I completely agree with my hon. Friend in terms of the overall theory. On putting up car parking charges—I am thinking particularly about local authorities and those sitting on the Local Authority Bill Committee with me on this point—business rates growth will benefit councils. Councils could decide to use discounts on car parking to incentivise investment, which then delivers more in business rates. In the past—certainly when I was in local government in a leading position—if I had done that, I would have taken the hit from the drop in parking revenue, but the national Exchequer would have taken the benefit of increased business rates and people coming off jobseeker’s allowance and getting into work. If we were lucky, we might have had a small share of some of that income a bit later, once we had applied for it. My hon. Friend makes a strong point.
I should point out, however, that my amendment makes it clear that the Bill’s provisions should
“not apply where a local authority make, or propose to make, an order to increase parking charges in off- street parking places and designated parking places.”
My amendment would still allow the thrust of this Bill where there is a proposal to drop parking charges, but I want it to be clearer that no order is being created under this Bill to increase parking charges.
I agree that it is absolutely right to have a system to lower parking charges, rather than to increase them. As I said in my opening remarks, I cannot remember receiving a letter from someone demanding the right to pay an extra pound or two when they park their car. If I had done, I would have made it clear that they were welcome to overpay if they wanted—it is quite an easy thing to do.
I might withdraw this amendment later, depending on what I hear, particularly about the Minister’s intentions in respect of the powers created under the Bill, but I wanted to explore the Bill’s provisions on lowering parking charges, to ensure that it is not about getting around the statutory consultation process for increasing them.