THE Echo has quizzed councillors on why they abstained from a vote to increase car parking charges across the Rochford district.

Eleven members of Toryrun Rochford Council abstained from voting on plans to increase hourly parking charges from 80p to £1 and to scrap free parking on Saturday afternoons.

The vote to increase charges by 25 per cent was passed by 14 votes to seven, but residents and traders against the move have criticised members for not voting against the proposal.

Carolyn Hughes, a resident who posted on the Rayleigh Essex Facebook, said those abstaining were “disgusting” adding: “It’s party politics. If you can’t vote yes, then it’s a no.”

However, Colin Maclean, owner of Amos estates, in Rayleigh High Street, has defended the actions of some of the politicians, many of whom defied the party whip by not voting for the increase.

He said: “For a politician to ignore the party whip and abstain on an important vote is a big thing in political terms and I would expect would cause the said councillors plenty of problems within their party group.”

The Echo contacted every councillor who abstained to give them the opportunity to explain why.

DAVE SPERRING Conservative, Trinity: “In my view, when I stood as Conservative candidate, apart from doing the best for residents, I agreed to operate in a responsible manner, including following the party whip, if this was invoked. While I think the decision on Tuesday was wrong, I would suggest I was elected as the Conservative representative and I did as much as I could on Tuesday within these bounds at the time.

Hopefully, by still being a member of the group, I can bring some influence to bear and change the present course of action.”

ANGELA HALE Conservative, Hullbridge: “Regarding the increased parking charges and the ceasing of free Saturday parking, I am not convinced these measures will raise any further revenue. Moreover, I fear shoppers might choose to shop at other, more welcoming towns altogether. We should be encouraging businesses to ply their trade locally, not punishing their customers with unreasonable parking fees.”

CHERYL ROE Conservative, Rayleigh Central: “To have Saturday afternoon parking charges brought back is suicidal in my opinion. But residents need to know we are for Rayleigh, and part of the town council for that reason. I have lived here all my life, nearly 50 years, and I love this town. The Conservative group decision was to approve the charges, but I could not agree with that.”

IAN WARD Conservative, Lodge: “We as Rayleigh town councillors are disappointed with the situation. But as a Conservative group there are certain rules and we have complied with the rules. We had a very full debate within our group, but at the end a different approach has been taken.”

PATRICIA AVES Conservative, Rayleigh Central: “Although I realise money has got to be raised from somewhere, I do not agree it should be raised by increasing car parking charges. Places in Southend High Street are shutting up shop.

Increasing car parking charges in towns in Rochford will have the same effect. I abstained because I realise we have got to find some money from somewhere, so I was caught in between two minds.”

MALCOLM MADDOCKS Conservative, Hockley West: “I am going to address the matter with my residents in a paper that I will put out. As a cabinet member I want to speak to the leader, deputy leader and the rest of the executive before I do that.”

TOBY MOUNTAIN Conservative, Sweyne Park: “I was the only Conservative group member to speak out during the meeting in opposition to car parking charges. I do understand the need for us as a council to look at ways of increasing our funds to face the challenges ahead. And, taken separately, I believe there are strong, well-presented arguments for either increasing the car parking charges, or for introducing a charge for parking on a Saturday afternoon. However, I didn’t agree with implementing both at the same time.”

ROBIN DRAY Conservative, Whitehouse: “I would rather not comment until I have had the opportunity to speak to other members of the Conservative group.”

JUNE LUMLEY Liberal Democrat, Grange: “As vice chairman of the council I chose to be impartial and therefore abstained.”

JOHN GRIFFIN Conservative, Wheatley: Did not respond to requests from the Echo.

BRIAN HAZLEWOOD Conservative, Hockley Central: Did not respond to requests from the Echo.