Cheshire East has no plans to introduce parking charges on the council-owned staff car park at Westfields – meaning its workers will continue to park free if others are charged.

The cash-strapped council has recently consulted with residents on proposals to introduce charges in ‘free-parking’ towns and to revise charges – mainly upwards - in those which already pay.

It says there has been an ‘imbalance’ in parking arrangements across the borough for many years –and its proposals to charge on council-owned car parks in ‘free’ towns such as Sandbach and Middlewich are ‘intended to improve fairness and consistency across the borough’s towns’.

Deputy council leader Craig Browne, told the highways committee earlier this year: “The concept of a free lunch, where some places pay but not others, I really just think this has to become a thing of the past.“

But the Local Democracy Reporting Service can exclusively reveal Cheshire East isn’t going to charge its own workers to park on the council-owned staff car park at Westfields in Sandbach, where there are approximately 120 spaces.

This means council staff, including the interim chief executive who earns £1,200 a day, will have free parking when they go to work but other town centre workers will have to pay £3.40 for all-day parking at Westfields or other car parks, if the council presses ahead with its proposal ‘to improve fairness and consistency’.

Knutsford Guardian: Westfields car parkWestfields car park (Image: Google)

Workers on minimum wage would have to pay up to £68 a month to park for work.

The council, which is currently slashing some services and hiking up prices on others because of a budget shortfall, is also failing to cash in on the income it could make from the staff car park.

Cllr Rachel Bailey said: “Cheshire East’s car parking strategy takes no account of lower paid workers who have no choice but to drive to or from work.

"Its assumption of plentiful alternative transport is erroneous and, worse, takes no account of the additional financial burden or the ‘vital service’ provided by these employees, be they carers, shop assistants, chemists, health visitors or volunteers.”

She added: “I question how Cheshire East can claim to be a ‘fair council’ when its staff car park at Westfields remains free of charge.

“I worked at Leighton Hospital for many years, and irrespective of pay grade, we all paid to use the staff car park. 

"How can Cheshire East be so out of touch at a time when we are all struggling to make ends meet and ignore its corporate plan commitment of being ‘fair’.

Cllr Browne, who chairs the highways and transport committee, said: “The car park immediately behind the council’s Westfields building in Sandbach is not operated as a public car park and is therefore not included in the legal order which covers parking arrangements in the borough.”