Parking Places (Variation of Charges) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:45 am on 3rd February 2017.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay 9:45 am, 3rd February 2017

Yes, I will be very happy to comment on that. I have no problem with a local authority looking to make a reasonable return from its car parking asset to ensure that it can maintain it and support its wider corporate objectives. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right that some seem to view parking as a cash cow or, even worse, have some deluded anti-motorist position and think that if they whack their car parking charges up massively everyone will get the bus instead. The reality is that people look at one town centre and then look at another town centre or an out-of-town shopping centre and say, “If that place is just going to try to rip me off and view me as a cash cow, I am going to go somewhere else.” We particularly notice that in certain Labour-run local authorities—Calderdale might be one. They take a view that is more anti-business and anti-growth and decide to try to milk motorists by imposing charges that in reality will just put people off, or, even worse, are deliberately used to target those who work in the town centre and, because of where they live, cannot use public transport. In some market towns and cities people living in surrounding rural areas have little choice about how they travel to work. If their annual charges go up—or season tickets or daily prices—that will hit their income, effectively taxing it via the back door. I completely agree with my hon. Friend on that. Some councils seem to view parking as a cash cow, and we need to make it clear that while there is no problem with making a reasonable return, we do not want councils to engage in the rip-off behaviour that we see from some private sector operators. At the end of the day, a council has a wider duty to its whole area, not just to what it thinks it can get away with when making money from parking.

Overall, the Bill is welcome. As I touched on in response to an earlier intervention, having two systems makes sense: one for lowering charges and a completely different one for putting them up. Over the past few years, the Government have looked to strengthen the fairness of the enforcement of parking charges.