Answering Parliamentary Questions (PQs) in the House of Commons yesterday (October 21st), Mr Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, had to deal with a brief flurry of questions relating to local authorities’ parking policies. The exchanges led to a short news story in The Daily Telegraph the following day. Here is the Hansard record of what he was asked and what he answered:
“Mr David Crausby (Bolton North East) (Lab): Everyone in Bolton is working hard, despite difficult circumstances, to revitalise our town centre, but one of our biggest problems is expensive car parking. While the council is doing its bit to help, what can the Secretary of State do to encourage local authorities to deliver free car parking schemes, so that town centres can compete with out-of-town shopping?
Mr Pickles: What an excellent question. I agree entirely that local authorities have a responsibility. When my own local authority introduced half an hour free parking throughout the borough, it made an enormous difference. Expensive parking is cutting off the nose to spite the face. The more people come into a town centre, the more profitable it becomes and the better it is and the more people feel it is like home.
Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his initiatives to ease the cost of parking on our high streets. Does he agree that one of the simplest ways for local authorities to operate is to offer 30 minutes of free parking on roads outside shops, as that will revitalise our neighbourhood centres?
Mr Pickles: My hon. Friend will recall that under the previous Government, councils were urged to put up car parking charges and to make it difficult for people to bring cars into town centres. As I said earlier, I know from personal experience that the policy he suggests makes a difference. If we are to protect our town centres, particularly our smaller shops, this is exactly the kind of measure that needs to be introduced, and those councils that do not do so are failing in their duty.
Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): The Secretary of State likes to talk the talk when it comes to parking charges, so will he explain why three of the highest-charging councils are Tory controlled?
Mr Pickles: By which I think the hon. Gentleman means the amount of money they receive. I suspect that under any system, no matter who ran it, Westminster might get rather a lot of car parking.”