Car park system criticised by councillor

A DISGRUNTLED councillor has broken ranks and blasted her own authority over a controversial town centre parking system - describing it as a “PR catastrophe.

Dave Gooderham

A DISGRUNTLED councillor has broken ranks and blasted her own authority over a controversial town centre parking system - describing it as a “PR catastrophe.”

Jenny Antill criticised Babergh District Council over the new ticket system in Sudbury and raised fresh doubts over whether full-scale car parking charges would be introduced.

Mrs Antill abstained from voting when the proposed changes were first discussed in January claiming at the time it made “no sensible financial sense” and calling for greater discussion.

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Now writing on her internet blog, she, tongue-in-cheek, admits she was wrong about the financial case after the EADT revealed that the new system had raised more than £30,000 in just over three months.

She wrote: “In my opinion, when it became apparent that so many people were falling foul of the system, the scheme should have been suspended while proper signage was put in place and further publicity undertaken.

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“I have to say that I find it frustrating that elected members didn't have more say in the formation and execution of the policy from the outset.

“We are not supposed to get down into the detail when it comes to this sort of thing, but more input from councillors at an early stage might have avoided what has resulted in a PR catastrophe for Babergh.”

Speaking last night Mrs Antill, a district councillor in the Waldingfield ward, questioned whether charges would be introduced in a town famed for free parked.

But she admitted the controversial issue would not be raised until the Local Government Reorganisation was complete.

She told the EADT: “It is no secret that I was critical of the original decision over parking in Sudbury as it was neither one thing nor the other. They (Babergh) might as well have gone the whole hog and introduced car parking charges. But I don't expect that to come back on the agenda until after the local government review.”

Mrs Antill said the controversy - which has raged in the town since the new ticket system was introduced in August - is a fresh example why Babergh, if it survived the reorganisation, should scrap its current structure and adopt a leader and cabinet system.

Under the new ticketing rules, motorists must display a free ticket in any of the town's short stay car parks and then move their vehicle to another area within a three-hour limit.

But confused drivers have been caught out criticising the original lack of advertising - prompting fed up businessmen and motorists to launch petitions and threaten court action.

A spokesman for Babergh last night said: “Whilst Babergh is well aware of the concerns and frustrations of a small minority, the fact is that the vast majority of people have continued to use Sudbury's car parks with no problems since the machines were installed.

“Where users have felt there were problems, Babergh has listened and responded wherever possible. But, when all is said and done, Babergh is still providing free car parking to the users of Sudbury's car parks.”

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