In February Conservative-controlled Basildon Council introduced free parking in Council car parks at weekends. We did it because the high streets in Basildon District were being hit hard by the recession, with many small, independent retailers under threat. Like everywhere else, our town centres have to compete with out-of-town shopping parks, which have uniformly free parking, and with people tightening their belts the extra cost of parking was a disincentive to use local shops at the heart of the community. So, the measure, which costs £100k in lost revenue for a full year is just one of the ways that the Council is helping in the midst of Gordon Brown's recession. The good news is that everyone seems to reckon that it is a good idea, even, astonishingly, the Mirror, which doesn't usually spend much time praising Conservative Councils.
The move was initially opposed by our Labour opposition on the basis that they would have spent the money on other things. That has now changed, and in a bit of grownup politics the leader of the Labour group admitted that they had got that one wrong. All credit to Lynda Gordon for being big enough to do that.