A BUSINESS leader has called on BCP Council to subsidise parking charges to help restaurants take advantage of the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme.

Bournemouth Coastal Bid (business improvement district) chairman Paul Clarke said timing a reduction in fees to fit in with the initiative would help the industry.

But the cabinet member for culture, councillor Mark Howell, said car parks were already “good value” and that the council would provide support by other means.

Announced earlier this month, the Eat Out to Help Out initiative will see the government cover the cost of discounts for food and drink at restaurants on every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in August.

Speaking at last week’s scrutiny board meeting, Mr Clarke, who represents businesses across the coastal parts of Bournemouth, welcomed the scheme and called on the council to provide extra support to make it a more attractive proposition for would-be customers.

“Eat Out to Help Out is a very good initiative and we are hoping to work with the other Bids [Poole and Bournemouth town centres] to put some money behind this in the coming weeks,” he said.

“If there’s any chance of reducing parking costs after 3pm that would facilitate that even more for our businesses and the public.

“It would be a great opportunity to support what we are doing and I don’t believe it would be a huge cost while it would increase business.”

But the council has said it will not be providing any discounts for car parking and wished to encourage more people to either walk of cycle to restaurants.

“We welcome the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and are promoting it heavily,” Cllr Howell said. “We have a brilliant selection of restaurants, pubs, bars and cafés in the local area and we expect many thousands of people to jump at the opportunity [to take advantage of it].

“Our car parks already offer good value in terms of parking charges should people choose to drive but we also have excellent public transport and active travel options available in the local area.

“During lockdown it was great to see an increase in the number of people cycling and walking and as part of our response to the government's emergency active travel fund we are rolling out a number of schemes which will encourage this further.”

He added that the council would “continue to support” hospitality businesses with “proactive schemes”, including its ‘Stay Local, Spend Local’ advertising campaign.