7. If he will take steps to reduce excessive parking charges and address aggressive parking enforcement. (901204)
Yes, councils should be treating motorists fairly and promoting their town centres, not treating car parking charges and fines as a way of raising revenue. We will consult on a range of proposals later this year.
Stevenage borough council is ripping off local people by taking more than £3 million a year in car parking charges, which is preventing the regeneration of Stevenage town centre. To make matters worse, it uses more than £1 million of profits for unrelated services, which I believe the High Court considers to be illegal. What actions will the Secretary of State take to protect local people from Stevenage borough council?
I am sorry to hear of the state of affairs in Stevenage. We shall certainly be looking at the rules on charging and the parking review grace periods in which parking offences can be ruled unacceptable. We shall be consulting on how this might be done appropriately and soon be laying orders on the collection of fines from closed circuit television.
Health care professionals such as midwives provide an invaluable service and allow people to stay safe and independent in their own home. As part of the consultation he mentioned, does the Secretary of State agree that we should consider allowing them to park in all residential areas without fear of a parking fine?
My hon. Friend makes a very reasonable point. Of course, a number of local authorities already consult and have a working arrangement with the local national health service. Clearly, district nurses and doctors want to go about their business without the fear of fines, and I also think it appropriate that ambulances should be able to attend without the fear of parking fines. I think this should be done, and I will certainly include it in the consultation.
Hammersmith and Fulham has increased its take from moving vehicle penalty charge notices by 400% in four years. It raises £2.7 million from one box junction alone, and it says it does this to increase parking revenue, not to improve the movement of traffic. What will the Secretary of State do about Tory councils that rip off motorists?
I am shocked to hear this. Hammersmith and Fulham is an exemplary council: not many councils in this country have consistently reduced council tax by 3% every year. I do not think, therefore, that its population is being ripped off, but I shall certainly take a most careful look at the hon. Gentleman’s remarks.
The Secretary of State should acknowledge that across the country Tory councils are charging more—[Interruption.] I know Conservative Members do not want to hear the information from councils themselves showing that the three highest in the country are Tory-run and that in London Tory councils take twice as much off residents for parking as Labour. May I invite him to join me in congratulating Labour councils on backing their town centres?
In his previous existence, the hon. Gentleman would not have had the temerity to cite that set of figures, which can be achieved only by counting off-street parking, which means the more off-street parking a council provides—the friendlier it makes it for motorists—the worse those figures appear, so frankly I regard them as bogus. They reflect the anti-car policies of the Labour party, which consistently cut the number of parking spaces and instructed local authorities to increase car parking charges.