One-hour parking will return to Southend’s town centre and blue badge holders from outside the borough will no longer be charged to use council car parks.

The changes were announced during a full council meeting last night and are expected to be implemented by October.

Deputy council leader Ron Woodley said the administration would be reverse the decision to remove the one-hour parking band from town centre car parks after “listening to local people, businesses and visitors”.

The independent said: “We are pleased to be able to invest in our local economy and support the town centre by returning the one-hour parking band into all our Southend town centre car parks.

“Whilst I would like to implement this immediately, the changes will require the altering of the relevant parking orders, and the subsequent reconfiguration of machines and new signage. We expect this to be in place in October which will support local traders and shoppers in the run up to Christmas.”

It will result in a loss of income of £25,000 and this would be met by the council’s contingency budget.

The cost of parking for a single hour in town centre car parks will be £1.10.

Mr Woodley said the council would also be considering whether to introduce a one-hour parking band to car parks outside of the town centre, such as Western Esplanade.

“Just as importantly I am also pleased to announce that we are scrapping the policy whereby blue badge holders who hold a badge issued from outside of the borough, have had to pay to park in our car parks,” he added.

“We are a tourist town, and we believe this is unnecessary and damaging and will be removed with almost immediate effect.”

Tory leader Tony Cox said: “What a muddle they find themselves in. when they took over the administration, on that particular policy the leader of the council called it ‘uninspiring’. A week ago at a scrutiny meeting the portfolio holder said there was pressures on the budget – how did he have the eureka moment in just over a week to now find the money when he previously said they were budget precious.”

The leader of the council, Labour Councillor Ian Gilbert, hit back at the opposition leader saying he “appears to be complaining that we haven’t quite reversed policy decisions of his own administration quickly enough”.

He said: “We’ve only been in administration for six weeks and it is correct that when this was considered at cabinet we didn’t have the necessary understanding of the costs involved because officers had not worked through all the implications of them within that timescale, its only two or three weeks since we took over.”

Mr Cox said the comments were “as good as saying we got it wrong but we won’t admit it”.

Mr Woodley went on to announce that the council’s parking enforcement team will also be strengthened by asking its parking contractor APCOA to employ five extra officers up to the end of March 2020.

“We understand that there is an appetite for increased parking enforcement, particularly in the vicinity of schools for example,” he said.

“In response to this, and to address inconsiderate and dangerous parking, this administration will ask officers to engage with our parking contractor to supply five additional civil enforcement officers up to the end of March 2020.

“The net cost of this proposal will be met from the business transformation reserve in 2019-20. We will assess the impact of this initiative and consider it as part of next year’s budget setting.”

The council is also looking at ways that enforcement action can be taken against vehicles registered abroad by working with a contractor that has access to the European Vehicle Database.

“The administration will ask officers to engage this company to pursue owners of foreign registered vehicles that commit civil contraventions in Southend on a commission only basis, with no costs to the council,” said Mr Woodley.

Several other parking changes were proposed by the Conservatives including providing two hours free on street parking on all roads off the High Street between Royal Terrace and Queen’s Road. They will be discussed at a cabinet meeting next week.