Council in U-turn on Southend late night parking charges

Late night parking charges have been abandoned in another “chaotic” U-turn by Southend Council.

Plans to charge for parking on Southend seafront until 9pm, instead of the current 6pm, were formally scrapped at this week’s budget cabinet meeting. Council leader Ian Gilbert broke the news on Twitter before announcing it to fellow councillors.

The proposal had sparked anger among seafront traders and derision from opposition councillors, who said it would hit businesses and deter tourists.

Cllr Gilbert said: “We only got the financial settlement from Government a few days before Christmas, so in terms of detail there is always a huge amount to be done.

“We have been re-checking sums of money we had, and we managed to find a way to balance the books without this charge.”

The move is the latest in a series of policy U-turns by the council.

Twelve months ago the authority scrapped plans to increase seafront parking charges on roads around the Cliffs Pavilion following a backlash.

And last month the council also backed down over proposals for fortnightly bin collections, although bosses have not ruled out reviving the plans.

This week the council announced plans to introduce night time parking enforcement in areas across the borough under its new parking strategy. It is unclear how this latest decision will affect the strategy.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Gilbert said: “I’m very pleased that we can present a budget that invests large sums in housing, that increases the community safety team, that starts to deliver on our environmental priorities.”

Opposition councillors responded by branding the move “chaotic”.

Philip Miller, owner of Adventure Island reacted to the latest change of heart.

He said: “It just shows you what people power can do. It was an illthought-out scheme from day one.

“Times are hard. Folks are suffering with inflation taking its toll. Why would our leaders want to penalise people’s fun and relaxation?”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter