Council staff continue to enjoy free parking perk

Southend City Council staff are continuing to enjoy the perks of free parking, it has emerged as councillors prepare to lose their free parking permits.

Council documents show 1,300 staff benefited from free parking from April to December last year.

Southend’s budget for 2023/24 includes plans to end free parking for councillors although the will be able to purchase permits at a subsidised rate of £600 a year.

It was originally thought only directors and senior managers would retain free passes but it has now emerged that all staff are entitled to apply for one.

The move is part of a bid to reduce a predicted £7.3million budget deficit.

Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative Group, said there was no justification for the perk. He said: “We are hearing we need to be making budget savings. Members are looking to have their permits taken away. Whey in the current climate, bearing in mind we are asking staff to work from home now more often, are we handing out free parking permits?

“Some staff could be parks department or carers and I have no issue with but these are rank and file staff getting free parking.”

Parking charges across the city are also set to rise by 10 per cent and some seafront areas will see parking charges enforced up to 9pm instead of the current 6pm.

Seafront traders have slammed the charges, branding them a hindrance to tourism.

Steven Wakefield, cabinet member for highways, transport, and parking, defended the free permits for hard-to-get staff.

He said: “Nationally, councils are facing challenges to both recruit and retain staff, particularly in certain professions and the council currently offers free parking to staff at a limited number of council car parks close to the Civic Centre.

“This is only for business use when staff are working and does not allow free parking elsewhere across the city or at weekends.

“The proposal to introduce a charge for a councillor parking permit is an area where the administration felt that we and fellow elected officials could lead by example as part of this tough budget setting process.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter