Basildon Council will have to find £83,000 a year to pay for car parking across the district, if free parking on weekends is introduced.

If the council’s leisure, culture and environment committee agree on proposals to revoke charges at council-owned car parks - including Billericay High Street, Wickford Main Car Park, Wickford Ladygate and Wickford Pool - the council will also have to find £15,000 to alter signage and parking meters.

Kevin Blake, chairman of Basildon Council’s leisure, culture and environment committee, said: “Our free weekend parking scheme has always proved very popular.

“By making parking free on a Saturday we can make a huge difference to our town centres and support our growing economy. We are committed to supporting local businesses, and offering free parking to shoppers is a simple way of encouraging them to spend their money in our town centres instead of travelling elsewhere.”

Fixed charges of 50p for up to an hour and £1 for all day parking were introduced on April 1 this year following an earlier decision made by the former policy and resources committee, which was led by Labour councillor Gavin Callaghan.

The committee will now consider removing the flat rate fees, reinstating free Saturday parking at the car parks.

It is proposed that an historical £7 charge for Billericay High Street car park before 9.30am remains in place to deter all day parking for commuters and free up spaces for short-term use by shoppers.

David Burton-Sampson, deputy leader of the Labour group in Basildon, said members from the group will vote against the decision, which is the only item of the agenda.

He said: “We have a huge deficit to make up and we cannot afford to spend money in this way.

“We cannot be looking to spend money when we are trying to save money, especially when the money is coming from reserves.”

The shortfall in income and the one-off cost to amend the council’s Traffic Regulation Order is expected to be covered by existing resources, with reserves available if necessary.

The committee will meet at 7pm on Wednesday June 13.