A MOVE to introduce inflation-busting charges at car parks run by North Yorkshire Council has been defended following criticism that motorists were being “milked” for money as they were “the easiest target”.

North Yorkshire Council leader Councillor Carl Les said the 20 per cent increase in car parking charges from April 19 were “not just about raising money”, but also about traffic management.

The authority, which has repeatedly introduced the maximum permitted rise in council tax without having to hold a referendum, says the car parking charge rise is needed so it avoid diverting funds away from vital frontline council services.

The council has also stated it is investing in automated payment systems and the installation of electric vehicle chargers, and more funding is needed to cover the cost of providing parking facilities, including infrastructure, repairs, lighting, and security has risen.

It has pointed towards car parking fees having been frozen in some areas for more than a decade and most car parking charges having remained the same for at least three years.

On that basis, the council says, the increase it is introducing is “broadly aligned with inflation”.

Opposition councillors have claimed the rise will create confusion, particularly in towns where there are different tariffs at council run car parks.

Critics have also highlighted the cost of car parking in town centres compared to out of town retail parks.

Leader of the authority’s Labour group, Councillor Steve Shaw Wright, said while some towns had free publicly-owned car parks, people were facing mounting charges from the council to park in neighbouring towns.

He said: “It’s like a lot of things North Yorkshire Council is trying to harmonise services across the county – there’s a lot more problems than they thought.

“They are milking the easiest target, which is car parking. However, they need to monitor it because in places like Selby there is only a parking warden one day a week, and it’s usually the same day.”

However, Coun Les said alongside the car parking charges rise, a review of car parking charges across the county was needed.

He said it would be possible to harmonise the principles behind what drivers in North Yorkshire are charged.

Coun Les said: “Car parking charging policy remains the prerogative of the council where car parks exist, but the mayor can introduce special measures to waive car parking charges for up to a year, as long as he or she pays for that out of his or her mayoral pot.

“Car parking charges are not just about raising money, they are also about traffic management. If there was free parking in town centres all day people would park up at 8am and the car would be there at 5pm.

“There is a lot of discussion to be had about the merits of car parking charges, the reasons behind it and how the money is spent. We raise the money as a council, but must spend it in certain ways, to do with the traffic management and flows.”