I see Eric Pickles is once again demonstrating that his version of Localism – the directed one – is the only one that he actually believes in with his latest comments about town centre car parking charges.
Having shafted local government big time, by slashing its grant setlement by 28% in one year with even more to come, he now has the nerve to tell the public that town centre car parking charges will drop. Given his financial betrayal of local government, it’s not at all clear how he comes to this conclusion, but that’s about par for the course with this big mouthed minister.
The problem with car parking charges is that they are always viewed in isolation from all other areas of council business. They are either viewed as a burden on the taxpayer that must at best be kept cost neutral because they are so politically sensitive or, at the other end of the spectrum, they are seen as a source of revenue, that can legitimately be used to bolster the council’s income, despite the legislation saying that it should be run for profit. As always, where there’s a will there’s a way and many councils seems to do very nicley out of it, thank you very much.
My view is that, where approporiate, the cost of running a town centre car park should be seen as part of the council’s investment in the economic development of that town centre. If the evidence is there to show that car parking charges, or even the lack of them, is having an impact of the vitality or viabilty of a town centre, then why not include the cost of running the car park in the economic development strategy for that town?
This would then allow the council to justify to taxpayers the provision of free parking, where a town centre is found to be struggling and its shops closing down in increasing numbers, without being accused of subsidising motorists.