ALL parking in the Bradford District should be free, according to local Conservatives.

The claim was made by the leader of the local Tories, Councillor John Pennington (Bingley), at a meeting yesterday that saw Bradford Council approve controversial new charges in car parks across the district.

But Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe shot down the suggestion, saying it would leave a huge hole in the authority's budget, and pointing out that the Conservative Government had cut almost £250 million in funding to the Council since 2010.

The Council 's decision making Executive yesterday approved plans to shake up parking charges at numerous locations. The changes will include introducing evening and Sunday charges to a number of Bingley car parks, charges to park at St Ives Estate in Bingley, and the removal of a 30 minutes free period in Wilsden car parks.

There would also be charges introduced at car parks at Ilkley Lido and Shipley swimming pool, although the Council says people who use these facilities would be able to get a discount on the charge.

The changes have proved to be highly controversial, with almost 60 people objecting to the proposals. Some objectors said the St Ives charges would put people off visiting the estate, while objectors to the Bingley plans said it would damage local businesses

Cllr Pennington said: "The Conservatives believe parking should be free, but limited to two hours. Public and businesses are fed up of being made to pay.

Cllr Hinchcliffe replied: "These changes were consulted as part of the annual budget, and I don't recall any objections from the Conservative group.

"If you are willing to forego all parking revenue in the district, what services would you give up to pay for that? You are saying the Council is bashing motorists, but the Tory government is bashing the local authority. The reason we are having to introduce these charges is because the government has taken away our revenue support grant. You can't make financial decisions like that without considering the whole picture."

Councillor Alex Ross Shaw, portfolio holder for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, added: "We have to be honest - because of funding cuts the council has to be self sufficient and self financing. These charges are part of that."

After the meeting, Cllr Pennington said: "Areas can be regenerated by providing free and easy parking, each space presents a business opportunity. The Conservatives are to call for a debate at Full Council where all 90 members can express their views, rather than leaving the decision to just six Executive Members.

“The Council should help the people it is here to serve and not make the cost of an ice cream at St. Ives out of reach."