Southend's opposition Tory group say they can freeze controversial car parking hikes by finding savings elsewhere.

The ruling administration at Southend Council is set to raise charges at three car parks during the summer season- Seaway, Fairheads Green, and Western Esplanade- which will raise £200,000 a year extra.

This will offset the bill for littering left by tourists to the borough.

The Conservative group has now unveiled alternative budget proposals, which states that a cutback in hot drinks and snacks at public meetings will allow parking charges to stay as they are.

The group also wants to restructure management, and withdraw from the Local Government Association.

Ahead of a crunch meeting tomorrow night where the budget will be decided, the Tories admit they cannot find a way to freeze or reduce council tax.

The ruling administration is proposing to raise council tax by 3.99 per cent, with two per cent of that purely going on adult social care.

James Courtenay, who represents Blenheim Park, said: "I am pleased to be putting our amendment to the council, which will ensure parking charges are frozen across the town- helping residents save money and keep visitors coming to the town to support our many local businesses.”

The Conservatives also want to stop cutbacks in the teenage pregnancy and schools improvement budgets, and freeze cremation and burial fees.

Mr Courtenay, who has put together the alternatives, added: “We will maintain the school improvement and teenage pregnancy budgets - both something protected by the previous Conservative administration.

“Our schools are improving and unwanted teenage pregnancies dropping but we are still below the average across the country in both areas and therefore we should be continuing to spend the full budget to accelerate this improvement, rather than taking as much money from these as possible.”

The last senior management restructure took place at the council in 2013, and the Tories believe another one could save around £200,000.

Martin Richardson, who owns the Happidrome Arcade, in Marine Parade, said: “This shows there are cuts available and the council should be looking closer to home.

“It’s quite ironic that it is the people who are imposing these seafront charges can actually cut themselves.”

The budget meeting takes place at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Avenue, at 6.30pm.


Opposition say the hike is aimed at tourists

A senior councillor said the controversial hike in seafront parking charges is aimed purely at tourists.

Martin Terry, who is responsible for highways at Southend Council, said future seafront developments such as a lagoon at Three Shells Beach would need paying for by tourists as well as local taxpayers.

He challenged his Conservative opponents to explain how they would restructure senior management.

The Tories argue it could save £200,000, but they would leave it to chief executive Rob Tinlin to carry out the restructuring.

Independent Mr Terry said: “This charge is aimed at the people who want to use our seafront services, but don’t live in the town.

“Tourists should contribute to the seafront developments going on, as well as for the costs of littering that we saw on the beaches last year.

“We are always looking at efficiencies in all departments, but staff, particularly in my department, are extremely overworked as it is.”