Tory councillors have backtracked after suggesting Aylesbury shoppers bypass parking fees by using free retail car parks.
In a meeting of Aylesbury Vale District Council, Councillor Michael Rand, council vice-chairman, said people could use Morrisons and walk into town, while Councillor Barbara Russel said people could use Aldi, B&Q or the Junction retail park.
The comments fly in the face of some of the stores’ parking policies, which state only their shoppers can use them.
But Mr Rand now says he only uses the Morrisons’ car park when shopping there before popping into town, and Mrs Russel claims she was unaware of the rules. The original comments came in a debate on introducing free evening and Sunday parking in town, a Lib Dem motion which Conservatives kicked out.
The council says revenue generated from evening and Sunday parking is ‘vital to continued investment in the town centre and council services’. The change would have meant losing up to £85,000 in revenue.
But despite attempting to clarify their comments, Mr Rand and Mrs Russel have been slammed by opposition councillors for being ‘hypocritical’.
Retailers have also criticised the comments, with Morrisons and Aldi emphasising they have strict rules on customer parking and B&Q planning to introduce a similar policy to stop people ‘abusing’ the system.
Councillor Julie Ward said: “If I was running Aldi the last thing I would want is my customers not being able to park there. We need something creative to be done to get the high street going. I don’t think it’s creative to suggest that our retailers subsidise the parking. It is completely hypocritical.”
Labour Councillor Michael Beall said the comments show the Tories are ‘out of touch’.
On the dropped fee changes, Councillor Brian Roberts, cabinet member for civic amenities, said: “We thoroughly researched the proposal to scrap these fees but decided that, on balance, we simply could not afford to because any shortfall in our income revenues would have to be made up from somewhere and that could mean an increase in council tax.”