Lochaber councillors will unite at a Highland Council meeting today to demand free parking for six weeks for Fort William car parks.
A row over the area committee’s offer to residents of six weeks free parking was delayed earlier this month, when council leader Margaret Davidson told area councillors they did not have the proper powers to change the local charging policy.
The argument spilled over into other council work, and Lochaber Area committee chairman Andrew Baxter resigned his senior councillor role as convener of an influential Highland Council committee.
Speaking to the P&J, for the Lochaber podcast, Mr Baxter said: “The problem is we were expecting other areas Wick, Nairn, Dingwall to bring charges for their parking.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
“For six weeks as a gesture of goodwill to people. At a time when Oban were giving parking – for free, we thought why can’t we? In the grand scheme of things it would cost the council £10,ooo.
“We were giving two hours, and we thought we were able to do that as an area committee.
“We were told in Inverness we did not have the power to do that.
“It was not a process decision it was a political decision – it came down to saying if Fort William has free parking then we will need to deliver the same in Inverness.
“But Inverness attracts people because of its size. Inverness is much bigger and has much more choice.
“Inverness has the benefit of the Common Good Fund, it brings in revenue from rents, and councillors have spent it on fireworks, or on flowers, or a winter festival. If Inverness councillors really wanted free parking they could have spent a bit of money on that.
“Lochaber area committee councillors have spoken beforehand and we are resolute in the decision we have made. The five of us met again on Monday morning and we will be putting our views before the council.”
Earlier, council leader, Councillor Margaret Davidson said the area committee will have powers to make parking decisions at a local level from April 2019 onwards, but at the moment there was no flexibility in the budget to allow them to make that change.