Caerphilly County Borough Council has defended plans to introduce car parking charges at its country parks.
Under the proposals, visitors to the parks will be charged for car parking in a bid to raise an estimated £80,000 a year for the council.
The plans, currently under public notice, could result in charges at Parc Cwm Darran, Parc Penallta, Pen y Fan Pond, Sirhowy Valley Country Park and Park Coetir Bargoed.
A cost of £1 for two hours, £3 daily and £50 for the year will be charged seven days a week should the plans go ahead. Disabled badge holders will pay £1 for three hours.
Pay and display machines will be placed in car parks, with park rangers enforcing the rules.
Opposition Plaid Cymru councillors have criticised the move.
Cllr Colin Mann, leader of the Plaid Cymru group, said: “I accept times are very tough for local authorities but this is all about getting decisions right and I don’t think the Labour group has achieved that with its proposals to introduce parking charges at country parks.
“The Welsh Government and, indeed, the council are rightly highlighting the need for both adults and children to get out of the house and exercise and yet introducing charges is both a disincentive to do so and also short-sighted.
“Labour will no doubt challenge us to say what alternative budget we would take the money from. But Labour found the money to reward highly paid officers with another hike in pay when they could have reversed it.
“That will cost council tax-payers more than £260,000 in the current financial year. They can’t blame the Westminster Government for this decision – this is a decision made in Caerphilly by Labour.”
Labour’s deputy council leader Cllr Keith Reynolds hit back at Plaid and said: “Despite our conducting the most extensive consultation ever before setting our 2014/15 budget, no nationalist councillor criticised the proposal to introduce car parking charges at our country parks. And so far as I know, Cllr Mann and his Plaid Cymru chums have made no alternative proposals about where the car park charges’ revenue could be made up elsewhere, to balance our budget.”
Cllr Reynolds added: “The only proposal the nationalists made at the time this budget was set, was to review senior council officers’ pay, to make cuts there. But as our council’s interim chief executive, whose appointment Plaid Cymru supported, advised, this would never have made any savings in this financial year.
“So yet again, this latest Plaid proposal is nothing more than political posturing on Cllr Mann’s part, jumping on any passing political bandwagon in a desperate bid for attention. The people of Caerphilly county borough are entitled to expect opposition councillors to act constructively to cope with the Tories’ cost of living crisis – not play these petty point-scoring games.”
Objections to the proposals can be made in writing to Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Legal Services department until May 2.
A spokesman for Caerphilly County Borough Council said: “The decision to implement these changes has not been taken lightly.
“Caerphilly, along with every local authority across Wales, is facing unprecedented financial pressure as a result of UK Government funding cuts. In this financial year alone we are faced with making savings in excess of £14 million and a similar further saving is required over the next two years.
“It is inevitable that difficult decisions will need to be made and we must prioritise spending in order to protect services, therefore we are reviewing our fees and charges which include the introduction of parking fees at our country parks.
“The proposal, which affects parking at all five county parks, is subject to a public notice. Any objections raised during the objection period will be carefully considered before a decision is issued.”
Eddy Blanche, Chairman of Fochriw and Pentwyn Residents’ Association takes his granddaughter to Parc Cwm Darran.
He said: “It’s absolutely disgusting. I am sending an objection to the council as it’s a local amenity. It is where local people go, in the same way that Morgan Jones park is Caerphilly town’s local park.
“It seems the council are trying to raise money from the isolated areas of the borough. It will drop traffic going to the park which will have a negative effect jobs in the park and ultimately the local community.”