A POSSIBLE plan to hike parking charges in Swindon town centre has come under fire.
The chief executive of inSwindon Business Improvement District Di Powell says it could make the situation worse for shops.
But the borough council says it has done its best to keep parking charges low for as long as possible, and it needs the money that parking generates in the face of government cuts, and having to save £20m in the next year. The possibility of raising charges is something the council is looking at this year.

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Ms Powell wrote to all the councillors saying: “I understand that as part of the 2019/20 budgetary process, councillors will be considering options for parking charges in the town centre. 
“I also understand that the council has not ruled out raising car parking tariffs on April 1or during the next 12 months. Parking is the gateway to the town centre, and it is of concern that the council is failing to acknowledge this. Swindon, in addition to facing the challenges that every UK town centre faces within the changing national retail picture, faces the daily problem of competing with out-of-town retail parks that offer free parking. The Outlet Centre offers parking for up to five hours for a nominal £1.”
Ms Powell said that the BID and its partners had been asked to discuss proposals for parking with the council. 
She wrote: “The BID and other town partners contributed a considerable amount of expert resource, man hours and independently-commissioned research to the council. 
“It is deeply disappointing that, despite the many months of hard work and investment, the council has rejected all our proposals.”
Ms Powell  declined to  comment further on the private letter.
But the council says it has kept parking prices down for years. Coun Oliver Donachie, the cabinet member for economic prosperity, said:  “For many years we have supported town centre businesses including a nine-year tariff freeze on our £2 for four hours car parking offer.
“It is simply not correct to say we are failing to help our high street.
“Encouraging people to shop in the town centre is not just about cheaper parking charges, which is why hundreds of millions of pounds will be spent regenerating the town centre to make it a place that people want to visit for many years to come.
“Some of our parking revenue is being spent on a specific programme to clean up our car parks and make them safe.
“We recognise that if you want to encourage more people into the town centre by car, you need to improve the experience they receive when they get here. 
“This has been well received by our regular car park users. We will continue to invest in these improvements ensuring our town centre is an attractive place for shoppers and investors alike.
“Additionally, we have used funding from the Swindon & Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership to improve our bus network so it is even easier for people to get into town to do their shopping via public transport.
“Our parking services revenue is income we rely on to fix potholes, resurface roads and pay for passenger transport services. If our parking income goes down we will have to find that money from elsewhere which is no easy task with the council having to find more than £20m in savings from next year’s budget alone.
Leader of the Labour group on the council, Coun Jim Grant, sympathised with Ms Powell’s view. 
He said “This letter is a damning indictment of the Conservative’s approach to working with Town Centre businesses. In effect, they have been paying lip service to those businesses. 
“What is concerning is that the Conservatives have no vision on how to get people who will be going to other attractions to then travel to the town centre. It’s all well and good having a future snow centre but how will it get people to stay within the town centre area? This needs to be urgently addressed. 
Inswindon is absolutely correct to say that the Council is the gatekeeper to the Town Centre as it owns the car parks and lots of land. The Town Centre has been declining for many years so the fact that, despite this, there are no plans in place to increase footfall in to the Town Centre is a real concern. 
I would urge the Council to work with Inswindon and other Town Centre stakeholders on a plan for how we can increase footfall in to the Town Centre.”