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Switch off parking meters, urges minister

High streets minister Brandon Lewis has urged councils to switch off parking meters. Speaking in his first interview since taking on his new role, Lewis suggested councils must make high streets more attractive places to motorists by cutting down on unfair parking charges.

Lewis forced parking chiefs to turn off meters for 30 minutes when he served as a council leader in Brentwood, delivering free parking on local high streets. The move was legally challenged, but Lewis issued an ultimatum, declaring that the parking chiefs had a “choice”: they could either carry out the request or arrest him.

The demand was settled with the head of parking placed potato sacks over parking machines later that afternoon.

Mr Lewis says he would encourage council bosses to employ similar tactics, asking “Who is going to challenge it?”

Mr Lewis also wants to change the stereotype of money-grabbing parking wardens, asserting that they are not there to “penalise” drivers. He insists that we must change the situation where “somebody is just going to buy the milk and their newspaper [and they are] spending more on the parking than the products.”

As for the role played by parking wardens across the country, Mr Lewis stressed that “traffic wardens are not there to penalise drivers… they are there to keep people safe and to improve turnover – so to help people park.”

Mr Lewis noted that wardens need to change their “mentality”, suggesting a conversation rather than a ticket when someone overstays their parking permit.

But as councils set their own rules on parking, it is not within Mr Lewis’ power to force town halls to offer free parking.

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