A REVIEW that could signal the end of free council car parking in Leeds city centre on Sundays and in the evenings has been slammed as “madness” by a senior councillor.
The council’s Executive Board has agreed that current Sunday and evening car parking policies be reviewed as part of public consultation over the council’s parking strategy.
A report to the board pointed out that Leeds was one of only three of the country’s “core cities” to offer free Sunday parking.
It also suggested that motorists could be charged in the evening.
Traders have already expressed alarm at the idea of scrapping free parking and now Councillor Andrew Carter, the council’s Conservative group leader, has waded into the row.
He warned that at a time when every effort should be made to increase trade and boost the economy, it would be madness to introduce charges and risk discouraging shoppers from coming into the city centre.
Coun Carter said the “damaging proposals” should be “confined to the trash can”.
“I am absolutely opposed to the introduction of Sunday or evening parking charges in Leeds city centre,” he said. “The free on-site parking at these times is a great boost to the vital city centre economy.
“When the national and local economy is struggling we should be doing everything in our power to encourage shoppers to visit Leeds city centre from far and wide.
“The Leeds city centre retail economy is worth over £1.2billion every year and it employs thousands of people. Bureaucrats in Leeds Civic Hall, on inflation proof pensions and secure jobs, should not be encouraging councillors who don’t understand the need to stimulate the local economy to even consider these crazy ideas.
“I hope after this consultation period these damaging proposals will be confined to the trash can.”
Councillor Richard Lewis, executive board for development, told the board he understood Coun Carter’s concerns and added: “The retail economy and night time economy are desperately important to us.
“The question is how do we maximise income without causing problems for the local economy.”
Councillor Mark Dobson, executive member for the environment, said the report was out to consultation and was only a starting point for discussion.
In Calderdale, a council review of car parking is being opposed by residents, traders and councillors.
The changes, including extending the period of parking charged in Halifax from 6pm to 8pm and introducing charges at free council-run car parks, would bring in around £1m a year.
Some of that cash would be raised from parking charges on streets around Calderdale Royal Hospital.
There are also plans to charged around 4,200 residents £25 a year for parking permits.
The council, which is facing large cuts to its budget over the next few years, has drawn up a number of money-saving and money-raising plans.
The latest round of cuts are expected to affect museums across Calderdale.
Earlier this week Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift warned that further cuts to services would have to be made because of the reductions in budgets. He said the authority would have to get by with around one third less money than in the past.