WIRRAL Council leader Phil Davies has scrapped controversial plans for parking charges on 50 streets after a public backlash.
The Globe can also reveal today that proposed new charges at off-street and council-owned car parks including Fort Perch Rock, New Brighton Promenade, West Kirby and other town centre locations have been withdrawn completely.
Plans for a £4 flat-fee to park at Eastham, Thurstaston, Arrowe and Royden Country Parks have been replaced with a new proposal to charge 50p for the first hour, £1 for two hours or £2 all day.
A planned increase of all tariffs by 50p is also off the table, replaced instead with a 20p rise.
The tariffs were among measures drawn up by the ruling Labour group as it attempts to raise extra cash to top-up threadbare budgets following Government cuts.
The changes were made following a consultation led by Wirral's cabinet member for highways Cllr Stuart Whittingham, who has met business owners and members of the public.
The council’s new budget proposals will be discussed by cabinet when it meets this Monday morning, before it is agreed by all councillors on March 6.
More than 16,000 people had signed petitions objecting to the original proposals.
Council leader Phil Davies said: "Council officers put forward these proposals in good faith, trying to help close our £45 million funding gap for next year, but it is clear from the feedback we have had from residents and businesses that these proposals would do more harm than good.
"The consultation on the proposals finished last Friday, and I'd like to thank every resident and business who took the time to contact me and the portfolio lead Cllr Whittingham.
"We have taken notice of what you've told us and we are delighted to say we've taken immediate action.
"Officers' proposals also included a £4 flat rate to park in country parks.
"This approach fails to recognise the impact on regular casual park users, such as dog walkers, family visits and youth football.
"For that reason, I am proposing a 50p per hour charge, with a maximum charge of £2 all day.
"I believe this will meet the needs of local park users without deterring visitors to Wirral.
"In the last couple of years the council has invested more than £100,000 in improving car parks and footpaths at our country parks.
"Having dropped the proposals for on-street parking it makes sense to reduce the increase in the borough's car parks also. I am reducing the proposed increase from 50p to just 20p.
"We have spoken to people all across the borough, and I believe this proposal recognises the concerns of local businesses and residents."
Cllr Stuart Whittingham, cabinet member for highways, said: "These proposals were put forward by officers in an attempt to help us achieve £45 million in savings without cutting back on the services which people most rely on.
"I have visited businesses all over the borough, and I have been speaking to residents every day and it was clear to me almost immediately that the unintended negative consequences these proposals would bring to local traders and the local economy far outweighed the benefits.
“Every year setting a legal, balanced and sustainable budget gets harder – but this council has consistently worked alongside residents, consulted, and made difficult decisions in partnership with local people.
"I am pleased and relieved we have been able to continue this record and remove these proposals.
"I'd like to thank every business and resident who took the time to
get in touch with us."
News of the decision to axe planned off-street parking charges has been welcomed by residents and businesses.
Stephen Muff, owner of Muff J Sons butchers in Bromborough said: "This is a great relief not only to shoppers here but also to workers and businesses as well as it will help to safeguard jobs.
"Our customers had initially been horrified by the proposals and we were genuinely fearful as a business about the impact the charges could have on local livelihoods here.
"We're delighted that the council have listened to our views on the issue and we feel this is very good news for the local community."
West Kirby resident and dog walker Adrian Wynne said: "The £4 charges were excessive for regular Royden Park users like me.
"Recognising the council has to make savings in these difficult political times the 50p per hour proposal is much more reasonable.
"I am glad the council listened."
Gill Kruger, owner of Kruger’s Jewellers on Seaview Road in Liscard – one of the 50 streets that was affected by the proposals – said: "It's such a relief.
"We were really concerned that these charges would hurt our business and we have been talking with our local councillors and cabinet members about them for the past few weeks.
"I understand the council has to make cuts and I know some difficult decisions will be needed to balance the books.
"I am thrilled and really grateful our views have been taken on board and the proposals for Liscard have been withdrawn."