A controversial 2-hour minimum parking charge in Southend has contributed heavily to a £3.1million deficit for the council.

The unpopular charge, implemented in 2018 under the previous administration and scrapped earlier this year, has resulted in falling revenue for the highways department.

The charge meant motorists had to pay for two hours even if they only popped into to town for 30-minutes after a one-hour minimum was scrapped. The resultant falling numbers of visitors in town also left traffic wardens issuing fewer penalty charge notices.

Ron Woodley, deputy leader of the council, which is currently looking at devising a new parking strategy for the borough, said: “We have a £3.1million lack of income in the highways department. Income from parking charges and penalty notices is down and there also been some increased expenditure on pot holes.

“It is a combination of things, including a lack of people in the town centre using cars because of the two-hour parking that was put in place. It had a very negative impact, absolutely awful.

“There is a £3.1million overall cost pressure that is from overspending and lack of revenue from parking and parking tickets.

“Its up to me to being in a policy that will address that and make if fairer for residents.”

The council is currently looking at a scheme to bring in parking permits for residents living in the Southend Borough and in surrounding areas of south Essex. These would have a fee of approximately £7 month and would give three hours free parking anywhere in the borough at any time of day. Motorists could then pay a top up charge or move to another spot in town for another three hours free parking.

Philip Miller, owner of Adventure Island said: “I do not know where Cllr Woodley gets his numbers from?

Parking revenue for the seafront car parks increased yet again year on year. The High Street might have taken a hit with the damaging two hour minimum charging but taking it back now is a bit like closing the door after the horse has bolted.

“The damage has been done. Small family businesses have left Southend centre never to return.”