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Worcester Tories say they will slash parking charges if they regain control
CAR parking prices in Worcester will be dramatically slashed - that's the promise from the city's Conservatives if they regain power in 10 weeks time.
The local elections are taking place in May, and your Worcester News can reveal the first pledge made by any of the city's major parties.
The opposition Tory group vociferously opposed plans from the ruling Labour party to increase parking charges, but lost out during a budget vote last month which means they are going up in April.
The flat £1 rate after 7pm is being axed, as well as 40p for half-an-hour, while some long-stay prices are going from £5 to £6.
Worcester Conservatives now say if they win power back the old rates will be re-introduced, and prices brought back down to what they were at the time of the reductions of January 2013.
Of the 35 city councillors in Worcester the Tories and Labour have 16 each, meaning the balance is on a knife-edge.
Labour had to rely on support from the two-strong Liberal Democrats to get its budget approved and gained control last May for the first time since 2000.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, Tory group leader, said: "This is a big, big issue and we want to give the public a clear choice on this.
"This is a straight pledge, we believe putting up parking charges is wrong, and so is the timing - after the floods it's adding insult to injury.
"We believe offering competitive parking is about helping the city recover - during the downturn Worcester has done quite well and held its own, but the perception is that charges are high and that's why we cut them in the first place.
"It's sends out the wrong message to put them up and we are committed to reverting back to the old prices as soon as practically possible if we get back in." He said some rises are "nonsensical", citing higher fees for lorries and coaches, and said he'd spoken to "a number of businesses" which want the 40p rate to stay.
"This is a key choice we are giving people so they know what we stand for," he said.
Labour has hit back by calling the pledge "financial incompetence" and suggest if prices went back, more cuts would have to be made elsewhere.
The council gets around £2.6m in parking revenue per year, with small adjustments potentially costing hundreds of thousands.
Councillor Richard Boorn, cabinet member for finance, said: "I'm a big fan of fantasy football, but fantasy budgets is something I don't intend to play.
"The parking charges are part of a budget approved by councillors, so if he tried to change that he'd have to go to a lot of trouble straight away.
"Messing with the fabric of the budget shows financial incompetence, it'd be open to serious challenge."
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