Southend councillors face losing parking perk

Councillors in Southend should experience “the pain” of high parking charges, a businessman has said as elected officials face losing a free parking perk.

Southend’s draft budget, which was published last week, revealed councillors will no longer be given free parking permits if the budget is approved at cabinet on Thursday.

Budget papers reveal a bid to “remove free parking for elected members currently receive a parking permit free of charge. This proposal is to charge for those parking permits.”

The move is part of a bid to reduce a predicted £7.3million deficit but it was revealed senior directors would continue receiving subsidised parking.

Philip Miller, owner of Adventure Island on the seafront, said: “That’s very noble of them.
“I fully applaud the gesture, but why should it not apply to the officers as well, and at the eye-watering seafront rates and times.

“If they feel the pain along with the rest of us, it may just alter their thinking.”
Mr Miller added: “On the other side of the coin, the members do try their best for the town whether you agree or not with all of the decisions.

“In many cases the councillors receive very little in return for their labours. Free parking is a nice perk. However this might encourage them to ride walk or use public transport, who knows.”

Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group, said the free permits were limited in their use.

He said: “You can only use it when you are on council business. If you have got a meeting at the civic centre during the day and you can’t park in the underground car park, you park in the car park there. If you have to go out and about to meet people say for example if its where there is a residents’ permit parking scheme and you are not a resident it can be used for that.

“Honestly with that, I’m ambivalent. However, if we are, to coin a phrase, all in this together, I have posed the question why senior officers and staff get discounted and free parking.”

Steven Wakefield, councillor responsible for highways, transport and parking, said: “During the current financial situation, with the council trying to balance the books, maintain services and cope with rising costs, we had to look at absolutely everything that could generate a cost-saving.

“This includes reviewing all parking arrangements, including those for elected councillors. Staff parking permits are only eligible within specific locations near to the civic centre and does not permit free parking elsewhere across the city or at weekends.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter