether to pay or pass on the cost to staff. In Nottingham, only companies providing more than 10 spaces have to pay, but full details of Edinburgh’s scheme including the boundary within which it would be applied will be decided next year.
Will it cut air pollution? The evidence from Nottingham - the first city in Europe to introduce a WPL in 2012 - is encouraging from an environmental perspective. Carbon emissions have dropped by a quarter. The scheme is credited with cutting air pollution, reducing congestion and raising £90 million over ten years which has been spent on local transport infrastructure, including a tram extension.
So the Nottingham scheme has been a success? The improvement in air quality since the WPL was launched means Nottingham is the only UK city of its size or larger to avoid having to introduce a Low Emission Zone charging a daily entry fee to the most polluting vehicles. It was also the only UK city to see a drop in rush hour congestion before the pandemic.
What about low paid workers? Eight out of ten companies in Nottingham chose to pass on the cost to employees, but it is not clear how many of those affected were low paid.
YOUR EDINBURGH BRIEFING
CONNERY TALENT LAB: With the support of the Sean Connery Foundation and a wide range of industry supporters, The National Film and Television School (NFTS) has opened a permanent base at First Stage Studios in Leith. The NFTS has launched an open call for 30 emerging Scottish filmmakers to join a new training programme at the Sean Connery Talent Lab. The Talent Lab will be one of the cornerstones of Scotland’s fast growing film industry and the emerging creative quarter based around the film studio in Leith.
BAFTA GLORY: Filmmaker Charlotte Wells has added two Scottish BAFTA Awards to her UK one for her debut film Aftersun. The former George Heriot’s pupil won best director and best film/television writer for her powerful father-daughter drama at last night’s ceremony in Glasgow. Trainspotting and Harry Potter star Shirley Henderson was also honoured for her outstanding contribution to the industry.
GRANTON HEATS UP: The £1.3 billion regeneration of Granton will hit another milestone when a major contract set to be awarded is considered by the Finance and Resources Committee of Edinburgh Council tomorrow. The contract is for pre-development work to refine and finalise the design of a sewer source low carbon heat network to serve thousands of homes, local facilities and the many other commercial and social enterprise businesses planned for Granton Waterfront. Vattenfall Heat UK Ltd proposed is the proposed preferred bidder. It is anticipated the contract will be signed by both parties in the coming weeks.
CHEERS TO CITY BEERS: Innis & Gunn has been named as the official beer sponsor of Edinburgh’s Winter Festival, which opened in the city centre on Friday, in a major coup for the city brewer. This will be the first year that the Christmas Markets will be selling only Scottish beers, including a new festive mulled beer from Innis & Gunn alongside some of its established favourites. The move follows complaints that the Festivals were failing to support local producers such as the city’s award-winning craft brewers.
HOMELESS COST: Spending of almost £64 million on providing temporary accommodation to Edinburgh’s homeless for the next ten years is expected to be approved tomorrow. Some 11 organisations have been awarded contracts, which are due to begin on 1 April 2024, ranging from more than £1million to more than £14million. The city council has a legal duty to provide temporary accommodation to people who are homeless, and councillors are expected to agree the contract awards.
MOST PLEASING… A Global Aesthetic Cities Index has been created by Swift Direct Blinds using data from Instagram, TikTok and more – and guess which beautiful Scottish Capital came out on top in the UK. Naturally, Edinburgh has been crowned numero uno for its number of historic buildings and popularity on Instagram and TikTok, with Aberdeen in a creditable fourth place and Glasgow in 9th.
…ALSO PLEASING: The Shore in Leith, Edinburgh, was voted as the best neighbourhood in the UK and Ireland at the 2023 Urbanism Awards by The Academy of Urbanism, a network of built environment experts from across Europe. The factors include social, economic and environmental factors. Edinburgh has had previous success at the Urbanism Awards, including Portobello winning the Great Neighbourhood Award in 2019.
EATS SHOOTS, LEAVING SOON: Awww. We’re into the final straight in the Capital’s love affair with large, black and white, bearlike mammals. Giant Panda enthusiasts have less than two more weeks to say goodbye, with access being restricted from November 30 as Yang Guang and Tian Tian get set to begin their return journey to China in December. It’s another excuse, as if we needed it, to provide you with a suitably cute picture, courtesy of our friends at Edinburgh Zoo. Thanks for the memories…
MURRAYFIELD STADIUM: Scottish Rugby is to assess the future needs of the stadium to ensure it remains one of the UK’s leading sports and concert venues following its huge success in recent years. That will include looking at the possibility of expanding corporate entertainment facilities to be more in line with those on offer at London’s Twickenham and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, reports theoffsideline.com. “We’re about to look at the stadium, what’s going to be redundant in the stadium, what we have to do. There is a conditioning report being done and once that’s there we’ll have to review it with the Board about how we develop the stadium,” chief executive Mark Dodson told Scottish Rugby’s AGM.
