Car park row threatens district budget

YOU’LL kill our market towns.

That was the claim as Babergh councillors agreed a controversial budget that will see charges introduced in Sudbury and Hadleigh in the autumn of this year.

Motorists parking for more than three hours will have to pay �1.50 to park in the towns - a move which sparked claims that they could turn their back on the south Suffolk towns in favour of shopping elsewhere.

Nine councillors voted to throw out the entire council budget on the issue - a move which could have resulted in Whitehall bureaucrats taking over the management of the council.

Sudbury councillor Peter Beer said: “We were not elected to this council to introduce car parking charges in our market towns. Today the proposal is to introduce charges in Sudbury and Hadleigh, but we know Lavenham will be next.”

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Mr Beer said he could not vote for the budget if the proposed car park charges were included.

He was backed up by Clive Arthey who said: “We talk about supporting the economy of our market towns. Free car parking supports our market towns - this is the kind of thing that could kill them.”

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Sudbury councillor John Sayers also voted against the budget: “If I voted for this budget I would be voting against all the businesses that rely on people shopping in these towns.”

The proposed fee is due to be introduced from October. It is expected to raise �100,000 for the district in the next financial year and �200,000 a year from then on.

Sue Wigglesworth warned her fellow councillors against throwing out the budget.

“This could result in the officers taking over the running of the council and setting a budget - and they could put charges on every car park!”

And Gerald White warned that the failure to agree a legal budget could lead to sequestration and a team of government bureaucrats being sent in to run the council.

He said: “This is not something you should consider lightly. It is a very drastic step.”

Strategy committee chairman Nick Ridley told the council that it had been very difficult to reach a budget that would keep council tax rises for the district down to three per cent.

“It has been a hard and at times painful exercise - and I fear it will be equally hard and painful in future years,” he warned.

The district’s element, when added to the county council figure, the police authority’s element, and the parish and town council elements mean that council tax bills for the government’s “average” Band D home will vary between �1,426 in Shelley to �1,550 in Sudbury.

However most bills will be much lower than that because most homes in the district fall into Bands A to C.

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