TWO Labour councillors have launched a scathing attack on the new Tory-controlled council over car parking in Ellesmere Port.
Group leader Derek Bateman and Cllr Justin Madders are furious with the way a new Free after Three scheme is being introduced.
In November the main town centre car park at Asda was made free for a maximum of four hours by the old borough council.
But Chester West and Chester Council leader Mike Jones, who described the move as ‘reckless’, said they cannot afford nearly £600,000 required to keep a free parking scheme in operation.
Cllr Madders said: “Not only does the decision to reintroduce charging show contempt for the town, but the way it occurred showed contempt for the democratic process, giving no opportunity for local people to have their say.
“An e-mail was issued the day before the decision was being taken the next day and then we had just three hours notice that there was to be a review of that decision.
“To pretend this is a democratic process is just a joke. Both these meetings were held well out of the way in Malpas and Winsford.
“It is clear they wanted this done through the back door to avoid having to justify their decision to single out Ellesmere Port.”
Labour leader Derek Bateman added: “This was a political stunt the Tories had pulled. They had planned it in advance with the ring leader, Gareth Anderson, submitting a call-in notice signed by all eight local Tories before the executive had finished on May 20.
“Then in the absence of the chair of the scrutiny committee, he took advantage and decided as the vice chair to call it in the next night when many members wouldn’t even know what had happened, never mind have an opportunity to oppose it.”
Cllr Gareth Anderson replied: “Cllr Madders and Labour did not ‘reintroduce free parking’ in Ellesmere Port and the new council is not getting rid of free parking.
“There is currently an element of free parking in just one car park and it is the timing of free parking which is being proposed to change.
“These are Labour’s parking charges which they introduced eight years ago and I have always voted against them, as have most of my Conservative colleagues.
“There was not a single complaint from any Labour councillor at the scrutiny committee about where and how the meeting was being held, in fact I was congratulated by one for making this the priority issue.
“Labour are annoyed because they failed to call in this vital decision for our area so it was left to the Ellesmere Port Conservative councillors.
“We told our residents we would put them first and we have done that by calling in a decision of our own executive.”
He added that the scrutiny committee, which is an all party committee, unanimously supported making recommendations to the executive, which included the Free after Three scheme being rolled out to all car parks in Ellesmere Port.