Entrepreneurial Sussex

Universities are now supposed to be hotbeds of enterprise ­— industrial and software spinoffs, that sort of thing. The University of Sussex, the place run by Michael “Penny” Farthing, the VC 239.75 old pennies short of a pound, seems keen to encourage a more basic business plan. A colleague who recently visited Sussex found that it costs £2.50 to park for two hours. But that was not the only charge. Returning to the car he found a “penalty charge” slapped on the windscreen, apparently because he had not parked in a designated space, which were all full when he arrived.

According to its website Sussex staff have to fork out £360 a year for a parking pass, except for those on a zero hours contract — yes they have those in universities these days, the new sweatshops of Europe — who get it for £36. The generosity! So if you can’t use public transport you pay a charge for the privilege of going to work. But Sussex claim this is an act of generosity: parking fees collected are less than the cost of the car parks, hence employees are receiving a subsidy! This is the fun of artificial markets. The University creates Sussex Estates, which charges the “University” the “costs” of the car park. Where do the car park monies end up? Not hard to work out, is it?

Not that these charges are freeing parking spaces: go to Sussex and you’ll find all the car parks rammed and you risk a penalty of £60 if you make the tiniest infraction. But not to worry if you do get one. The “penalty” is nothing of the sort. It is just one of the dodges that private companies like to pull to rip people off. Visitors who have not given their names together with car registrations cannot be traced anyway. So you can tell Sussex where to stick its penalty notices, as no doubt the staff would like to tell Farthing.

No car park charges at Kingston so far. But it would be no surprise if Ratty goes that way eventually — he cycles to work after all. He could be the car park attendant. At least he’ll do less harm in that job.

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