15. What assessment he has made of the effect of local authority parking charges on town centre regeneration. (908061)
The previous Labour Government told town halls to hike up parking charges and issue more parking fines. Such aggressive parking policies undermined local shops and high streets. That is why this Government have introduced a package of measures to support local shops that will come into law shortly.
Thousands of local people have signed my campaign to introduce three hours’ free parking to regenerate Stevenage town centre. Does the Secretary of State agree that in order to provide that regeneration it is time for Stevenage’s Labour borough council to stop ripping off local people by charging £3.5 million a year in parking charges?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Planning guidance issued by the now noble Lord Prescott told councils to hike parking charges and to issue more fines to discourage motorists. A former Minister for local government in the previous Government called for councils to charge more for services, including parking. Town centres suffer a disadvantage because of free car parking in out-of-town car parking centres. If we are to encourage people to shop locally, they have to be able to get there, and the measures we are introducing are designed precisely to do that.