COUNCIL officials have defended plans to hike parking charges in the borough.

As previously reported in the Gazette, the decision made at a full Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council meeting on February 23 will see some of the parking charges around the town increase by up to 33 per cent.

However, the borough council has said that the money made from the parking charges will help to fund improvements such as new shelters, new lighting and resurfacing, to future-proof parking in the borough.

Free parking for up to one hour will remain in short stay car parks, as will free parking for any blue badge holders, and overnight parking for residents displaying a valid permit.

The borough council is also introducing a range of discount initiatives on offer for those parking in the town.

For example, a five-day season ticket offers an equivalent daily rate of £2.78, compared to the daily cash cost of £10.

Cabinet member for communities and community safety Cllr Simon Bound said: “We are committed to keeping parking prices low and to giving our residents the best possible parking facilities.

“There are many ways for residents and commuters to keep their town centre travel costs low and we want to encourage the use of our discount initiatives, which include Park Cards, season tickets and the shuttle bus.”

However, leader of the Independent Forum, Cllr Ian Tilbury said the borough council are just hoarding money.

Cllr Tilbury said: “They say they will be investing money in work that they should be doing anyway.

“The council is just hoarding this money and planning to live off the interest, but we are seeing with the rate of inflation that this money will dry up pretty quickly.”

He added: “It’ s a bit like the council is being run by Del Boy, trying to wheel in the next deal.

“There is just no sign of any longterm ambition from the council.”