CAR parking in council-owned car parks will be free on the four Saturdays leading up to Christmas for the fourth successive year.
But last year the council’s parking service failed to break even and on Wednesday (5 November) the cabinet is being asked to consider increasing parking charges for the first time in three years.
Cllr Phil Smith, portfolio holder for public protection – including parking – said this week: “The current car parking service doesn’t have enough income to break even, let alone support the provision of essential extra parking maintenance and improvements.”
He said: “There has been little investment in car parks for many years, and unfortunately many of our parking areas are in need of resurfacing, ticket machine replacement and signage improvements.
“When we have to replace signs and machines, it also makes sense to increase charges as that would mean changing signs and machines anyway.”
He said: “In July the Planning, Transport and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee supported a blanket increase in off-street and on-street parking charges to provide the necessary funding.
“We are also looking at increasing parking provision around Thurrock and especially at Purfleet close to the station where people parking on the road can cause traffic problems.”
He added: “It’s good that, despite the ever-increasing pressure on budgets and despite the cuts, we have been able to support businesses by continuing the free Christmas Saturday parking and our 15 minutes free stop-to-shop on street parking policy, and at the same time support local people by maintaining our free resident parking schemes.
“What’s more is that people should remember most areas in Thurrock still have free parking and where we do charge these increases should be compared with our neighbours and some privately owned car parks. You’ll see we are still offering a good deal.”