The Government has decided not to proceed with a proposal for a 15 minute grace period for parking on double yellow lines.

However, a recent Written Answer from the Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis offered a reminded of what the Government has done and is still proposing to do.

Mr Lewis says that:

Since 2010, this Government has already:

Scrapped Labour’s Whitehall policy that pressured councils to hike car parking charges as a ‘demand management measure’ to discourage car use (PPG13).

Removed Whitehall restrictions which restricted the provision of off-street parking spaces;

Abolished Labour’s Whitehall policy which inhibited parking charge competition between council areas, and instead introduced a new policy that says parking charges should not undermine the vitality of town centres;

Introduced a policy that parking enforcement should be proportionate;

Issued new planning practice guidance on removing street clutter and encouraging the provision of shopper-friendly parking space provision; and

Introduced the local retention of business rates, which means that councils benefit from business and retail growth in town centres, rather than just hiking parking charges.

In addition, the Government recently announced a further series of reforms:

Stopping the abuse or misuse of on-street parking CCTV on an industrial scale. Parking CCTV spy cars were introduced by the last Labour Government.

Reforming operational parking guidance so it is less heavy handed with motorists, prevents over-aggressive action by bailiffs, positively supports local shops and clearly reinforces the prohibition against parking being used to generate profit;

Introducing mandatory 10 minute “grace periods” at the end of on-street paid and free parking, and off-street municipal parking;

Implementing a new right to allow local residents and local firms to demand a review of parking in their area, including charges and the use of yellow lines;

Proposing a widening of the powers of parking adjudicators, and updating guidance so the public know when they can be awarded costs at tribunals;

Trialling a 25% discount for drivers at appeal stage, reversing the current disincentive for drivers with a legitimate case to appeal;

Changing guidance so drivers parking at an out-of-order meter are not fined if there are no alternative ways to pay;

Maintaining a freeze on parking penalty charges for the remainder of this Parliament; and

Updating the local government Transparency Code to increase information about local parking charges and the number of parking spaces.

Unreasonable parking charges and fines push up hard-working people’s cost of living. If parking is too expensive or difficult, shoppers will simply drive to out of town supermarkets or just shop online, undermining the vitality of town centres and leading to ‘ghost town’ high streets. But, by rejecting Labour’s approach, this Government is standing up for hard-working people and local shops.

Using parking fines as a stealth tax is unconstitutional.

As Mr Lewis points out, Magna Carta, the Petition of Right and the Bill of Rights “make clear that taxes should not be levied without recourse to Parliament, and the justice system should not be corrupted to raise money.”

Yet councils have been able to get away with making a huge profit – or “surplus” – from parking revenues. Far from being restrained from doing so during the Labour Government, they were encouraged. When he was Local Government Minister, the Labour MP John Healey complained that councils were “not using charges to their full potential.”

A survey from LV= suggests that there are nine million parking fines a year. The AA complain that free parking on Sundays is being eroded – hitting church goers.

Often local councils will claim to be concerned about the death of their high streets. Yet the same councils are the principle culprits, by imposing extortionate Business Rates and punishing those who  drive to their local high street and load up their car with shopping, rather than using an internet delivery from a supermarket giant.

The Government are bringing in important changes to stop parking charges being used as a tax. But this is also an issue where shopkeepers and their customers need to mobilise. Most people want to “save” their high streets. This is an issue where local campaigning can make a difference to the policy councillors pursue..