The political row over Brighton and Hove parking charges continues with the city’s Conservative group raising the possiblity they may be illegal.
Writing on his blog, the Tory’s transport spokesman Graham Cox compared the rises to those implemented by Barnet Borough Council, which a judge ruled were illegal in 2013 because they were intended to raise funds for the council.
But his claims have been robustly rebutted by Green transport boss Ian Davey, who says the “modest” rises are intended to tackle pollution, not plug a budget hole.
Cllr Cox said: “It is quite clear from the case law that it is unlawful for councils to set charges for the ‘express purpose of creating a surplus’ yet that is exactly what this council is proposing through its latest price hikes.
“Interestingly, Barnet proposed raising the cost of their resident permits to £100, a level that the judge considered unlawful yet our residents are being expected to fork out £166 if they pay quarterly.”
The Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald added: “I really think that the council needs to be very careful. It is quite obvious to me that they are using charges and permits to help fill their budget black hole and that is not allowed.
“Brighton and Hove has gained the unenviable reputation as a ‘rip-off city’ when it comes to parking charges and that is extremely damaging to local businesses. I would urge the council in the strongest possible terms to think again.”
Cllr Davey responded: “I think Cllr Cox’s blog is more about promoting his prospects as Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Hove than a serious critique of parking prices.
“There are more than 220 tariff bands across the city from which he carefully selects the three that are going from £1 to £2.
“These are the hour rates in three city centre car parks all of which cost £2.50 under the Conservatives in 2011 when we came in.
“He also seems to conveniently ignore the three tariff bands which are being halved in price such as the yearly season ticket in the newly refurbished Regency car park which is going down to £1000.A third less than the £1500 that the Conservatives charged in 2011.
“He also ignores the fact that out of ten price bands in the Regency car park seven are going down, two staying the same with only one being increased.
“Most parking prices have been frozen or even reduced over the last three years. This years proposals are for modest increases averaging between 2 and 4%.
“Residents yearly permits for example would increase by 10p a week or 5p for low emission vehicles.
“The city is incredibly popular with more people living and visiting here each year. The impact of this popularity in terms of congestion, air quality and road safety has to be managed.
“That is why we are particularly focusing on encouraging drivers to use edge of centre parking such as the Regency, Norton Road and London Road car parks rather than driving all the way into the city centre.
“I can assure Cllr Cox that we have no intention, despite him frequently imploring us to, of following the example of Conservative led Barnet council in parking or any other matters as their approach often sees them being taken to court by their own outraged residents.”