CUT-PRICE parking will be offered in out-of-town shopping areas in a bid to boost footfall.

Southend Council plans to slash parking charges to 20p for 30 minutes and 50p for an hour in Zone C, which includes Thorpe Bay Broadway, Hamlet Court Road and North Street in Leigh, to help traders despite pressure on its finances.

The Tory administration has also included proposals to freeze parking charges in its town centre car parks in its draft budget.

Council leader Nigel Holdcroft said: “For the third year out of four there will be no rise in current parking charges and in some secondary shopping centres, including Thorpe Bay and Leigh, we will be reducing the parking rates.

“For those parking for up to 30 minutes they will only be charge 20p.”

The minimum charge is currently £1 for an hour in Zone C. Charges for parking for more than an hour will remain the same under the proposals.

The Echo reported in November that the council was considering offering one hour free parking in Thorpe Bay Broadway in response to a campaign by traders and independent ward councillors Ron Woodley, Mike Stafford and Alex Kaye.

More than 2,000 people signed a petition calling for free parking organised by Lee Shah, owner of Nisa Extra, in Broadway, Thorpe Bay.

Mr Woodley pledged to campaign for a full hour of free parking to be introduced, whether in next year’s budget or next’s.

He said: “It’s disappointing they couldn’t find the funding to do that.

“It doesn’t just affect the Broadway, it affects all the shopping areas outside the town centre.

“I will treat it as a stepping stone. If they can’t find the money to change their minds this year, I will push for them to go a step further next year and have the charges reduced further.”

Mr Holdcroft said the council only planned to raise its fees and charges by two per cent overall, despite the pressure on coffers as raising them too dramatically would lead to a drop in usage and thus total income.