Proposals to introduce charges for staff car parking at Moray Council have been thrown into chaos after they were rejected by councillors.
The authority announced a £20 monthly charge for employees using spaces next to its Elgin headquarters following budget talks – a proposal that was unanimously backed.
But the proposal attracted a furious response from unions amid accusations that the fee was a “wage grab” to prop up under-pressure budgets.
And yesterday the charges were voted down by the council’s economic development and infrastructure committee.
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Some councillors raised fears the scheme would be an administrative nightmare to implement it and suggested an alternative £1-per-day pay and display system.
The permit scheme could yet be revived, however, as it will be discussed again at a full council meeting amid concerns that delays implementing the charge, which will generate about £40,000 per year, will hit other budgets.
Council leader Graham Leadbitter, who backed the charges, said: “When it comes back to full council there need to be alternatives from those who opposed this on where the funding might be found.
“I can’t stress enough how difficult and challenging the financial circumstances of the council are.
“There will be significant consequences for next year’s budget if budget decisions are overturned without alternatives.”
Moray Council’s transport manager Nicola Moss said the permit system would have guaranteed spaces for everyone who used them.
And there were warnings a pay and display system could fall foul of equalities rules, as it would secure spaces for staff who start later in the day due to childcare or other care responsibilities.
Fochabers Lhanbryde councillor Marc Macrae led calls to oppose the system due to concerns the consultation with staff was a “tick box exercise” – a description supported by Mr Leadbitter.
Mr Macrae said: “While we fully understand the rationale behind the introduction of parking charges for staff ,we were very disappointed that the consultation held gave no real detail of the proposals.
It therefore did not allow proper discussion or responses to be made.”
Mrs Moss explained that presenting the charges with a lot of detail could have made the decision appear as a “fait accompli”.
The committee voted against introducing the permit system by six votes to four.