News that Bedford’s Mayor, Dave Hodgson, has frozen town-centre car parking charges for the fifth year running has been greeting with disdain by Conservative councillors.
While Mayor Dave Hodgson described the parking freeze as, “great news for residents”, Cllr Roger Rigby of the Conservative Group said that it “just does not cut the mustard”.
From 2022, the two hours free parking deal, which was introduced by Mayor Dave in 2013, will continue. Queen Street car park is free for the first two hours every weekday, while drivers can have two hours’ free parking in all council-run car parks every Saturday and all day every Sunday.
A 2018 survey by the Bedford Independent discovered that parking charges in Bedford were the same or cheaper than nearby towns including Luton, Milton Keynes and Northampton.
Cllr Roger Rigby, Deputy Group Leader of the Conservative Group said: “A freeze just does not cut the mustard here, the town desperately needs more free and cheaper car parking.
“In July 2018 there was footfall in the town centre of over 1.282 million, by July 21 despite some small recovery since the end of lockdown it is almost half at 688k.
“Furthermore, in the current year, the Council is forecasting a reduction of £1.279m in car parking income as fewer people are coming to town.”
Cllr Rigby said that were the Conservatives in charge, they would give three hours free car parking every day and all day Sunday
“We would cut car parking prices going forward until a successful town centre is re-established,” he said.
Residents can currently park for two hours free every day in Queen Street car park, a short walk from the High Street.
The Liberal Democrat-run council in Bedford pointed out that its decision to freeze car park charges comes in contrast to the Conservative-run Central Bedfordshire council who are consulting on car park price rises of up to 50%.