Investigating allegations of pre-determination is one of 11 recommendations a council committee has put forward ahead of a cabinet meeting where parking tariffs will be discussed next month.

Parking in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham is currently free for three hours, but Babergh District Council announced it could no longer subsidise free parking as it faces a £6.7million budget gap.

It proposes an introduction of a £1 charge for short stay parking for the first hour or £1 for two hours in long stay parking, as well as a reduction in the cost of all day parking in Sudbury and Hadleigh from £3 to £2.50.

East Anglian Daily Times: The council proposes an introduction of a £1 charge for short stay parking for the first hour or £1 for two hours in long stay parkingThe council proposes an introduction of a £1 charge for short stay parking for the first hour or £1 for two hours in long stay parking (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown, Newsquest)

On Monday, Babergh District Council's Overview and Scrutiny committee met to discuss the report on the planned tariffs. 

Introducing the report, David Busby, who is cabinet chair and represents Copdock & Washbrook, said: "We cannot afford to fund any car parking costs if we are going to resolve our financial deficit. 

"If you refuse to accept that Babergh can't afford to spend anything on car parking we will go into bankruptcy and we will declare a Section 114 and the government will take over our finances.

East Anglian Daily Times: David Busby, who is cabinet chair and who represents Copdock & WashbrookDavid Busby, who is cabinet chair and who represents Copdock & Washbrook (Image: Babergh District Council)

"It is a financial issue, don't forget it. There is no option to carry on the way we are." 

During debate, Kathryn Grandon, who represents Hadleigh South, branded the process "pre-determined" and said: "I haven't really, and certainly Hadleigh Town Council hasn't, noticed much notice taken of what the so-called engagement has said.

"Have any decisions changed as a result of the engagement process? I don't think so." 

East Anglian Daily Times: Kathryn Grandon, who represents Hadleigh SouthKathryn Grandon, who represents Hadleigh South (Image: Babergh District Council)

Later in the meeting, after Margaret Maybury, for Lavenham, also suggested there had been some pre-determination amongst the cabinet, the interim monitoring officer said these concerns would be taken outside of the meeting. 

Ms Grandon questioned how the council justifies a charge just 50p different to charges in Bury St Edmunds, where there is more choice than in her town of Hadleigh.

Mr Busby replied: "It is not about offering something free, they should be making sure that the offering that there is in the town is great enough that people will want to go and see it and experience it."

Leigh Jamieson, for South East Cosford, questioned what would happen if, as residents fear, car parking drops off as visitor numbers decline after charges are brought in. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Leigh Jamieson, for South East CosfordLeigh Jamieson, for South East Cosford (Image: Babergh District Council)

The council's director of operations and climate change said: "If that income didn't materialise then firstly, we don't think that's the case we think it is an unfounded concern, but secondly we would reduce the cost.

"There wouldn't be the level of transactional costs if the number of car parking visits were not there so that figure would naturally come down anyway." 

At the end of the meeting, councillors agreed on 11 recommendations to take place ahead of the cabinet meeting on April 8, including officers providing detail on the amendments made to the proposals as a result of the consultation process, officers further exploring with Suffolk County Council the possibility of introducing on-street resident parking permits and officers being encouraged to retain cash and card system to avoid a cashless system. 

One of the approved recommendations was that the monitoring officer was asked to investigate allegations of pre-determination raised by the Overview and Scrutiny committee in regard to members of the cabinet.

There has been much opposition in the Hadleigh, Lavenham and Sudbury areas over these proposals, with a petition to save free parking attracting more than 8,000 validated signatures.

In February, Ms Grandon said a survey of Hadleigh High Street businesses found 94.6% said the three hours of free parking currently in place is 'very important' for their business, while 62.5% felt the introduction of any level of parking fees would have a 'very negative' impact. 

Meanwhile Paul Clover, who represents Lavenham, previously said the move would "kill retail" in the area.