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Bid to make New Forest car parks free for six months to 'help local businesses' is rejected

Senior Tories claimed suspending the charges could lose the council up to £1.4m
Senior Tories claimed suspending the charges could lose the council up to £1.4m

NEW Forest Conservatives voted down a bid by opposition Liberal Democrats on the district council to make car parking free for six months.

The motion was submitted at the latest full meeting, held online, by Lib Dem Cllr Malcolm Wade.

He proposed the temporary reprieve from charges across the district as a way to encourage people back into town centres to use local businesses which are facing a “dire economic situation” because of the pandemic.

“If you do not vote for this, you are anti-business,” Cllr Wade told the ruling Conservative group.

Fellow Lib Dem Cllr Stephanie Osbourne said it would help people “regain faith and confidence”.

Cllr Hilary Brand, a Lib Dem who runs a tea shop in Lyndhurst, highlighted the money NFDC has distributed to businesses was funding it had received from central government and not its own.

She added many shops were “losing money hand over fist” and would not make it through without more help.

However, senior Tories claimed suspending the charges could lose the council up to £1.4m – and refused to hear about a proposal by Lib Dem leader Cllr David Harrison for how that money could be made up elsewhere.

Cllr Edward Heron, NFDC’s Tory deputy leader, reacted by saying he was “surprised” supposedly green-thinking Lib Dems were advocating use of the motor vehicle.

“With the money left over we can be supporting sustainable transport solutions,” Cllr Heron said, adding the Lib Dems’ proposed free parking policy would force the council to “raid its reserves”.

Fellow cabinet member Cllr Jeremy Heron also questioned where the money would come from.

“Very little in this life is free,” he said, and asked which other aspects of council financing would lose out to pay for a suspension in charges.

The vote went along party lines, with Liberal Democrats backing it and all Conservatives voting against except for Cllr Fran Carpenter, who abstained.

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