Evening parking reprieve for Liverpool city centre

PLANS to extend car parking charging until 8pm in Liverpool city centre will be put on hold.

Although the council will have the power to extend charging from 6pm to 8pm from April, the Liberal Democrat administration has agreed not to implement the change until an inquiry into parking has concluded.

The inquiry is unlikely to recommend the extension of parking charges be introduced, the Daily Post understands. The decision was welcomed by business leaders who said they hoped the inquiry would recommend free parking on weekends.

The breakthrough came as the local authority rid itself of the worst council in the country label after the Audit Commission awarded it two stars out of four.

Last night, a meeting of the full council agreed to increase its share of council tax by 4.45%.

Once Police Authority and Fire Authority precepts, of 5% and 3.85%, are included, it will see overall bills rise by 4.47%.

From April, the average band D home will pay an extra £65, bringing the total annual bill to £1,511.

Last month, the regeneration select committee set up a special scrutiny panel to look at city centre parking.

It followed opposition to the councilís plan to introduce charging for parking after 6pm.

If the measure to extend parking after 8pm was introduced, Liverpool would become the only city in the north to charge for on-street car parking after 6.30pm.

Last night, the chairman of the select committee, Lib Dem Cllr Eddie Clein, who is opposed to extending parking hours said: "We had to approve the budget as it had been set in January.

"But the Lib Dem group has agreed not to implement the change until the scrutiny panel has reported in June."

He said the inquiry would be wide-ranging and would look at all aspects of car parking in the city.

The compromise was reached during a private Lib Dem meeting on Monday night.

The Daily Post understands former Lord Mayor Cllr Paul Clark, a close ally of council leader Warren Bradley, was one of the key movers in opposing the idea.

The group agreed to allow the scrutiny panel to investigate the issue and advise overturning the proposal.

The issue will ultimately have to return to the cityís executive board before a final decision can be made.

The compromise meant a Labour motion to amend the Lib Dem budget and remove the parking proposal was defeated.

Last night, Frank McKenna, chairman of lobby group Downtown Liverpool in Business, said: "I am delighted, but not surprised."

"I hope they will consider free weekend parking."