Get it wrong with parking charges and a whole town suffers.
Shropshire Council’s charges in towns across the county are easy money for the council coffers.
But if they are destroying the vitality of those towns and undermining their micro-economies, causing hardship for those in trade and business, the benefits to the council are far outweighed by the damaging effects.
Shropshire Council’s moves to scrap Sunday parking charges in six towns and cut prices by half in Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Bridgnorth, and Ludlow, looks like a tacit admission that at present the balance is not right.
Councillors are being told that the move would result in a loss of income of almost £220,000. That, of course, is loss of income to the council, which is the narrowest way of looking at things.
Traders and businesses in the towns are already losing income because people put off by the charges are going elsewhere. Struggling enterprises contribute less to the public purse through taxes and abandoned shops make a dent in the council’s business rates income apart, of course, from being unattractive and unwelcoming features in Shropshire’s towns.
Richard Sheehan of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce says that reduced charges on Sundays will help High Street shops compete with out-of-town retail parks.
Like it or not, Sunday has become another shopping day. Retail parks have the priceless – quite literally – advantage of free parking.
Giving town centre shops a bit of extra help is desirable in itself as a way of giving Shropshire towns a boost. It is also essential to treat them fairly.
In weighing things up, the council should not look just to the loss of its own income.
It does not exist in an economic bubble, nor does it exist merely to finance itself.