Revealed: car-parking perks of the Whitehall bureaucrats

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The Independent Online
Ministers plan to crack down on company car parks because they consider them an incentive for people to drive to work. So why, asked one Labour peer, do top civil servants get so many places to park? Randeep Ramesh, Transport Correspondent, examines the arguments.

There are nearly 2,500 parking spaces for civil servants in central London, according to figures obtained by Lord Berkeley, a former Labour transport spokesman. The peer yesterday questioned why so many spaces were needed at a time when motorists are being encouraged by ministers to switch to public transport.

"It is inconceivable that the Government has 2,500 essential car users in central London," said Lord Berkeley. "I believe that most just use their cars as a cheap and comfortable means of commuting, in isolation from the general public forced into crowded public transport." Lord Berkeley, chairman of the Rail Freight Group since 1996, has written to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who himself took a well-publicised walk to work this week, urging him to tackle the issue.

"Mr Prescott recently called for ministers to use public transport. I have written to him suggesting that he addresses the much larger problem of private car parking for officials in the same way, so that all but a few essential users forsake their cars, comply with the Government's own transport policy and set an example to the rest of the population."

Experts say the Government accounts for less than 5 per cent of the total of "private non-residential car parking spaces" in central London.

High-profile transport figures - including Mr Prescott, who has a chauffeur-driven Jaguar, and rail regulator John Swift, who is given a car - say that the demands of a job requires a car.

However, some experts say that on average civil servants have fewer car parking spaces than big business. "Only 8 per cent of civil servants travel into work by car into central London - that is half the average rate," said Irving Yass, transport director for London First - a group which lobbies on behalf of big business in London. Mr Yass added there were 60,000 "private non-residential parking spaces" in London.