A Conservative motion which called on Redcar and Cleveland Council to continue to fund free car parking in Guisborough failed after not receiving enough support.

The motion was moved by Belmont ward Conservative councillor Carolyn Curr and seconded by another Tory, Councillor Julie Hart, who represents Hutton ward.

It requested the council’s cabinet “re-prioritise spending” to continue with two hours of free car parking in order to support independent businesses in the town and the wider economy in the borough.

Instead, an amendment by Labour’s Bill Suthers, a Guisborough ward councillor, was successfully carried at a meeting of the full council, which received broad support also from independents and Liberal Democrats.

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This called on the issue to be taken up with the Tees Valley Combined Authority, which previously funded two hours free car parking with a grant to the council under a scheme aimed at helping high streets recover from the impact of the covid-19 pandemic.

TVCA previously said, funding having been given to all five Tees Valley councils in May 2021, that the scheme was only earmarked to last for two years and had reached a natural end.

It said the continuation of free car parking in any given borough was a matter for individual local councils.

Cllr Curr’s motion had referenced a petition set up by Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Conservative MP Simon Clarke, signed by 1,500 residents in support of keeping two hours free car parking, which recently sparked a row with council leader, Labour’s Alec Brown.

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Mr Clarke said it was clear the council did not see keeping free car parking as a priority and claimed the cost of such a move would be a “fraction” of what it would lose in business rates if shops closed.

The motion said car parks and the charges levied were the responsibility of the council and “the cost to our local communities of re-introducing car parking charges is potentially far greater than the car parking fee”.

Councillor Carl Quartermain, the cabinet member for highways and transport, said the council could not afford to subsidise car parking in this way and it was “simply out of the question”.

Cllr Quartermain criticised the level of funding the local authority received from the Conservative Government and claimed the free car parking offer and its continuation was “TVCA’s prerogative.”

The Northern Echo: Councillor Carl Quartermain, the cabinet member for highways and transport. Picture: Teesside LiveCouncillor Carl Quartermain, the cabinet member for highways and transport. Picture: Teesside Live (Image: Teesside Live)

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He said: “It’s very easy to have people agree to have something given over for free, but this isn’t free.”

The scrapping of free car parking has been the same across the Tees Valley, with Labour leader of Darlington Borough Council Steve Harker announcing in early June that car parking charges for all council-run short and long-stay car parks will be re-introduced from Monday, July 3.

Cllr Harker blamed the divisive decision on funding, and said there was “no provision” put in place to continue the offer in the council’s budget that was approved earlier this year.