A controversial decision to introduce tariffs in council-run car parks in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham will return to a cabinet for further discussion after a scrutiny committee referral. 

Babergh District Council plans, which were drawn up after the council announced it could no longer subsidise free parking as it faces a £6.7million budget gap, were given the green light on April 8. 

The following day councillor Simon Dowling, for Hadleigh North, submitted a call-in request on the decision which was co-signed by a cross-party group.

On Monday, April 22, the council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee met to discuss the call-in, which can take place when a councillor believes a decision has been taken in a way contrary to council principles. 

During the meeting, Mr Dowling called for a "full, fair and balanced" reconsideration of the option to allow one hour free in all Babergh car parks, something the council had previously ruled out due to it costing up to £262K in lost income per year, which they said would make it impossible to deliver the aims of the parking strategy.

He also raised issue with the consultation process, stating a large number of the answers to the council's own survey had been ignored. 

Cllr Ruth Hendry, who represents Great Cornard on the council, said she believed the consultation did not take into account "the views of all affected". 

This came as Great Cornard Parish Council lodged a formal complaint with Babergh over a lack of consultation with them despite being, in their view, "plainly affected". 

A letter to the district council, discussed during the meeting, warned the parish council was considering complaining to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman about the decision.

Cllr John Ward, acting leader of Babergh District Council, told the meeting the matter has undergone "extensive consideration and thought even if we don't all agree on the decision."

Cllr Leigh Jamieson asked if the potential of businesses struggling as a result of the charges, and the impact this may have on the council, had been considered.

Cllr Ward said: "There is no evidence that businesses fail as a result of very modest car parking charges."

He added that it would depend on what the offer is in each town or village.

Cllr Dowling said: "Fear of what could happen should temper action, otherwise we'd be jumping into the lion's mouth, which I think is what we are doing here."

The committee was given two options. The first was to refer the matter back to the cabinet for reconsideration and the cabinet coming to a final decision which would not be subject to a call-in. The second was to find no fault and the cabinet's decision upheld.

The committee voted unanimously to refer the matter back to cabinet. 

The next cabinet meeting will take place on May 7. 

The proposal includes the introduction of a £1 charge for short stay parking for the first hour or £1 for the first two hours in long stay parking, with tariffs then rising in 50p increments, as well as a reduction in the cost of all day parking in Sudbury and Hadleigh from £3 to £2.50.