As a Conservative voter (maybe) I am finding it hard to understand the naivete in the thought processes of our MP Nick Boles and the Grantham Business Club and Grantham Retailers Association with regard to two hours free parking in town to help revitalise the town centre.
Free parking is already available to the supermarkets in town, which apparently has had no effect on attracting more shoppers to the town. The financial impact in lost revenue to the cash strapped SKDC and possibly an increase in maintenance to the car parks, means that revenue must be sourced from elsewhere. Elsewhere being local rates which we all end up paying, regardless of whether we drive our cars into town or not, or even if we own one.
Also, we must not forget that many car parks are privately owned, and those owners are also trying to scratch a living in a recession; something the Business Club and GRA seemed to have forgotten. These car parks have already kept their parking fees down in response to SKDC reducing theirs two years ago; as a consequence parking in Grantham is very competitive compared to many towns and cities in our area. Let us not forget that the privately-owned car parks would be eligible to sue for compensation as they would be powerless to respond to the Big Brother tactics of SKDC.
The answer, surely, is to think wider and for the Business Club and GRA to lobby Nick Boles into talking to his cabinet colleagues and reduce the exceptionally high business rates for small businesses and pass these costs on to big businesses, especially the supermarkets that are drowning out small businesses. Secondly, treat corporation tax for small businesses in the same way as income tax for individuals, where they would not pay tax until turnover has reached an agreed level. Finally, raise the level at which small businesses have to pay VAT or reduce VAT from its current very high level. This in my mind is the only way to create the level playing field between the supermarkets with their powerful purchasing powers and the smaller shops and what Nick Boles is after, and not by penalising an under-funded SKDC and putting private car parks out of business, which, ultimately, would make parking in Grantham worse than it already is.