SUVS TARGETED: The climate protest group Tyre Extinguishers has once again targeted SUVs by letting down the tyres of 32 vehicles parked overnight in the New Town, including Land Rovers and Range Rovers. SUVs have been targeted in a number of ‘nights of action’ with the latest coming as the city council considers plans to restrict their use in the city amid concerns about their road safety and environmental impact.
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Council detected £1million in fraud
Almost a million pounds of fraud was detected by Edinburgh council’s Customer Fraud team during the last financial year. A report going before City of Edinburgh councillors tomorrow shows that in 2022/23 the team detected fraud/error of £926,000 – most of it related to council tax or disabled blue badge claims.
The report said that allegations are received from various sources, including members of the public, the Department for Work and Pensions and others. The Council operates a web-based system that allows the public to report suspected cases of fraud. Following an initial assessment by Business Support, allegations are referred to the relevant service for investigation. During 2022/23, 467 allegations were reported, and 116 were not within the Council's remit and were referred to the appropriate external organisations. Of the remaining 350 allegations, 289 were not upheld and 61 were upheld, with appropriate actions being progressed.
The two largest areas both related to council tax – single person occupancy discount claims accounted for almost £570,000 and council tax discount and exemption claims related to almost £200,000.
PLAYING SPACE: A skate park, climbing wall and bowling alley would be built on the edge of Dunbar under plans drawn to create a major community facility at Dunbear Point off the A1. Social entrepreneur Adrian Girling hopes theSpace Dunbar will build on the popularity of indoor skate park and community facility theSPACE North Berwick which he ran until it closed seven years ago. theSpace has been working with EMA Architecture and Design on the proposals which go on public display at Hallhilll Sports Centre in the town on 12 December.
DENZIL TO STEP DOWN: The ebullient chairman of Essential Edinburgh has signalled his intention of standing down – which opens up an important civic position. Speaking at Essential Edinburgh’s well-attended annual review in Bonnie & Wild within the St James Quarter, Denzil Skinner, founder of Denzil Skinner & Partners, fine jewellery designers based in William Street, spoke of his pride in being the chair but said it was his intention to hand over the reins after a number of years as chairman.
He encouraged anyone working in retail business in central Edinburgh, who is passionate about the city and wants to take on this role, to contact him through the Essential Edinburgh office, and he and Roddy Smith, chief executive, would “take them out to lunch”.
Earlier Roddy Smith spoke about the organisation’s stable financial position, and said he was delighted that over 92% of members have voted for its continuation until 31st March 2028. Essential Edinburgh, set up in 2008 as a Business Improvement District, has emerged as a powerful force for trading organisations within the city centre BID area. It has been at the forefront of initiatives to encourage footfall and commercial activities designed to drive sales.
Smith mentioned that the UK government’s decision to end tax-free shopping for overseas visitors continues to have a detrimental impact on premium sales in the city. It remains one of Essential Edinburgh’s lobbying commitments for 2024. He spoke about the importance of the up-coming Christmas and festive season activities including the skating rink in George Street. The Essential Edinburgh Business Improvement District has a fixed boundary, agreed upon prior to the BID renewal ballot in March 2023.
CARBON REDUCTION READY? Edinburgh’s large cohort of SMEs will need to ensure they have a carbon reduction plan in place when bidding for larger contracts, explained Adam Bastock of Small99, an organisation helping the business community reach its net zero targets.
An important policy called Procurement Policy Note 06/21, or PPN0621, was approved by the UK Government in June 2021. It requires all central government departments, executive agencies, and non-departmental public bodies to consider carbon reduction plans when awarding contracts worth £5 million or more per year. This also applies in Scotland.
It is part of the UK Government’s ambition to reach net zero by 2050. In short, it means that any businesses bidding for contracts must have a Carbon Reduction Plan in place to demonstrate their own commitment to cutting emissions and achieving net zero.
“By 2027, which is not far off, all companies in any supply chain must have a Carbon Reduction Plan in place. To comply with PPN0621 and become eligible to bid for UK government contracts, small businesses must have an accurate and detailed carbon reduction plan in place. This should clearly show what the company’s current carbon footprint is, what targets they are aiming for to reduce emissions, and a roadmap for achieving these targets,” he told the WeDO conference in Edinburgh.
