Car parking charges could soon be introduced in car parks across South Gloucestershire, Conservatives fear.
This week the Conservative Group was told by a Labour councillor that the Labour Group has formally discussed ditching the manifesto pledge that committed it to retaining free parking.
Fears that free parking might be scrapped have also been prompted by other recent remarks made by leading members of South Gloucestershire Council’s ruling Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition.
South Gloucestershire is one of the few places in the country that still offers free parking in all council-owned car parks. It has been one of the Conservative Group’s most popular long-standing policies.
And in the local elections in May, both Labour and the Lib Dems pledged in their manifestos to retain free parking.
But the Conservatives have this week learned, via a prominent Labour councillor, that the Labour Group held a meeting earlier this month to formally discuss ditching the policy and introducing parking charges.
This follows comments made by Labour Cabinet member Cllr Leigh Ingham at a recent public meeting. Cllr Ingham was asked to publicly renew her party’s commitment to free parking in order to help residents and local businesses.
In the event, she refused to commit to the policy, saying instead that “addressing the challenge of climate change” will shape the coalition’s decisions on free parking. This has prompted fears that Labour will push for the introduction of parking charges in order to discourage people from using their cars.
Cllr Sam Bromiley, Leader of the Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council, said: “It’s extremely troubling to learn that the coalition, and the Labour Group in particular, may be thinking about introducing car parking charges in South Gloucestershire.
“This would completely contradict both parties’ manifesto pledges and would have severe consequences for our high streets and local businesses.
“Let me be clear: while the Council is not immune to the challenges that all local authorities across the country are facing, there is no financial need whatsoever to start charging people to park their cars in South Gloucestershire. If this decision is made, it will be a political decision in order to fulfil a political objective.
“South Gloucestershire is one of the few places in the country where you can park your car for free at all times, and I’m proud that this has been one of the Conservative Group’s long-standing achievements. If it’s scrapped by the coalition, residents and local businesses will have every right to feel cheated and let down.”
Liberal Democrat-run B&NES Council charges people to park and Labour-run Bristol recently increased its parking charges.
The Conservatives fear that under the Labour-Lib Dem coalition, South Gloucestershire will be the next south west council in line for the introduction of parking charges.