Tendring’s free parking scheme for residents could be scrapped as finance officers struggle to balance the books

Residents may soon have to pay for parking

Residents may soon have to pay for parking - Credit: nick strugnell

A free parking scheme credited with the regeneration of town centres in Tendring could face the chop next year in the wake of tightening council budgets.

Senior councillors will debate early budget plans during a meeting of Tendring District Council’s cabinet on Friday.

The council has run the scheme since 2012, where council tax payers get a free permit to use in Tendring District Council (TDC) car parks.

However it cost the authority an estimated £250,000 to run in 2013, and it has not been included in the 2016/17 budget proposals in the face of a further reduced grant from government to the council.

The final decision rests with councillors.

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Neil Stock, council leader, explained: “We were pleased and proud to bring in the free parking scheme. There is no doubt it has been very successful and has helped to regenerate and rejuvenate our town centres but there is a cost and it is quite substantial.

“Personally I would be very disappointed if we do have to cut the service, but I do recognise in the current financial climate that’s exactly the sort of thing we have to look at.

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“It’s going to be a tough decision, no-one is keen or wants to do it, but it could be a least-worst option. We have had such drastic cuts, we have made efficiencies but we are now in the position of having to cut things.”

Mr Stock also said although early budget plans were based on a council tax freeze, the authority would have to consider a 2% rise – equivalent to £2.95 a year on a Band D home – after freezes and small cuts in the precept in recent years.

He added: “In real terms the cost of TDC to residents has actually gone down in recent years. This year we are going to have to be grown up and consider quite seriously a rise.

“Needs must when the devil drives and he his behind the wheel at the moment.

“This is survival of the fittest. Councils that don’t grasp the mettle and make tough decisions now will go bust.”

Some budgets are set to rise at TDC.

The authority is considering setting up a £750,000 fund to invest in commercial properties, with the aim of making more money on the council’s reserves.

It is hoped income from renting out buildings would be bigger than the low interest currently paid by banks, and could – in a perfect scenario – also give a boost to local firms or start-up businesses.

TDC is also looking at increasing the Clacton Air Show budget for 2016.

Next year is the 25th anniversary of the show, and organisers are looking to provide a bumper event.

Among the ideas to boost the show is the introduction of a night flight.

Mr Stock said: “We are looking to make the best air show in the whole country. It is fantastic, has grown and grown over 25 years.

“I am sure it is going to be exciting.”

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