County councillors are proposing a controversial scheme to make residents pay for parking permits in Oxford.

At the moment, Oxfordshire County Council charges for business permits but residents' parking permits are free.

The county is responsible for running the schemes with parking attendants firm Control Plus, which has a £1m-a-year contract with the council.

An increasing number of residents' parking zones are being created to combat commuter parking, and the environment and economy scrutiny committee says charg- ing for permits would help to cover administration costs.

A previous plan to introduce charges in 1996 was dropped. Councillors had proposed that residents should also be made to pay for visitor permits, but it is understood that this would not be the case this time.

Jean Fooks, county councillor for Oxford Cherwell, who is on the committee, said: "There is a lot of work involved in introducing new residents' parking zones in north Oxford and the cost is about £75,000.

"People from Abingdon and Henley pay for their permits, so the free scheme in Oxford is something of an anomaly.

"We are asking the executive to have a detailed look at the whole scheme, and what it costs. We are not expecting them to rush into this."

John Power, county councillor for Oxford West, said the proposal would anger residents who were used to free parking permits. He added: "Many of the councillors who are proposing this live outside Oxford. I think it is outrageous that they are putting this forward."

But David Robertson, executive member for transport, said it was not fair to expect people living outside Oxford to foot the bill for city residents' parking permits.

He added: "No-one should jump to any conclusions because at this stage this is simply a proposal, but it is something that will be seriously considered."

Many streets in and around the city centre are covered by parking zones, as are roads around the Kassam Stadium at Minchery Farm.

Residents in north Oxford and Headington have been consulted on proposed residents parking zones. Subject to approval by residents and the council, these could be introduced by the spring.