Local councils could be set to introduce higher parking after the local government minister, John Healey, told them that increasing charges could produce many benefits.
He said that research indicates that only 20% of local councils currently use parking charges to their full potential.
Mr Healey said in a speech to the Local Government Association that increasing charges could help councils improve congestion, encourage the use of local shops and improve the health and fitness of residents.
He neglected to say what the impact would be on businesses that need to send drivers into urban centres.
“Only one in five councils are using charging to the full potential,” he said.
“Not just to cover costs but to shape their area - reducing congestion, improving levels of health and exercise, encouraging the use of local shops - and half of councils don't even have a clear policy on charging to guide their decisions on how to use their powers.”
In direct conflict with Mr Healey’s suggestions, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) recently called on local authorities to rethink town centre parking policies.
The FSB said that the practice of local authorities using excessive parking charges to raise revenue is “killing town centres”.
Local authorities made £1.6 billion from parking charges and fines in 2005, up from £628 million in 1997.
“Although parking restrictions can raise a lot of cash in the short term, they can be extremely damaging to local economies,” said Roger Culcheth, FSB local government chairman.
“Spiralling town centre parking costs and huge fines must be done away with permanently.”
Mr Healey’s suggestions however were welcomed by the Environmental Transport Association, which said motorists are currently undercharged for parking their cars.