COUNCILLORS criticised proposals to put up the price of parking in Brighton and Hove – calling them extortionate and callous – before a committee voted for the changes.

The ruling Greens voted for the higher charges and the Conservatives voted against while Labour abstained, having criticised the proposed increases.

Labour said that it wanted to debate fees and charges next month when councillors set the budget for Brighton and Hove City Council for the financial year from April.

The proposed rises – including 12.5 per cent more for business permits – form part of the budget.

The Argus: The cost of parking looks set to increase in Brighton and HoveThe cost of parking looks set to increase in Brighton and Hove

Conservative councillor Vanessa Brown objected to putting up the cost of parking at four council-run car parks in Brighton.

She said that the proposed 15 per cent increase was “extortionate”, adding: “When the shops and restaurants are at last able to open again, they’re going to need as much custom as possible to stay afloat.

“These charges are going to deter residents from shopping in Brighton. The problem is I feel it will take a little while for residents to have the confident travelling by bus again.”

Labour councillor Gill Williams said that now was not the time to increase parking charges because people were “extremely reluctant” to use public transport.

During a virtual council committee meeting on Tuesday, she mentioned the day’s coronavirus deaths total was 1,610 – the highest ever.

Britain had the worst death rate per million than any other nation, she said, adding: “People are getting more and more nervous, especially older people and people with underlying conditions.

“We don’t want to penalise them for wanting to be safe.”

READ MORE: Plan to raise cost of parking permits (and car parks) in Brighton and Hove

Another Labour councillor, Carmen Appich, said: “Although we agree that we should be promoting the liveable city centre and reduce motorised traffic, we cannot keep penalising residents for owning cars.

“Instead, we need to persuade them to change to more environmentally friendly transport, as already discussed by the climate assembly.

“Our residents will already be hit by increases in council tax and many are now unemployed – or furloughed at 80 per cent of their normal wages. Food, if anything, is becoming more expensive and rents haven’t reduced.

“To increase on-street residential parking charges for the 12 months during the pandemic is unacceptable and disproportionately penalises families with low income.”

Labour councillor Gary Wilkinson said that to put up parking charges above the rate of inflation was “callous”.

Councillor Wilkinson said: “Footfall is down due to the pandemic. To hike up parking charges now could be massively detrimental to businesses and to Brighton and Hove as a whole.

“I think our residents, on the whole, would rather give their support to there being little to no increase in car parking charges.

“It would be very callous of us in the middle of a pandemic to increase charges.”

READ MORE: 'Sky high parking charges are unfair'

He said that the council could explore different approaches such as flexible pricing based on traffic flow and congestion levels.

The price rises were approved by the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, with the four Greens backing the proposals.

The two Conservative members of the committee voted against the proposals, while the four Labour members abstained.

The overall budget is due to be discussed by the full council at a virtual budget-setting meeting on Thursday 25 February when the council tax is also expected to be agreed.

Some aspects of the budget are due to be discussed by the council’s Policy and Resources Committee a fortnight before on Thursday 11 February.