CAR parking fees could rise across southern Oxfordshire in the near future.

The two district councils which serve the south of the county: Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire district councils, will both discuss the future of car parks they manage at meetings this week.

On Thursday, SODC's cabinet, its most senior councillors, will discuss whether all parking charges should be set at standard times, and will look at increasing the costs of parking in Chinnor, Didcot and Goring.

In the Vale's cabinet meeting on Friday, the council is also considering increasing ticket prices, with the aim of reducing a huge budget shortfall it has every year for maintaining the car parks its runs.

Emily Smith, the leader at Vale of White Horse District Council, said getting 'the council’s finances back in shape' after lockdown was a priority.

But she added that the need to charge for parking had to be weighed against the needs of local businesses, and shoppers who used council owned car parks to visit shops.

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Each council has a different charging regime for ticket prices, and both of them are being presented with a a series of options for how these charges could increase in coming years.

In SODC, for example, the price of parking varies at different car parks.

The council could 'align' all the parking so the same price is charged, but would likely lose money because of this, meaning that more council tax cash would have to be spent on maintaining car parks.

It could also consider charging 20p more at all car parks for all ticket times.

For example, a £1 charge for two hours parking would rise to £1.20.

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If parking fees were to rise in South Oxfordshire, it would be the first time this has happened in 13 years.

There are also proposals for electric vehicles to have half price parking permits, and to build more electric car charging points.

David Rouane, Cabinet Member for Housing and Environment at SODC, said: “We are looking at making changes to our parking policy in order to solve some issues in various parts of the district, and to restore this important revenue stream.

"We know that some areas experience issues with lack of spaces during the day, so we will consider how we can address this."

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Wantage town centre. Picture: Ed Nix

Meanwhile, Vale of White Horse is considering upping all its parking charges, but this could be between a 20p and 40p increase.

These changes would affect car parks in the centres of Abingdon, Faringdon and Wantage.

There are also options to introduce a new charge of 60p for two hours parking at some of these car parks.

Drivers can currently park for free for two hours, but this would be reduced to one hour instead.

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If the cabinet agreed the Vale's parking fee hike, it would be the first time these fees had risen since a review in 2011.

In a statement released before the meeting, Vale District Council said the car parks, in Abingdon, Faringdon and Wantage, collectively cost more than £700,000 a year to run.

Once the income from parking fees has been taken into account, there is an average shortfall of over £300,000 a year, which is currently subsidised annually by residents’ council tax.

It is trying to find a way to bring down this extra cost on the public purse.

Vale council leader Emily Smith said: "One of our top priorities is to get the council’s finances back in shape. That makes it hard for us to keep subsidising car parks when Covid-19 has already added to the financial pressure we are under.

"However, we also know this is a difficult time for many local businesses and residents, so we want to hear their views on the best way to achieve this before we put a firm proposal forward.”

The Lib Dem council leader invited residents to give their opinions via the email address

All council car parks in southern Oxfordshire were free for anyone to use during lockdown between March 26 and June 8.

This was to allow key workers easy access to town centres, and also to allow people to shop for food and medicines without worrying about paying for parking tickets.