Social workers to pay car use charges

Social workers who work in central London and use their cars to
make home visits will not be exempt from congestion charges to be
introduced next February.

A spokesperson for Transport for London confirmed this week that
people delivering “vital” services such as those in the fire
service and the NHS would not be expected to pay for vehicles such
as fire engines and ambulances. But social workers who needed to
use a car as part of their job would be expected to pay.

This has prompted fears that councils will face a host of
“practical and financial problems”. Public sector union Unison has
warned that the plans by London mayor Ken Livingstone to bring in a
daily £5 charge to travel into the capital’s centre will place
financial and bureaucratic burdens on local authorities.

Julian Cooke, research officer at Greater London Unison, said: “We
have calculated that our staff, who have 30 cars between them,
would be paying £40,000.”

Cooke added that although there were exemptions for people carrying
out certain kinds of jobs councils would need to fill out forms for
every vehicle that was exempt from the charges.

He said: “Those people who do not fill out an exemption form will
find that the fines for not doing so will escalate very quickly and
I can see a lot of people falling foul of the scheme.”

Cooke also predicted that charging could also create chaos on the
periphery of the zone and would lead to worse congestion, which
could “prevent people moving around doing vital jobs”.

Unison is now analysing the proposals and is preparing to consult
with social services departments, eight of which are based in
councils within the charging zone, as well as health professionals
to gauge their reactions to the plans.

“If we decide it is unworkable then we will make a representation
to the Greater London Authority some time in the autumn,” said

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