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Popular Worcester car park to remain free
A POPULAR Worcester car park will remain free - after council chiefs performed a u-turn last night on charging people to use it.
Waterworks Road car park, mainly used by people visiting Worcester's Splashpad and Gheluvelt Park, is to stay free to use after April.
The city council's Labour leadership wanted to charge £1 for four hours use or more, believing the move could raise £5,000 a year.
But after an outcry from other politicians, many of whom said it would lead to visitors deluging residential streets instead, the idea has been dumped.
There was concern charging would also put people off making a day of it at the Splashpad in the summer.
Councillor Richard Boorn, cabinet member for finance, speaking during a cabinet meeting said: "We've listened to what's being said and are not proposing any changes there."
Councillor Liz Smith, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, who also sits in the cabinet, said: "I really welcome dropping the charges at Waterworks Road.
"My initial concerns over that has now been recognised across all sides (of the council).
"People would not use that car park if it charged, they'd park in the streets instead, to the inconvenience of the residents."
The council needs to save just under £1 million in 2014/15 and says it has given up making the £5,000 extra revenue from the move.
But the city's council tax base - the money it expects to get from household rates - has been adjusted by £80,000 next year, mainly because of various new house building plots around Worcester.
That means the council had enough flexibility to change tack.
The Labour-led cabinet has decided against making any other changes to the car parking plans, with some rates set to rise in April.
It includes scrapping the £1 charge after 7pm, ending the 40p charge for half-an-hour, and some four hour prices going from £5 to £6, although St Martin's Gate will remain £3.60 all day.
The stance has angered the opposition Conservatives, which says it will harm businesses, but the Labour leadership says it has no evidence the cheaper rates worked.
Councillor Geoff Williams, deputy leader and the cabinet member for economic prosperity, said: "We should be extraordinarily proud of this budget, it takes place against a backdrop of unprecedented cuts from central Government."
He said "the majority of car parking changes will remain unchanged", despite the concern.
A vote on the 2014/15 budget will take place on Tuesday, February 25.