First a bit of background: I’ve been creating a new website that people can use to propose and pursue investigations – Help Me Investigate.com. One of my own questions was ‘How much does Good Hope Hospital make from parking charges?’
That investigation now has 11 people working on it and has proceeded so quickly that I thought I should a) write a blog to record what’s going on and hopefully find others interested in the same issues; and b) take stock on what we’ve found out so far.
Here goes then:
Nick Booth found a Mirror article from 2008 based on Freedom of Information (FOI) requests which said Good Hope had made £700,000 from parking.
Question answered? Only half. Matt Buck suggested:
“Personal best guess is that it is the value of the existing contract to the Trust. The profit side of the operation in the car park would, or should, come out through [parking contractor] APCOA UKs accounts.”
Curiously, data for Good Hope was missing from the response to a Freedom of Information request submitted in March 2008. Paul Henderson, who found that, noted that
“Other hospitals in the Heart of England Trust [provided data], so it suggests it’s not a Trust-wide policy, but down to the individual hospitals”
Meanwhile, something else bothered me. Stacey Spencer had found a Birmingham Mail article which quoted Paul Quinsey, Facilities Manager at Good Hope Hospital, as saying:
“Income from car parking does not make a profit for the Trust. It contributes towards costs of staffing, lighting, barrier maintenance, pay-on-foot machines, grounds maintenance, energy and water charges, capital charges and VAT.”
A similar quote comes from the hospital which made the most money from parking in The Mirror story:
An Addenbrooke’s spokesman said: “This isn’t £2m profit – it’s £2m income that funds a high-quality parking service on site for people who really need it. If we didn’t charge, that £2m would come out of our clinical care budget.”
But this raised the question: what does £2m buy you in parking – and why is it £700,000 for Good Hope and less for other hospitals? What costs does it go toward – just those incurred by parking, or other hospital services? How do they know how much to charge the contractors? When the annual report talks of “a commercial strategy based on maximising some of our current non NHS income” does that include parking?
And most importantly: how much are contractors making out of this? An article on parking contractors found by Paul Henderson pointed out how lucrative the field was:
“Demand from institutions and private equity for alternatives to a rapidly weakening conventional property market is moving parking onto the same stage as infrastructure such as road tolls and airports. Mission Capital, one of the brightest new stars in property, run by the equally bright Emma Sinclair, saw the opportunity a couple of years ago, by taking over KML. Created in 1992 to advise on maximising income from parking sites, the small Kent-based group has regularly featured among the top 50 firms in the sector. Sinclair has said she sees KML as a core part of Mission’s strategy, marrying expertise in maximising parking income flows with the capability to see property development opportunities.”
I’ve already learned a great deal through the experience, and become more passionate about the issue. The investigation continues.
If you want to help investigate this, let me know in the comments below.