Elderly drivers will have to prove they need a St Albans Senior Citizens Parking Permit, according to draft plans.

City and district decision-makers have agreed to make savings of £1.53million to their ‘public realm’ budget – which covers car parks, green spaces, bin days, and leisure centres across St Albans, Harpenden, London Colney and Redbourn.

Draft papers include plans to introduce means testing for the Senior Citizens Parking Permit, which is available to people who live in the district aged over 66.

The authority also has plans to scrap free parking in three villages, hike the evening parking charge from £1.50 to £2, and add 5 per cent to the price of residents’ and business parking permits to balance the budget.

When St Albans City and District Council’s finance chiefs last ran their numbers in December 2023, they found the authority must plug an overall budget gap of £2.54m in the financial year which starts in April.

Councils throughout the country are legally required a balanced budget – which means they must have the means, grants and revenue available to support outgoings.

Conservative councillor Teresa Heritage, who represents Harpenden South and sits on the opposition benches, said at a meeting on Thursday, January 25: “I am saddened to actually see that we’re having to bring in means testing in relation to parking for senior citizens.

“I note it’s going to be ‘passported in’ [which means people will be able to access the Senior Citizens Parking Permit based on their entitlement to other schemes of benefits].

“But there are senior citizens who are not on benefits who have a lower income and, for whatever reason, they choose not to claim anything.

“They will be losing out.

“I can see why you’re doing it, but I do think it’s unfair to older people.”

Public Realm Committee chair, Liberal Democrat councillor Helen Campbell, said: “I personally think what is unfair is a subsidy that is given to a certain group of people.

“I’m not aware of any other demographic that has been entitled to or given this type of subsidy.

“To be really clear, this is about focusing finances on the most financially vulnerable people in our community.”

Under the 2023/24 arrangements, parking permits cost £40 per year and allow older people to stay in car parks for up to two hours without making an additional payment.

Means testing could save the council £171,300 each year.

General evening charges set at £2 save £57,400 per year, and a small rise in general parking charges – from £2 to £2.10 for one hour, £3.50 to £3.70 for two hours and £5.50 to £5.90 for four hours – could add £207,000 to council coffers.

Ending free parking after a consultation in London Colney, Park Street and Redbourn would save £66,000 per year, which would kick in by 2025/26.

Cllr Guy Gampell, Liberal Democrat councillor for London Colney, said he has campaigned for the Haseldine Road Car Park in his ward to be improved in recent years.

“It serves a wide area,” he said.

“I’m going to call out three specifics – the Islamic Centre in London Colney High Street …, the shops including Tesco Express which used to have a lot of parking right outside them but new double yellow lines and drop kerbs have taken that away, and most importantly the Co Op on Haseldine Road.

“If you visit that area as often as I do, which is multiple times a week, you will see that even on quiet days people seem reluctant to turn in and use that good car park.

“They park on the double yellows and they park where they shouldn’t, even though that car park is there.

“We’re working hard through enforcement and other actions to get people to use that car park, so introducing charges is going to be very controversial.

“I just want to throw one idea out to make sure it’s covered in the consultation – 20 minutes or 30 minutes free, so people can still pull in, go into that Co Op, get their milk, get their bread, get their newspaper, drop off their parcels at the Post Office and go.

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“It’s that passing trade which is critically important and even now we’re having difficulties encouraging that passing trade to use that car park.”

The Liberal Democrat-majority committee agreed to support the proposals.

The Strategy and Resources Committee must also sign off on the savings, before a full council debate in February.