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Robin Walker raises Worcester parking charges dispute in the commons
WORCESTER MP Robin Walker has voiced concerns in parliament over proposals to raise city parking charges - winning support from a Government minister.
The Tory MP, who is calling for Worcester City Council's leadership to do a u-turn over plans for increases in April, said it would be "striking a blow" at small shops if charges went up.
Mr Walker raised the issue during a business questions session in the House of Commons and won backing from skills minister Matt Hancock to keep charges down.
Mr Walker said at a time of "fragile recovery" for the High Street it would be too risky to increase the rates and a "kick in the teeth" for them, before asking for support.
Mr Hancock said: "Ensuring any any council can live within its means is a crucial part of good governance in these difficult times.
"The approach that the Government have taken is to do that through making savings, difficult as it is.
"That is clearly working and I recommend it to the Labour-led council in Worcester."
After the debate Mr Walker said: “Worcester has has done well in recent years and it is good to see fewer empty units than we saw a couple of years ago as well as a number of new and exciting shops in the city.
"Nevertheless the recovery in retail is fragile.
"The Christmas period usually sees a large increase in temporary employment in the sector and the small fall in December’s job figures may well reflect a tougher than expected environment for shops.
"I have certainly met with a number of retailers who feel that way.
I appeal to the city council to think again on parking charges - an increase of five times the rate of inflation is bad for business, bad for the high street and may not even deliver the revenue they want.
"I am glad to have a prominent minister supporting my case."
But the criticism has been refuted by the Labour-led cabinet, which says Mr Walker is ignoring bigger issues.
Councillor Richard Boorn, cabinet member for finance, said this afternoon: "They would do well to discuss why the average person is £1,600 worse off since this Government came to power.
"This carping on about our car parks doesn't solve the bigger issues - why isn't he dealing with the fact wages in this city are below the national average."
As your Worcester News first revealed in November, the council wants to scrap £1 parking after 7pm, axe the 30-minute rates which are as low as 40p, and increase some four-hour prices from £5 to £6.
It will be voted on next month as part of the 2014/15 budget.
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