Posts Tagged ‘Daily Telegraph’

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.”

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The latest survey of the UK’s business community by lobby group the CBI and accountants KPMG makes gloomy reading. “The report, Connect More, highlights the importance of infrastructure to sustainable UK growth, yet with many outstanding issues such as the future funding of the road network, aviation capacity and clarity over the costs of HS2, businesses expect things to get worse over the next five years,” the CBI says.

The CBI/KPMG survey of 526 business leaders found that dissatisfaction with domestic transport has jumped from 28% in 2011 (when the first survey was carried out) to a fairly depressing 49% in 2013. “With relatively few projects underway on the ground and no action on long-term road reform, there is widespread expectation that local roads and motorways will deteriorate over the next five years,” it says.

“The faltering speed of delivery on infrastructure creates a worrying sense that politicians lack the political will to tackle some of the major issues head-on,” John Cridland, CBI director-general said at the report’s launch. “We can’t afford any further delay. The Coalition must show strong leadership and prove that the UK can deliver on a small number of projects over the next 18 months and reach a much-needed consensus on bigger issues such as aviation and roads reform.”

The CBI is therefore calling on the Government “to complete all feasibility studies for road and rail projects outlined in the Spending Review and commit to detailed plans for delivery, while starting the debate on longer-term road reform by conducting an audit of the state of the road network and its costs to operate”.

The need for a comprehensive delivery plan for new transport infrastructure, rather than a ‘shopping list’ of individual schemes, was emphasised by one of the country’s biggest insurance companies, Aviva. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Paul Abberley, the company’s head of investments, noted that less than £1bn of Aviva’s £230bn fund is currently invested in UK infrastructure. And the reason for this? “The absence of a proper pipeline of projects,” apparently. “If you look at the National Infrastructure Plan, is that an actionable plan or just a list of stuff we need?” Abberley asked rhetorically.

One small crumb of comfort for the Government’s transport department is that, despite all of the above, transport isn’t the business community’ biggest headache at the moment, with energy having overtaken transport since 2012 as the biggest future concern for businesses.

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