Authorities that do not offer 30 minutes' free parking “failing in their duty”

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Communities secretary Eric Pickles with Michelle Donelan in the town's Bath Road Car Park Communities secretary Eric Pickles with Michelle Donelan in the town's Bath Road Car Park

Communities secretary Eric Pickles spent yesterday in Wiltshire supporting Chippenham’s Conservative candidate launch a campaign to get free parking for the town centre.

Michelle Donelan, who will stand against Liberal Democrat Duncan Hames in next year’s general election, is surveying 8,000 homes in Chippenham to find out if people would shop more in the town centre if they could park there for 30 minutes for free, after shoppers had told her time after time that they were deterred by parking charges.

An hour’s free parking was removed from county car parks three years ago by a Conservative-led Wiltshire Council.

Miss Donelan denied this had been a mistake, despite saying: “At the moment the parking charges are strangling out high street. We need to bring back the life blood and make them [town centres] into hubs again.”

She said: “It’s about listening and trying different things. Nobody ever knows anything until they listen and try, and the reason why I’m doing this survey is... to get a better picture.”

Miss Donelan said the decision to remove the free hour had been taken because the revenue would subsidise local bus services, but denied that public transport would suffer if charges were reduced.

“We’re looking at a few options,” she said. “The idea is that this would only be done if it’s going to bring more money into the town centre.

"The idea is it might be a money generator rather than a take away.”

Secretary of State Mr Pickles, who told Parliament in October that expensive car parking was “cutting off the nose to spite the face, because the more you get into the town centre, the more prosperous it becomes”, said yesterday it was “enormously important” to protect the sense of home a thriving town centre can create.

“Using a town centre is about more than just shopping, it is about keeping your community alive,” he said.

“We need to really start recognising that councils, be they unitary or town councils, need to start taking responsibility and it is not all about raking in money it’s about trying to ensure that your community has a bit of an edge.

“The smart ones will do reductions at certain times of the day or at weekends. If we don’t do that then town centres start to die and to wither and that does matter because you need places to meet to see your neighbour and friends to be part of the community.”

He said it was not possible for Chippenham to compete with out-of-town retail parks or the internet and so had to offer something different.

“It isn’t about the big names; the things that really get people going is a really good bespoke local shop, they’ll travel a long way for that,” he said.

Miss Donelan suggested Bradford on Avon as a model and Mr Pickles said that in his constituency of Brentwood in Essex, free parking had helped the Conservatives to take over the council, after years of Liberal Democrat control.

“We found it made a heck of a difference,” he said.

He said councils that did not offer 30 minutes free parking were “failing in their duty” and he had discussed the issue with Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott for the first time the night before.

Under her leadership in April 2011 the council put up prices in its car parks and ended a one-hour free parking tariff, which left traders complaining about its effect on footfall.

It made the council £4.9m profit in the following year, the 23rd highest figure for a local authority out of 359 nationally.

When asked if Coun Scott appreciated his intervention, Mr Pickles said: “She seemed delighted. Her response was very positive, she was very interested in the survey, very open to listening.”

They were to have dinner together in Chippenham with other members of the Conservative Party last night.

Neither he or Miss Donelan had approached Chippenham MP Duncan Hames about the proposal.

A petition that Wiltshire Council should levy a charge on supermarkets in Wiltshire to reduce car parking charges in its market towns was launched last year by Trowbridge councillor Jeff Osborn and Melksham councillor Terry Chivers, who are both independent. It has been signed by 288 people.

Comments (6)

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2:09pm Fri 17 Jan 14

Owlman North says...

We would rather go to Trowbridge where the shops are better and the parking is a lot cheaper. Chippenham Council needs to wake up and see what is on offer all around in towns like Melksham, Malmesbury, Devizes, Corsham etc. They all have shops which attract people.
Parking is only one of the many reasons why Chippenham is a no go area for many shoppers.
We would rather go to Trowbridge where the shops are better and the parking is a lot cheaper. Chippenham Council needs to wake up and see what is on offer all around in towns like Melksham, Malmesbury, Devizes, Corsham etc. They all have shops which attract people. Parking is only one of the many reasons why Chippenham is a no go area for many shoppers. Owlman North
  • Score: 3

2:38pm Fri 17 Jan 14

davesopinion says...

