WARRINGTON and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust raked in more than half a million pounds last year by charging its staff to park at work, according to new statistics.

New figures released by the NHS showed that the trust generated more than £672,010 in employee parking charges and fines in the 12 months leading up to March this year.

Nationally, trusts in England made a combined total of £70 million from staff parking charges during the same period.

The Unite union said that these figures were ‘scandalous’ and amounted to a tax on NHS workers.

But Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said that its parking charges were among the lowest of any NHS trust in Cheshire and Merseyside.

Chief operating officer Chris Evans told the Warrington Guardian that charging staff for parking helped to keep in-demand spaces free for patients and visitors, while all funds generated in this way were reinvested in its car parks.

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He said: “Staff car parking rates were revised in 2016, six years since the previous review and where - having benchmarked against 10 other NHS trusts in Cheshire and Merseyside - Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was the lowest charging employer by some margin.

“All staff permit holders were subject to a standard percentage increase, which still left the trust one of the most affordable for staff parking in the region.

“Car parking capacity is a real issue, particularly at the Warrington site, and that means protecting patient and visitor parking spaces as well as staff spaces.

“Over 3,000 of 4,200 staff hold parking permits, and the trust needs to make alternatives to driving more attractive to ensure that patients and visitors are not disadvantaged.

“Income derived from staff car parking charges is reinvested in maintaining the car parks and the provision of security patrols.

“In addition, following the recent national pay award for NHS staff, the trust elected to fund the cost of any car parking increases for staff where the pay award took them into the next charging band to ensure that they weren’t financially disadvantaged.”