Late night parking charges threaten Glasgow hospitality

Extending Glasgow’s car parking charges to 10pm each night would pose a ‘significant threat’ to hundreds of jobs in bars, restaurants, theatres and nightclubs across the city – and from those businesses’ point of view, it simply cannot be allowed to happen.

The city’s hospitality industry leaders and representatives have written to Glasgow City Council’s leader, Susan Aitken, calling on her to reconsider the proposal, which was part of the council’s recently published draft budget for 2024 to 2027.

“We acknowledge the immense financial strain the Glasgow City Council faces, mirroring the challenges encountered by the businesses we represent,” read the joint statement. “The task of finding £107 million in savings over the next three years is daunting, especially while striving to maintain essential services such as education with dwindling resources and escalating costs.

“However, it is important to recognise the ongoing hardships faced by businesses and their workers across all sectors in Glasgow. They have weathered four tumultuous years, grappling with the ramifications of the pandemic, surging inflation, soaring interest rates and persistent operational expenses.”

Thirteen organisations and businesses, including the Federation of Small Businesses, the Scottish Hospitality Group, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Unite Hospitality, put their names to the joint letter expressing ‘grave concerns’ over the council’s plan, citing a recent survey conducted by FSB and SHG which showed 97% of respondents across Glasgow feared that extending parking charges to 10pm would be detrimental to their business.

The signatories warned: “Businesses in the hospitality and retail sectors are teetering on the brink of collapse. Numerous beloved establishments have already sadly closed their doors permanently in recent years.

“The Scottish Government’s failure to extend the 75% rates relief to businesses in these sectors is not helpful either. We also have grave concerns around the potential impact on the safety of both staff and customers, at a time when there are ongoing public transport challenges such as its reliability and frequency at night.

“We therefore ask the council administration to reconsider the Standardisation of Chargeable Hours Across Parking Zones and discard its implementation altogether. Virtually all businesses and many workers in the city fear its potential adverse effects, from diminished turnover to challenges in staff retention and recruitment.

“More alarmingly, it poses a significant threat to hundreds of jobs in bars, restaurants, theatres, and nightclubs throughout the city, potentially leading to the closure of numerous otherwise viable enterprises,” said the joint letter. “The ripple effect could jeopardise the livelihoods of the supply chains of these businesses as well. We simply cannot let this happen.”

Challenged about the parking plan during a live TV interview, Ms Aitken appeared to row back on the change’s timetable, suggesting that it had always been an element for the more distant end of the council’s 2024 – 2027 plan.

An SNP Group spokesperson has since said: “There’s been an assumption that the standardisation of evening parking charges was being introduced immediately. That was never the case. It had been planned for introduction next year at the earliest.

“But having listened to the concerns of businesses we’re now keeping these charges within the city centre under review and will refer the phasing of its introduction back to the cross-party budget working group.”

The council plan is being called a ‘standardisation’ as a few parts of the city already levy parking charges up until 10pm, particularly in densely-packed residential areas like Kelvinside and Garnethill. However, the later charges applied there have the function of keeping spaces available for holders of residents’ parking permits – a justification less applicable in amongst the city’s retail and hospitality hotspots, where customers have long been accustomed to finding ample free parking spaces after 6pm.

The industry letter to Susan Aitken was signed by:

  • Stephen Montgomery, Director & Spokesperson – Scottish Hospitality Group;
  • Hisashi Kuboyama, Development Manager – Federation of Small Businesses;
  • Michael Bergson, Director – Buck’s Bar;
  • Michael Grieve, Chairman – Night Time Industries Association Scotland;
  • Brian Kelly, Chair – Possilpark Business Improvement District;
  • Jonny McDonald, Chair – My Shawlands Business Improvement District;
  • Stuart Patrick CBE, Chief Executive – Glasgow Chamber of Commerce;
  • Bryan Simpson, Lead Organiser – Unite Hospitality;
  • Leon Thompson, Executive Director – UK Hospitality Scotland;
  • Paul Togneri, Senior Advisor – Scottish Beer & Pub Association;
  • John Turner, Chair – Byres Road & Lanes Business and Improvement District;
  • Alessandro Varese, Director – Blue Lagoon Fish & Chip Shops LTD;
  • Colin Wilkinson, Managing Director – Scottish Licensed Trade Association.