Even marketing companies or accountancy firms working for larger public sector organisations, including the NHS, will need to have an approved plan in place.
Elsewhere at the conference, Cameron Johnston spoke emotionally about his hard journey from injured professional rugby player, suffering a broken neck, to finding his role as an army officer and physiotherapist, and a career which led to a compression invention, Riixo Recovery, to hasten the repair of damaged knees and legs. His story was a rousing start to an incredible day including Vikki Bruce, Dr Poonam Gupta OBE, Alex Brown, and Ian McLeod Kerr. Tayburn boss Richard Simpson turned inquisitor for two In Conversation sessions, firstly with former Sunday Times Scotland editor Jason Allardyce, and then Dr Brian Williamson. In the panel session of business and the economy, Professor Mairi Spowage, director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, spoke about Scotland’s slow rate of growth and how Edinburgh SMEs can place a vital part in helping the country improve its productivity and GDP growth. Well done to Belinda Roberts and her WeDo team for an exceptional Edinburgh event.
NEW FACE IN TOWN: Inquirer was delighted to see Anne Ledgerwood, the new Centre Director of St James Quarter, has recently made the move to Edinburgh after many years of running the St Enoch Centre on Argyll Street, one of Scotland’s busiest shopping destination malls. Prior to this, Anne was director at Braehead centre in Renfrewshire. She is a former chair of the Glasgow City Centre Retail Association, and was Deputy President of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. She has always had a strong civic voice, helping Glasgow’s strategic post-Covid renewal, and she will be most welcome in Edinburgh retail circles.
THE WEB WE WEAVE: Ian Ritchie is a well-known business figure and technology entrepreneur. He’s also someone who can tell a good tale, as a former columnist in Scottish Business Insider. So his new book, The Web before the Web, is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand how the PC (personal computer) took hold from the mid 1970s to the mid 1990s. Ian’s start-up company OWL was a pioneer of hypertext, the technology which now allows us to bring the Inquirer to you. Kindle edition is £2.99. Paperback £9.99, available on Amazon.
BEST MEDICINE: Comedian Ross Noble brings his Jibber Jabber Jamboree – his 21st solo stand-up tour - to Edinburgh at the weekend, when he appears at the Usher Hall on Saturday with a show that kicks off at 8pm. It promises to be an evening “of the sort of inspired nonsense that has cemented his place as the supreme master of stream of conscious freewheeling stand up.” Ross Noble Jibber Jabber Jamboree | Usher Hall
WALK INTO TOWN: The Art and Craft Collective are staging an exhibition of photographs by local artist James Carter taken on his walks into town from his Newington home. It features “abstract patterns, moody landscapes, and odd things that made me wonder…” A Walk into Town is at the Art and Craft Collective, Causewayside, until 17 December.
FLIGHT CLUB: Darts-themed cocktail bar and brunch venue Flight Club has opened in the St James Quarter and is already proving a hit with 18,000 bookings being taken ahead of its opening. The bar has ten oches (playing areas) and aims to make darts fun and open to all with features such as automatic scoring to save you having to do any tricky sums.
BRAVO FOR ENCORE: A Parisian-style cocktail bar is set to open in Edinburgh's west end next month. Encore on Hope Street is due to open on December 1, with live music and sophisticated performance nights. Bonne chance!
VIVA BURRITO: Tortilla, the UK’s largest fast-casual Mexican restaurant brand, is opening its doors to its second restaurant in Edinburgh, on Thursday on Forrest Road. To celebrate the launch in true fiesta style, Tortilla is giving away free burritos at the new location on Wednesday, and burrito fanciers can register and pop down between 12-1.30pm on the day.
SOME EXTRA DIARY DATES FOR YOU
LAVA LEITH: If Edinburgh is a hot bed of creativity, then Leith is positively volcanic. See for yourself what is hot - and maybe pick up a unique Christmas present or two - at a special open day showcasing the work of local creative talents and producers. You can sample the best of the port’s markets and open studios on the Leith Creative Trail on Saturday, 3 December. The trail takes in the Coburg House Open Studios, Leith Farmers Market, jeweller Ruth Leslie at Custom Lane, the Edinburgh Open Workshops Makers Market and the Out of the Blue Drill Hall Christmas Arts Market.
CATHEDRAL CAROLS: St Giles’ Cathedral Choir will be performing Christmas favourites and carols for all on 9 December at 5.30-6.30pm, with Jordan English on organ and Michael Harris as Master of the Music. Tickets are available in advance and cost £10 (students £6, accompanied children free).
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