If Councillor Scott is "very open to listening", why has she been ignoring the numerous people on this kind of medium that have been moaning about this for ages (myself included). I have given up shopping in Chippenham, even though I live there.
If Councillor Scott is "very open to listening", why has she been ignoring the numerous people on this kind of medium that have been moaning about this for ages (myself included). I have given up shopping in Chippenham, even though I live there. davesopinion
  • Score: 0

4:39pm Fri 17 Jan 14

The.Central.Scrutinizer says...

davesopinion wrote:
If Councillor Scott is "very open to listening", why has she been ignoring the numerous people on this kind of medium that have been moaning about this for ages (myself included). I have given up shopping in Chippenham, even though I live there.
its nonsense. make the right noises when the Conserative heavyweight shows up and go home contented/

Much as I would prefer free parking, it is not a life threatening issue and what's it got to do with Pickles anyhow?
[quote][p][bold]davesopinion[/bold] wrote: If Councillor Scott is "very open to listening", why has she been ignoring the numerous people on this kind of medium that have been moaning about this for ages (myself included). I have given up shopping in Chippenham, even though I live there.[/p][/quote]its nonsense. make the right noises when the Conserative heavyweight shows up and go home contented/ Much as I would prefer free parking, it is not a life threatening issue and what's it got to do with Pickles anyhow? The.Central.Scrutinizer
  • Score: -2

11:01am Sat 18 Jan 14

brasstacks says...

Ms Scott may have "appeared to be listening" to Mr Pickles but I doubt very much that she cares about any of it...

If she really EVER cared about our County, she would NOT have made the Politically orientated decisions that she has..

It is NO longer appropriate and adequate to have to sit back and watch Ms Scott and Co Politically dominate (and cut...)Services because she has spent Government Funding on "other things"..

Communities and their Services ARE being devasted in favour of Conservative Cabinet personal "aspirations"..

Please come to the Meeting at County Hall on the 4th February 2014 at 10.30 am and show your Support against Ms Scott's self inflicted Pay Rise et all ?
Ms Scott may have "appeared to be listening" to Mr Pickles but I doubt very much that she cares about any of it... If she really EVER cared about our County, she would NOT have made the Politically orientated decisions that she has.. It is NO longer appropriate and adequate to have to sit back and watch Ms Scott and Co Politically dominate (and cut...)Services because she has spent Government Funding on "other things".. Communities and their Services ARE being devasted in favour of Conservative Cabinet personal "aspirations".. Please come to the Meeting at County Hall on the 4th February 2014 at 10.30 am and show your Support against Ms Scott's self inflicted Pay Rise et all ? brasstacks
  • Score: 1

12:18pm Sat 18 Jan 14

brasstacks says...

Quote from BBC News Wiltshire on what "Eric said about Jane "


"I do not think that Jane should stand down-it's a good council"
"However - and I say this with enormous affection and love - don't take an increase like this"
"There are an awful lot of people out there rally struggling and someone in public life has to set an example"

OMG....where do we start to "think about" all of that ??....how about this :

Dear Eric...I do not think that "love and affection" comes into it all and I truly hope that your expressions of affection and love seemingly for Jane are not going to result in Wiltshire finding itself embroiled in a"president Francois Hollande situation" ?

Thing is, Eric, that advising Jane "don't take the increase" may well be a tad too late and nobody but Jane will know if she has already been paid her pay rise dosh ?

Think it best you realise, Eric, that there are "an awful lot of people" struggling in Wiltshire not only because Jane gave herself a pay rise ?

So...if you are advising Jane as "someone in public life has to set an example", why the hec has she been allowed to get away with running and ruling Wilts Council like her "own business empire" instead or running it for the Public Service that it IS ?

