WOKING town centre’s first car park charge increase since 2009 has caused a major rift within the council.
A 10p per hour price increase for stays of up to four hours was voted in at the meeting of the full executive on Thursday, December 6, with the new rates due to be rolled out in April.
Lib-Dem leader Denzil Coulson has already aired concerns that a hike in fees could undo the hard work done by councillors to make Woking more attractive to shoppers.
His party shared the view that town centre economic growth, recently given a £150m shot in the arm with Surrey County and Woking Borough Council’s approval for the new Bandstand Square shopping complex, will be hindered by the rise in parking costs.
Horsell West ward councillor Ann-Marie Barker highlighted that a rise in charges will lead to an increase in commuters and town centre users
parking on residential roads in and around Horsell.
She said: “Parking has already gone so far out that I have seen somebody park in Horsell, take a folding bike from their boot and cycle into the town centre.”
But Leader of the Council John Kingsbury (left) has hit back, labelling Lib-Dem plans to keep prices as they are as disappointing.
The Tory chief also described plans to implement an unfunded price freeze as irresponsible.
In order to raise the £400,000 necessary to keep parking prices from rising, Cllr Kingsbury took a swipe at the Lib-Dems and suggested they shut down one of the town’s day centres.
He added: “Perhaps they will get that money by cutting grants to the voluntary sector, which we fund each year to help those people in our society who need it the most.
“Either way, the Lib-Dems need to say what they would cut if they are going to freeze car parking charges.
“I am very disappointed that there appears to be some politicking about this — a feeling that the election campaign for 2013 has started even earlier than usual.
“It is the usual Lib-Dem story, opposing everything that they think might be unpopular in order to try and win votes.
“Woking Conservatives would rather make the decisions that will secure this council’s financial viability.
“We believe this approach offers residents the best deal in the long term.”