AN attempt to remove city centre overnight parking charges in the latest city council budget has been blocked. 

The Conservatives tried to remove the controversial charges, as civic chiefs rubber-stamped a below-inflation rise in the cost of city council services.

The parking charges, introduced last year, saw the previously free overnight period from 7pm to 8am cost £3.30 for more than one hour. A new tariff of £1.80 for one hour and a volunteer permit was also agreed.

In December, Cllr Stephen Godfrey said the Conservatives would scrap the charges if they ran the council. Speaking at the full council meeting, Cllr Godfrey said: “The amendment is the removal of overnight charges in city centre car parks, following the deletion of long-term vacant posts from the establishment.

“The charges discourage people from going to the theatre or going for a meal. They have a significant impact on traders and businesses.”

READ MORE: Conservative council would scrap overnight charges, meeting hears

Cllr Caroline Brook, a Conservative, said: “This is very city centre focussed. Buses do not go to rural areas late at night.”

Cllr Kelsie Learney, senior Liberal Democrat, said: “It was never an issue of money when we introduced the charges. We are already seeing the impacts of the charges on congestion and air quality. 

“Our car parks are not free to run overnight. Lots of restaurants have been rammed in January which is unheard of. This amendment is downright wrong.”

Cllr Neil Bolton, a Conservative, said: “No proper assessment or consultation has ever been done. All hell broke loose when the charges came in. I implore you to support this amendment.”

The Lib Dems voted the amendment down, with 28 against and 12 for. 

SEE ALSO: Below-inflation rise for council tax payers in Winchester

The authority agreed to increase council tax by just 2.6 per cent. Cllr Neil Cutler, cabinet member for finance, said: “When this paper was before the scrutiny committee, the chair (Cllr Caroline Brook) described it as 'bland'. 

“I thought I might liven it up and include a powerpoint presentation. But I have decided to spare you that. We have restored sound finances to the council. When one in five councils are at risk of failing, our budget is balanced.”

The budget includes £200,000 per year to to reduce carbon emissions on waste and recycling vehicles; £1.4m to expand recycling services, to include doorstep food waste collections; and £400,000 per year to make the changes needed to collect a wider range of recyclable materials. 

Also, £20,000 per year to support the council's Preventing Homelessness Strategy. 

The general fund budget was approved with 30 votes for and 10 abstentions.