I entirely agree. We must not allow that to happen. Making car parks full and making them places where people want to go is critical to town centre regeneration and the creation of a good retail environment.
I also welcome the Government’s move to look at further reforms to the local government transparency code to ensure that motorists can see at first hand a complete breakdown of the parking charges that their councils impose and how much they raise. There has long been a suspicion among drivers that parking charges and penalties are being used to increase the amount of money that local authorities can spend. Local authorities have no legal powers to set parking charges at a higher level than that needed to achieve the objective of relieving or preventing traffic congestion, and this Bill will make local authorities more mindful of this fact.
In the 2013-14 financial year, councils received just under £739 million from on-street parking and £599 million from off-street parking. The income received varies widely from council to council. The Broads, for example, did not receive any income for parking, whereas Cambridgeshire County Council received over £3 million from on-street parking. In total, councils in England made net profits of £660 million and £343 million from penalty charge notices. My own local authorities, which cover Halesowen and Rowley Regis, have recorded nearly £500,000 between them in profit from parking charges. Local people want, and deserve, to have faith that this money is being used properly.
Under the last Labour Government, revenue from parking increased from £608 million in 1997 to £1.3 billion by 2010. Such parking enforcement has undermined local high streets and I am grateful to the Government, who have since made many efforts to rein in these over-zealous and unfair rules.
In recent years, I have supported the Government’s action on tackling higher parking charges and aggressive parking enforcement which have caused considerable distress for thousands of motorists. I congratulate the Government on the measures they have introduced to stop parking charges being used as a stealth tax, including introducing new grace periods and stopping the industrial use of CCTV spy cars. Therefore, I believe it is in the best interests of my constituents, and those of local businesses and high streets, that this Bill, very ably introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth, be enacted.
The link between parking charges and the health of British high streets cannot be underestimated. These changes will make it easier for local authorities to lower their charges to promote economic vitality in our town centres, and, importantly, ensure that if an increase is to be considered, the right steps are taken to make sure that it is properly considered. I believe that these are the right measures to help our local high streets, bring assurance to motorists and inject a much-needed incentive to revive town centres and high streets in my constituency and across the country.