Row over free parking future

FREE parking could soon be scrapped in South Gloucestershire car parks – and a row has broken out over who is to blame.

Opposition Conservatives say Labour – one-half of the new coalition administration with the Liberal Democrats – discussed introducing charges at council-run car parks at a recent group meeting of its members.

Tory leader Sam Bromiley said there was “no financial need whatsoever to start charging people”.

But the coalition has fired back, saying the Tories disguised a line in the annual budget last February, when they still ran the local authority, that promised £5 million of extra money for council coffers – but kept it a secret that this would be from new parking fees.

The Lib Dems and Labour say they would have opposed it had they known and that they have now been left to implement charges that have been effectively introduced by the Conservatives, unless they can somehow find the money from other services.

At July’s cabinet meeting council leader Claire Young (Lib Dem, Frampton Cotterell) warned that the organisation needed to find £40 million of cuts over the next four years to balance its books.

She said the new administration had concerns about the lack of detail in some of the proposed savings in the 2023/24 budget, agreed at full council in February with support from Labour while most Lib Dems abstained.

The coalition says it was only after May’s local elections that they were told by officers that a vague-looking “review of income generating opportunities” in the budget to generate £5 million over three years was a review of whether to introduce parking charges.

In a joint statement the two partners said: “Let it be known this was a Conservative idea.”

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service