PLANS to hike parking charges in Bicester and Banbury and end free parking in Kidlington are to be re-examined tonight.
The move came after Cherwelll District Council’s Tory-led executive agreed to increase parking by 10p an hour in Bicester and Banbury, start charging the 1,011 blue badge holders and introduce evening fees.
But the decision was called in by Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors, and at a meeting on Wednesday the executive was told it must review its parking proposals, including plans to look at charging in Watts Way car park, in Kidlington.
Councillors raised concerns that blue badge holders would choose to park on double yellow lines, where they can legally park for free as long as they are not obstructing traffic.
They warned residents would opt to shop in other towns with free parking, such as Witney.
Thee are also concerns that in the evenings motorists could cause problems by parking on single yellow lines, which is allowed after 6pm, to avoid paying new fees.
But executive members at the meeting stood firm, saying the increased charges were necessary to balance the council’s budget.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Cotter likened the council to highwayman Dick Turpin, accusing it of highway robbery after figures showed an income of £400,000 in car parking fines – £160,000 more than they expected.
Meanwhile Labour leader Les Sibley said the council could not use the VAT rise as justification to increase parking charges in the district. He said the council’s policy was that car park revenue should be used for the upkeep, maintenance and safety of car parks, and not to subsidise other services.
Nigel Morris, executive member for community safety, street scene and rural, said the VAT rise would leave the council £40,000 short if prices were not put up.
He said: “The district council is 20 per cent cheaper than the private sector. If the changes are not instigated the budget shortfall will have to be found from other areas.”
Council leader Barry Wood said: “It’s not right for any members here to think these matters were not thought through or were some sort of kneejerk reaction.
“Every single item in the budget has been hotly debated.
I am a reasonable man, if things proved detrimental to people’s lives and businesses then we’ll alter our policy.
Mr Wood also apologised for the dangerous state of the council’s car parks during the recent snow. He pledged to review the council’s policy if it is seen to be “detrimental to residents and businesses”.
He added: “This council should have been in a position where it can find ways to clear snow from car parks.”
The executive is due to meet at 6.30pm at Bodicote House, Banbury tonight.