New Â£2 weekend parking charge in Northampton will deal with drivers who 'abuse the system', Guildhall says
Prices at Northampton's car parks are set to rise by up to Â£2 in the new year.
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Northampton Borough Council have put forward an increase of Â£1 to park all day in council car parks.
They also want to introduce a Â£2 charge to park all day at weekends in multi-storey car parks.
A spokesman for the council said part of the reason for the change was some people were sticking only to the free periods, which he criticised for not being in the spirit of the scheme.
He said: "The weekend charge in multi-storey car parks will... help deal with a number of drivers who are abusing the system by arriving and departing during free periods on Saturdays and Sundays, which is not fair on other users."
The council says the new charges would generate an additional Â£800,000 annual income to help meet maintenance requirements on the car parks, which currently run at a loss.
Councillor Brandon Eldred, cabinet member for finance, said: “Parking charges are always an emotive issue and I have no doubt that these changes will be unpopular with shoppers and traders alike.
“I can assure everyone that we considered all other options before settling on parking charge increases as part of the way we might balance our budget for the coming years.
“These are relatively small increases which we believe will have minimal impact but will help us protect other vital services we provide.”
The borough council controls 20 car parks in Northampton.
The council is anticipating having to make savings of around Â£11.2 million during the next five years.
It comes as their new environmental services contract, which begins in May, will cost Â£3.4 million a year more than the current one with Enterprise
The council says the parking charge increases is expected to generate a total of Â£4.2 million toward this target.
The town's Labour group said the Tories seemed to have broken a promise made in their manifesto.
The text issued by the Conservatives ahead of the May 2015 council elections reads: "A re-elected Conservative administration will guarantee the free parking offer for four years to ensure the town continues to benefit from more visitors as easy access for motorists and convenient parking are key to a vibrant and thriving town centre.
"This would mean parking remains free on Saturdays and Sundays and for two hours on weekdays in the Mayorhold, St. Michael’s, Grosvenor Centre and St John’s multi storey car parks for the next four years."
Cllr Danielle Stone, leader of the Guildhall's Labour group, said: “The Tories have broken a key manifesto pledge they made at the last election. Free parking was one of the main attractions for coming into the town centre.
"I am greatly concerned this will negatively impact on town centre footfall. I really hope this increase in parking charges doesn’t harm our town centre but I fear it will.
"Labour have always said the parking fee structure doesn’t work. On weekdays, people will now have two hours free parking then face a massive parking charge if they go over two hours by a minute.”