Reports that councils may be considering the introduction of a levy on firms with private staff car parking spaces has provoked protest from a leading business group.
The workplace parking levy is an initiative being considered by a number of councils. If launched it could ould see firms "taxed" on the spaces they provide their employees.
The aims of the schemes are to ease city centre congestion and to increase the use of public transport. Nottingham city council has already received authority to proceed and is due to introduce a pilot in 2012.
Under the scheme employers who provide 11 or more parking spaces. They would be charged £250 per parking space provided and this figure would be set to rise to £350 over the next few years. Who bears the charge would be up to the employers. They can pay it or recharge it to employees.
With such a large potential revenue stream for relatively small administraion burden it could be seen as a means to raise additional funds. Recent press reports suggest that this may well be the case for a number of other councils.
The Forum of Private Business (FPB) reacted by saying it is deeply opposed to the scheme.
Chris Gorman, the FPB's spokesman, said: "When the Nottingham WPL scheme was given the go-ahead last year, we said at the time that it would only be a matter of time before it spread to other towns and cities. Sadly, it appears those fears will soon be realised."
The FPB regards the levy as a stealth tax, which will have a disproportionate impact on small businesses.
Mr Gorman continued: "Businesses already contribute enormous amounts to public services through existing taxes such as business rates. Whatever its supposed justifications, the danger is that the WPL could open the floodgates to a raft of new taxes and charges being levied onto companies to pay for things which were previously paid for through general taxation.
"And while councils' finances are under pressure, this is a very short-sighted idea as companies are likely to avoid areas with a WPL scheme in operation, meaning jobs, investment and therefore tax revenue will end up elsewhere."
Mr Gorman added: "This proposal comes as small businesses are battling with economic uncertainty, public spending cuts and worrying levels of inflation.
"We would urge any businesses whose local authorities are considering implementing a WPL scheme to oppose it in every way they can."