West Suffolk: Council criticised for avoiding new parking charge

ACCUSATIONS of double standards have been made against a district council after it introduced parking charges - but not in its own staff car park.

People using Babergh District Council’s long stay car parks in Sudbury and Hadleigh for more than three hours are now being charged �1.50 for the privilege.

When the cash-strapped council brought in the controversial charges it decided its own car park should be excluded.

“Under the current climate it’s nothing more than outrageous and smacks of elitism,” said businessman David Holland of Curtain Craft. “When they are prepared to heap extra charges onto people earning modest salaries who need to park in the town, but think it’s okay for their chief executive who earns more than the Prime Minister to park for free everyday, something is clearly wrong with the authority we pay our taxes to.

“The Government talks about us all being in this together, but it clearly isn’t something our district council feel the same way about.”

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The issue was raised during a Sudbury Town Council meeting when Beryl Mauldon asked councillors how such a disparity could exist between Babergh employees and people in the town.

Peter Beer, a town, district and county councillor, said: “It’s no secret that I voted in favour of Babergh staff and councillors paying to park as it was right and sent out the correct message, but we lost that vote and now we are seeing the backlash which was always going to be people’s reaction.”

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Jane Hatton, project manager of the Sudbury Town Market Partnership, said she was shocked to discover that Babergh had excluded itself from the charges.

She said: “I drove there and parked in the car park and actually got out to see where the ticket machines were. I have to say I was very surprised to see that they don’t deem it fit to charge in their own car park but are prepared to charge everyone else.”

Babergh has 52 spaces at its offices in Hadleigh which it says are reserved for councillors and staff deemed as essential car users, plus another 141 bays for other staff and visitors.

A Babergh spokesman said the council felt that staff should not be burdened with parking charges as they had already contributed almost �300,000 worth of savings and efficiencies, but admitted the issue would be looked at again next year.

He said: “The charges introduced are fair to all users and are set at a low cost - �1.50 to park all day is one of the cheapest tariffs throughout Suffolk.

“The new parking regime will undergo a review after six months where any problems which may have been identified will be looked at in more detail. As with any new policy, Babergh welcomes feedback from members of the public and will always consider suggestions which may improve our service.”

The new parking regime, brought in on October 18, came under immediate criticism when car owners began parking their vehicles on residential streets in the town to avoid the new charges.

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