Shoppers should be allowed to park free of charge in small town centres, high streets minister Marcus Jones has said.
Jones, who was moved into the post as part of prime minister David Cameron’s post-election cabinet reshuffle, told the Telegraph: “Unfair parking fines push up the cost of living and undermine high streets.
“Instead, councils should be focusing their efforts on supporting our town centres and motorists, not by raising money through over-zealous parking enforcement.”
He said those areas where parking meters have been removed “seem to be doing better”, adding: “I think it’s really important that councils understand that and develop their policies to make sure that they are attracting people to come and shop and frequent the high street.”
It comes as the latest figures from research firm Springboard and the British Retail Consortium show a 2.8% decline in footfall to UK high streets in June.
Meanwhile, new figures show councils are set to collect an additional £39m in parking revenue this year, taking the total from £648m to £687m.
Jones stressed that the government intended to ensure local authorities do not use parking as a “cash cow”.
“We’re monitoring this very closely because we do take it very seriously.”
Last week Drapers reported on the positive impact broken parking meters were having on a small town in Wales.
Rod Walker, owner of fashion and lifestyle retailer Mundos in Cardigan, said: “We have definitely seen an upturn in trade over the last month as people are less time-conscious when they visit us. They can pop in and out no problem now.
“The free parking gives us independents a chance to compete with out-of-town retail parks.”
In April, under new rules brought in by local government secretary Eric Pickles, English councils introduced a new extended grace period for parking, giving shoppers 10 minutes after their paid-for time to return to their cars before issuing a penalty charge notice.