Babergh parking charge plans set to be postponed

North Street car park, Sudbury. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Concerns have been raised about plans to charge for short stay car parking in Babergh - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Controversial plans to cut free car parking entitlement to an hour across south Suffolk are set to be postponed.

Babergh District Council had agreed to reduce free parking from three hours in the face of a £185,000 annual deficit from subsidising arrangements.

Changes had been planned from January, but Conservative group councillors have hatched plans for a postponement – to go before cabinet for a decision imminently – with the political balance meaning the Tories can see it through with leader John Ward’s casting vote.

Conservative sources indicate the intention is for plans to be postponed until at least May 2023 – after completion of the wider strategic parking review – but that the long term goal was for it to be “kicked into the long grass” entirely.

It is understood question marks had been raised within the party over Conservative councillor Elisabeth Malvisi’s handling of the issue as cabinet member – prompting her to quit the party whip.

While remaining independent cabinet member for climate change and biodiversity, her role has been effectively split, with Conservative Dr Sian Dawson taking on responsibility for the waste, licensing, public realm and countryside elements.

Dr Dawson, a vocal opponent of the parking plans, who will now lead on the issue in her cabinet role, said: “I am very firmly against any knee-jerk reaction to introducing parking tariffs because of the Covid impact – it’s a ridiculous time to do it.

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“It’s about our businesses and how it’s going to affect local residents in Sudbury and Hadleigh."

Meanwhile, Conservative councillor Simon Barrett joins the cabinet with the finance portfolio – a role Mr Ward had carried out alongside responsibilities as leader.

It means the 10-strong cabinet will comprise five Conservatives, four independents and one Liberal Democrat.

According to the opposition Green group, a cabinet position for climate change had been offered to one of its members, before a day later being told it would only be a deputy role without voting powers.

Robert Lindsay from the group said: “I find it extraordinary they are still excluding the Greens when we are the second largest political group, or third largest if the Independents are grouped together.

“To one day offer us a cabinet position and the next day offer a half-post is no way to run a council.”

The Greens have called for parking charges to be ring-fenced for funding sustainable transport.

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