NINE Tory rebels could force a dramatic U-turn to keep parking free on Saturdays in the Rochford district.
The councillors joined two others to abstain during a vote to bring in Saturday charges and increase existing weekday fees by a quarter.
Nine of those Tories have gone on to table amotion calling for the issue to be sent back to a full council meeting for another debate and vote.
The motion accepts the proposed weekday increase, from 80p an hour to £1, but calls for free Saturday parking to be retained.
One of the nine Tories , Cheryl Roe (Rayleigh Central) , said: “56.2 per cent of our members did not support the decision to bring back Saturday parking charges. That’s why I voted for the motion.
“We wanted it to be brought back to council for further discussion.
The motion will have to go to a vote. I signed it and I will not vote for Saturday charges, because I don’t agree with them.”
The original vote on the plans, saw them passed by 14 votes to seven, with 11 councillors abstaining in protest.
The fact they stopped short of completely defying the party line and voting against the new charges drew criticism from other councillors who want the whole thing dropped.
Malcom Maddocks, (Con, Hockley West), one of the 11 abstainers, but one of the two who did not sign the motion, said: “There are things that have to be discussed with members of the executive before I can comment. I need to speak to other members.”
Tory council leader Terry Cutmore, declined to confirm if councillors would be ordered to vote the motion down, or if the rebel councillors would be face disciplinary action.
He added: “Clearly some of those who abstained consider it an issue, especially for them. They want it to be revisited and they are entitled to do that.
“They believe they are doing it for the right reasons but we want to make sure we make the budget viable.”
Market traders inRayleigh town centre oppose the parking package.
Their spokesman, Trevor Day, said: “Now they are listening to the public. People power has to be heeded.
“We need free parking o n Saturdays.”
*HOW REBELLION COULD DEFEAT VOTE
THE original vote on increasing parking charges was passed by 14 votes to seven, with 11 abstentions.
If all those who signed the motion defy the official party line and vote with those who opposed the Saturday charge, it would defeat the official Tory group and lead to the parking policy being thrown out. Chris Black (Lib Dem, Downhall and Rawreth) said the vote scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 could be nail-biting.
He added: “This is a real chance to save free Saturday afternoon parking and it’s looking very encouraging.”
TORY COUNCILLORS WHO SIGNED THE MOTION: Toby Mountain (Sweyne Park) David Sperring (Trinity) Cheryl Roe (Rayleigh Central) Ian Ward (Lodge) Robin Dray (Whitehouse Patricia Aves (Rayleigh Central) Angela Hale (Hullbridge) John Griffin (Wheatley) Brian Hazelwood (Hockley Central) COUNCILLORS WHO ABSTAINED, BUT DID NOT SIGN THE MOTION: Malcolm Maddocks (Con, Hockley West) June Lumley (Lib Dem, Grange).