I welcome the opportunity to comment on the new clause and the important points made by my hon. Friend Kevin Foster. My hon. Friend David Tredinnick, who is my constituency neighbour, has already set out in significant detail his views on the new clause. Although the intentions expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay are good, as they generally are, and in the best interests of constituents, my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth was right to speak against the new clause. I shall set out the Government’s view on why we do not think that agreeing to it is a good idea.
The Bill will create the power to make regulations to simplify the procedures local authorities must follow if they want to lower their parking charges. It will introduce a consultation requirement if local authorities want to increase parking charges. Parking provision plays an important role in allowing people to access high streets and town centres. Town centres continue to play an essential role in the lives of communities, and parking charges can be an important factor when people choose which ones to visit. As some out-of-town shopping malls provide free parking, councils need to think carefully about the level and range of parking available. Parking charges will no doubt play an important role in people’s choices. The Government are committed to promoting town centres and high streets as thriving places at the heart of communities.
I strongly believe that it is right and proper for local authorities to consult their local communities and town centre businesses when proposing to increase charges. I stress that this is not about the Government trying to dictate to local authorities how to conduct their parking policies. We are asking councils, in a localist way, to take into account the views of local communities before increasing charges. I have a good example from my constituency. The local district council has not listened to the views of local people and has increased car parking charges. As a result, its car parking income has dropped by £350,000. That shows why it is important to consult local people and listen carefully to what they say because the views of local people and business owners are quite often the views of the very people who use and depend on those car parks for their livelihoods.