COUNCILS were last night accused of declaring war on motorists over plans for a new £400-per-space parking tax on city-centre workers.

Campaigners let rip after Reading and Bristol became the latest local authorities to consider a new “workplace parking levy” on car commuters.

Under the plans, city-centre firms could be charged as much as £400 a year for every staff parking space they have in a bid to tackle congestion.

The AA said that in Nottingham - the first council to introduce the scheme back in 2012 - 40 per cent of employers have passed the charge on to employees.

The motoring organisation said that Reading Council’s own officers admit the Nottingham scheme has only had a “small impact on congestion” - but raises £9 million a year.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove earlier this summer cleared the way for councils to introduce new toxic taxes or outright bans on ‘dirty diesel’ cars to tackle air pollution.

AA head policy chief Jack Cousens stormed: “This is a tax on workers – and it’s reducing the spending that goes on city centre shops and restaurants that keep centres open and thriving.”

Former Tory Minister Rob Halfon said: “Yet again motorists are being battered by stealth taxes.

"Not only will this cause hardship to staff but it will hit businesses hugely. It’s a war on motorists and it has to stop.”

Reading Council insists the plans for a levy were at the “early stages” in a bid to raise money for ‘green’ initiatives such as park and ride. But other proposals could include ‘road charging’.

Bristol is considering the levy to reduce congestion and raise money for a new underground metro.

The city council scrapped an original plan in 2012 to charge firms £1 per day per space – and instead said they would look to use higher business rates instead to generate more cash.

The AA said local government statistics show that commuting to work in Nottingham by car is typically 34 minutes quicker than using public transport. The difference in Reading is 41 minutes.