Wigan Council has been presented with a business award from FSB.
The not-for-profit business organisation presented the council’s leader, Cllr David Molyneux, its FSB Business Buddy Award in recognition that the authority has introduced free weekend car parking until next year. The move is encouraging shoppers to visit local town centres across the borough, and provide a much needed shot in the arm for local retailers with increased footfall.
The FSB is actively lobbying all councils in GM to introduce similar measures, as traditional bricks and mortar retailers face challenges from Internet e-trading, soaring business rates, high rents, and declining footfall.
“Everybody knows the pressure local retailers are under at the moment, so this is a timely and very welcome gesture of support from Wigan Council. Retailers in other boroughs will be green with envy,” said FSB Development Manager, Robert Downes.
He continued: “Running a successful retail business requires footfall - lots of it. Car parking charges are simply a barrier to trade, forcing shoppers to places where they can avoid them. So removing them at busy weekend periods in Wigan is a no brainer.
“Free car parking is an excellent example of how local authorities can offer a helping hand to high streets, and I would urge other councils to look at doing similar. I am sure the stats will show – as in other areas where there have been free parking initiatives – that footfall will shoot up.
He added: “Our Business Buddy Award recognises that Wigan Council have done something special for the hundreds of retailers across the borough, at a time when local authority budgets are facing savage cuts. Well done to Wigan Council, very worthy recipients of an award that doesn’t get handed out very often.”
In September last year the council carried out a major consultation with residents to find out their ambitions for the borough up to 2030.
More than 6,000 people took part and the future of the borough’s town centres was the theme people most cared about.
As a consequence the leader of the council extended the existing free weekend car parking offer in Wigan and Leigh to March 2020.
Councillor David Molyneux, leader of Wigan Council, said: “We introduced the free weekend parking initiative after listening to our residents in order to support our local economy and provide another incentive for people to use our town centres.
“It’s a tough time for retailers at the moment but we are committed to helping them thrive. The free parking offer gives people the opportunity to visit their high street stores, independent shops and popular markets.
“I’ve had lots of great feedback from businesses and shoppers in Wigan and Leigh who have really appreciated the offer.
“It’s now up to local people to use the free parking and support the local economy so we can continue to drive investment and transform our town centres to meet a demand.”
The future of the borough’s town centres is now a central part of the council’s new strategy - Deal 2030.
In 2015, FSB presented a Business Buddy Award to Rochdale Council when it introduced three hours of free car parking in the town centre. In the first 12 months town centre footfall increased by around a third.
The FSB Business Buddy Award recognises the efforts of people or organisations who have gone above and beyond for the good of small businesses. To nominate a person or organisation for an FSB Business Buddy Award, email details to: firstname.lastname@example.org