FREE parking permits for senior councillors are set to be withdrawn following controversy over increased charges in Cherwell District Council’s car parks.
Several members of the council’s executive who voted to increase charges in car parks in Bicester and Banbury late last year have permits allowing them to use council car parks when on official business, it emerged.
Opposition councillors accused them of hypocrisy after it was agreed charges would increase from 60p to 70p an hour in Bicester, and new evening charges would be introduced from 6pm to midnight. Parking charges for blue badge holders are also due to be brought in.
Councillors’ permits will be withdrawn when the new charges come into force on April 4.
Councillor Nigel Morris, a member of Cherwell District Council’s executive, said: “Use of these permits was an effective and efficient way for portfolio holders with busy council diaries to avoid the need for copious expense claims.
“While each permit carried a serial number so they could easily be monitored to avoid misuse, we can see how their existence might have been misconstrued by those using our car parks.
“The handful of councillors who previously made use of these permits will now be required to fill in expense claim forms for each time they pay for parking while on council business.”
Opposition councillor Les Sibley, who had ordered a review of the decision to increase parking charges, described the move as a, “victory for fairness” this week.
Cllr Sibley added: “It’s a fact that they made a decision that would affect everybody else in Cherwell district, and in Bicester in particular, when they had their own free parking permits.”
He added: “I’ve been campaigning against increasing the car parking fees, and I’m pleased they’ve given up their free permits.
“We need to review the whole system because it’s putting the whole town centre redevelopment in jeopardy.
“More shops have said they’re closing this week, and increasing parking charges could have a terrible impact. It’s the wrong policy at the wrong time.”
Cllr Sibley said cabinet members had done “the honourable thing” in agreeing to give up their permits, but urged them to reverse their decision to increase parking charges.
Cherwell District Council says the parking charge changes would generate around £350,000 a year in the face of a £16 million cut to its budget over the next four years.