Torbay councillors divided amid parking permits row
PARKING permits for council staff and elected members is dividing councillors.
Both Conservative and Lib-Dem councillors have agreed to pay a flat £50 fee for an annual parking permit while other members believe the issue should still be debated further across all parties.
It comes as council staff are being offered a £1 a day parking option which could mean staff end up paying £300 a year for a parking permit regardless of their earnings.
Staff would then be paying six times more than elected members.
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The discrepancies have been criticised by some members who are calling on a review of the scheme and greater fairness towards staff and greater parking fairness towards Torbay residents.
Independent councillor Mike Morey has written to the Conservative group and Bay mayor Gordon Oliver to reach a cross-party consensus.
He said: "The issue has come back as a fait accompli. We should have carried on talking about it.
"I feel that staff and members should be treated the same. But the Conservatives decided not to go down that route and now it has been imposed on people.
"Trying to talk to them feels like hitting your head against a brick wall."
Labour councillor Darren Cowell agreed saying the present system was unfair and did not address the fact that nothing was being offered to make parking permits more affordable for residents.
He said: "I have refused the £50 parking permit. I will continue to do so until we can have a solution which recognises the different staff salary scales. To have members pay less than staff is unfair. To have staff pay the same regardless of how much they earn is unfair. Not to offer improved car parking permit facilities for our residents is unfair."
However both Conservative and Lib Dem councillors defended the policy for member permits.
Lib Dem Cllr Ruth Pentney said: "Members have taken two pay cuts in recent years. We used to have free parking passes and now they cost £50. We're basically working for less than the minimum wage.
"To bring back people into the town centre we have to cut the cost of parking right down. Make it really cheap. We also have to look at new incentive for residents' car parking."
Tory Cllr Robert Excell agreed with the Lib Dem position saying that it was better for the party members to choose the £50 a year parking permit option than to pay the same as staff and claim parking costs back on expenses.
He added: "In fact we are giving something back to the community by choosing this option. It is better that way to take it as a bonus than to have the £1 a day option and claim it back on expenses.
"We haven't had a pay rise in five years, we took a five per cent pay cut recently and we are one of the lowest paid councillors in the country.
"The £50 parking permit is more beneficial to the community."
Torbay GMB Union has written to Torbay Council raising its concerns over charges for staff parking and parity.