Government minister puts town straight on parking and rates

MP Richard Fuller with Eric Pickles, secretary of state for local government.
MP Richard Fuller with Eric Pickles, secretary of state for local government.

Parking fees and camera cars were on the agenda as Government minister Eric Pickles visited Bedford.

The Communities and Local Government Secretary also highlighted a Government initiative to save businesses £2,000 over two years when he met Bedford and Kempston MP Richard Fuller and Conservative mayoral candidate, Jas Parmar.

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Mr Pickles detailed the Retail Rate Relief scheme, which was introduced at the beginning of the year and enables eligible businesses to claim £1,000 rate reduction for two years.

Mr Parmar said surprisingly few businesses have even heard of the scheme.

He said: “At a recent lunch I attended for local businesses, only 50 per cent of attendees knew about the scheme.

“It’s not often the Government gives anything away so when it does, people should take it with both hands.”

He added businesses need to fill in a form to apply for the discount from Bedford Borough Council, which the Government then reimburses.

During Mr Pickles’ visit, the three Torys met local business owners and visited a car park, where the issue of council-run CCTV cars was discussed.

Mr Parmar said: “Mr Pickles reiterated his warning given to councils that if they use the parking enforcement camera cars to raise revenue, he would bring in a law to forbid them.

“And while we were in the car park discussing parking fees, a woman came up to us with a handful of 2p coins asking to swap for a 10p to pay the right money.

“It served to illustrate how, unless you have the exact change in your pocket, car parking fees can be expensive. You can end up paying £2 for a £1.60 ticket because some machines do not give change.”

Mr Parmar has long campaigned to bring down the cost of parking in Bedford and extend the Saturday two-hour free parking scheme into the week.

He said: “To encourage people into town, we have to make our car parks an incentive. Two hours free on a Saturday is not enough for people to really enjoy the town, do their shopping, visit a cafe, take a walk along the embankment.”

For more information about the Retail Rate Relief scheme, go to