A COUNCIL has made a U-turn over a controversial decision to increase charges for residents’ parking permits after admitting the rise was 'aggressive' and out of line with neighbouring authorities.

Darlington Borough Council had planned to increase the cost of renewing a parking zone permit from £40 to £50 in April this year.

However the authority has chosen to leave the charge at £40 after Darlington resident Garry Hinton and Conservative councillor Ian Galletley, who represents the College ward, questioned the legality of the rise.

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Cllr Galletley asked the council to provide figures on how much it costs to run residents’ parking zones (RPZ) and how much income the system generates following a High Court ruling that councils cannot use RPZs to generate additional income.

Figures initially released by the council did not include income from on-street pay and display parking and showed the system was running at a deficit, leading to the proposed increase in the cost of a permit.

However the authority has since said it should have included on-street pay and display parking in the figures, and has agreed to freeze the charge at £40 until 2016, when officers will review the system.

In a statement sent to Cllr Galletley, the authority stated that while the increase was justifiable, it was aggressive and out of line with neighbouring authorities.

Mr Hinton, who lives in a street with an RPZ, said the U-turn was a small victory for Darlington residents.

Cllr Galletley said: “The council now accepts that it issued misleading advice to councillors and, thereby, to the public by failing to include appropriate elements of costs and income in its conclusions and advice.

“This whole sorry episode, which has lasted seven months, has taught us several lessons. Conservative questions have been ignored and replies delayed because they were asked by Conservatives.

“Darlington Borough Council is ripping off motorists, taking exorbitant sums for parking and levelling the highest charges for residents outside London.”

A council spokeswoman said the authority is able to charge for permits if the money is reinvested in transport and highways.

She said: “The council fulfils this requirement, investing significantly more in highway maintenance each year than income from parking.

“They were introduced to reduce congestion and help people could get a space to park their car near to where they live.

“The parking service in total, including off-street parking and short stay car parks, generates £1.68 million profit. This money is used for highways work including repairs to school crossings, street lighting and potholes, work which costs more than £5 million each year.”