CONTROVERSIAL parking charges at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital will be among those scrapped if Labour wins the General Election, writes Rob George.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made the pledge during a visit to Worcester on Monday (May 8) which saw him meet student nurses at the University of Worcester and address crowds on the city’s High Street.
Mr Corbyn pledged to follow in the footsteps of the Welsh Labour Government in scrapping the charges and said the policy would cost £162million.
The axe on parking charges would be funded by a rise in premiums on private health insurance but would mean free parking for patients, visitors and staff.
“The nurses I met said it would be brilliant for them as they have had their pay frozen for several years,” he said.
“They feel it’s quite wrong they have to pay for parking because they need their cars because of the anti social hours they work.
Motorists face a charge of £3.70 for up to a two hour stay at the Royal which rises to £7.50 for stays of a day or more.
When asked whether the cost of the scheme amounted to a stealth tax, Mr Corbyn fiercely defended the move.
“It will raise the insurance premium from 12 to 20 per cent, we think it’s reasonable to do that as it’s mostly paid by employers for private health insurance for their staff,” he said.
“It’s about ensuring the tax havens some people are very keen on cough up the same as the rest of us, we have one of the most unequal societies in Europe.
“It’s a bit sad when you are talking to someone who needs your time in the hospital and you are looking at your watch and thinking ‘I’ve got to go and move the car’.
“It’s not expensive but it’s something we feel we should do,” he added.
During his visit, Mr Corbyn also spoke to nurses about bringing back student grants which have been scrapped by the Tories.
“It was very interesting talking to student nurses, they all have a passion for nursing and because they can get bursaries they can do that.
“If someone else now wants to go into nursing, unless they have a partner with a good income, they couldn’t do it because of the lack of bursaries,” he added.
The Labour leader also revealed his desire to come to Worcester in the early part of the campaign.
“I’ve done nearly 30 campaign events so far and the vast majority have been in Conservative held areas,” he said.
“We have got to get the message out there for the whole country because that is what an election is about.
Labour’s candidate Coun Joy Squires said the charges were welcome and said many didn’t leave hospital during the 30 minutes free period.
“It really racks up especially if you are waiting to see your consultant and I think this will be so welcome in Worcester,” she added.