With respect, Eric, the LAST thing that us Residents and REAL Staff at the Council need is for you to publically declare your "affection and love" for a woman who does NOT care about anything other than her Politics.

In Wiltshire, we are now considering a new motto that SHOULD be right in the front of Jane's every thought.

"People before Politics" because...we pay Jane to be there for us and NOT her Politics..

Jane may "say" she 'was taking no notice of the petition" and that jkust about sums up her questionable lack of ability to take any notice of anything other than her Politics ?.

"Voting for and taking it" is NOT what we all expect from any Council Leader and nobody here FORCED Jane to take the pay rise..

One question, Eric...if Jane HAS already got her pay rise dosh, can we as the Electorate demand she pays back the County 8% Statutory Late Interest IF she chooses to "pay it back" ?..

Jane is quoted as saying:

"I 'm taking it because my group voted for it, as did others from other parties"

That is a tad like being on a diet and eating biscuits "just because they are in the larder"

Saying "no" to a pay rise WAS always Jane's option and...if she really cared about us all, she would have done the decent thing and said "no" for ALL the right reasons ?

Hope your 2014 is far better for you than it will be here in Wiltshire for those who actually pay your's and Jane's Wages/Allowances ?

ps; if you have nothing on in your diary on Tuesday 4th February at 10.30 am, please come to the Meeting at County Hall ?
we would all love you to PUBLICALLY TELL/ADVISE Jane to give back her pay rise dosh....
Quote from BBC News Wiltshire on what "Eric said about Jane " "I do not think that Jane should stand down-it's a good council" "However - and I say this with enormous affection and love - don't take an increase like this" "There are an awful lot of people out there rally struggling and someone in public life has to set an example" OMG....where do we start to "think about" all of that ??....how about this : Dear Eric...I do not think that "love and affection" comes into it all and I truly hope that your expressions of affection and love seemingly for Jane are not going to result in Wiltshire finding itself embroiled in a"president Francois Hollande situation" ? Thing is, Eric, that advising Jane "don't take the increase" may well be a tad too late and nobody but Jane will know if she has already been paid her pay rise dosh ? Think it best you realise, Eric, that there are "an awful lot of people" struggling in Wiltshire not only because Jane gave herself a pay rise ? So...if you are advising Jane as "someone in public life has to set an example", why the hec has she been allowed to get away with running and ruling Wilts Council like her "own business empire" instead or running it for the Public Service that it IS ? With respect, Eric, the LAST thing that us Residents and REAL Staff at the Council need is for you to publically declare your "affection and love" for a woman who does NOT care about anything other than her Politics. In Wiltshire, we are now considering a new motto that SHOULD be right in the front of Jane's every thought. "People before Politics" because...we pay Jane to be there for us and NOT her Politics.. Jane may "say" she 'was taking no notice of the petition" and that jkust about sums up her questionable lack of ability to take any notice of anything other than her Politics ?. "Voting for and taking it" is NOT what we all expect from any Council Leader and nobody here FORCED Jane to take the pay rise.. One question, Eric...if Jane HAS already got her pay rise dosh, can we as the Electorate demand she pays back the County 8% Statutory Late Interest IF she chooses to "pay it back" ?.. Jane is quoted as saying: "I 'm taking it because my group voted for it, as did others from other parties" That is a tad like being on a diet and eating biscuits "just because they are in the larder" Saying "no" to a pay rise WAS always Jane's option and...if she really cared about us all, she would have done the decent thing and said "no" for ALL the right reasons ? Hope your 2014 is far better for you than it will be here in Wiltshire for those who actually pay your's and Jane's Wages/Allowances ? ps; if you have nothing on in your diary on Tuesday 4th February at 10.30 am, please come to the Meeting at County Hall ? we would all love you to PUBLICALLY TELL/ADVISE Jane to give back her pay rise dosh.... brasstacks
  • Score: 6

2:01pm Sat 18 Jan 14

shed says...

Very well said Brasstacks, excellent.
Very well said Brasstacks, excellent. shed
  • Score: 2

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