Blundering consultants advised a council to hike parking charges illegally.

The error was only discovered after The Argus raised queries about the £27,000 report produced by auditors Deloitte for West Sussex County Council.

Consultants suggested the council could net up to an extra £1 million a year by introducing parking charges at weekends and evenings in car parks.

However, councils are forbidden by the Traffic Management Act to set on-street parking charges to generate extra income, with money raised from charges ring-fenced for traffic policies.

West Sussex County Council also only has responsibility for on-street parking, with the power to increase charges in car parks residing with district and borough councils.

The proposals were due to be discussed by a council committee today but the council announced prior to the meeting they would not be taking up the suggestion in the report after being contacted by The Argus.

Committee member and Liberal Democrat councillor Dr James Walsh said the report was part of a worrying trend to rely on outside consultants at every opportunity.

'Legal powers'

He said: “I don’t think this report is value for money. You would expect the council to know what legal powers it has to raise revenue without asking outside consultants.”

The council commissioned the firm to look into where extra revenue could be generated after a report placed the authority in the lowest 5% of councils for income raised through fees and charges.

The report suggested the council could increase the £94 million per year it raises in fees and charges after identifying opportunities to increase fees for transport and adult services.

A county council spokesman said it would not be taking the suggestion forward because it related to off street car parks which are generally the responsibility of district and borough councils.

He added: “These are not proposals until a detailed assessment has been carried out by the professional officers for consideration by the responsible cabinet member.”

A Deloitte spokesman said: “This was just one of a range of potential options put forward for the council to consider.”

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