OPPOSITION councillors are behind a last-ditch attempt to scupper controversial plans to increase car parking charges across the Rochford district.

Councillors backed a rise in parking charges in council-run car parks at a meeting earlier this month.

At the same meeting it was decided to scrap plans for parking charges on a Saturday afternoon, but some councillors feel this did not go far enough.

The alliance between Rochford District Residents and the Green Party, now the Tories’ main opposition, has tabled a motion at a full council meeting to axe the increase in charges, branding it an “austerity tax”.

John Mason, Rochford District Residents councillor for Hawkwell West, said: “The Green and Rochford District Residents Group consider the increase in car parking charges an austerity tax which has not been approved by Parliament.

“We believe the revenues raised are to form a reserve which is being raised as a ‘stealth tax’ for the Chancellor, George Osborne.

“It was incorrect for members to vote in favour of a motion which had financial implications without having the relevant information available to members at the time the decision was taken.”

Their motion has been signed by the two Rochford District Residents and Green Party members, plus all three Ukip councillors, independent Conservative Toby Mountain and Lib Dem Chris Black, exceeding the eight required signatures to force a debate.

Mike Steptoe, Rochford district councillor responsible for enterprise, said he was aware of the motion, which has been received by council officers.

He said: “I can assure you we would not be increasing car parking charges if we did not consider it to be necessary.

“The reality is that, following a reduction in Government funding, some tough decisions have had to be made and this is one of them.

“However, I am pleased to say we did listen to residents and businesses who were concerned about introducing charges to Saturday afternoons and our officers spent a long time looking at other options.”