Readers have said a move to hike parking charges in Havering would deter shoppers.

Havering Council passed a balanced budget for 2024-25 after a government loan of £54million but had to implement a savings plan to cut costs and generate more revenue.

It had proposed raising pay and display parking charges in public car parks by 40 per cent.

But Cllr Chris Wilkins, cabinet member for finance, said at a council meeting on February 28 that these were halved to 20pc after a public consultation.

He said: “We have had over 3,700 responses to the budget conversation and 400 to the children’s services consultation we ran at the same time.

“Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said a proposed 40pc increase in pay parking charges will have a severe impact on the community. We have listened and we have kept the fees competitive compared to the other boroughs."

Read More: Havering Council saved from declaring bankruptcy this year

Since the start of April 2023, the tariff for one hour's parking from Monday to Saturday in Romford went up from £1.50 in 2022-23 to £2.10 in 2023-24. Now from April this year, this charge will go further up to £2.52.

In neighbouring Redbridge, the charge for one hour of parking is £1.60 currently, whereas Barking and Dagenham Council offers one-hour free parking in both street locations and some council-owned car parks.

For five to six hours' parking - considering a 20pc increase - the charge in Havering would be £11.52 for 2024-25, up from £9.60 a year before and £6.50 in 2022-23.

The hike was criticised by Councillor Martin Goode, of Harold Wood ward, who said during the meeting residents will “simply not put up with this” and “local businesses will go bust”.

Some Recorder readers echoed the view and said they will not be shopping in Romford any more given the hike.

Clover Cottage Gifts, a gifting business in Brentwood which used to have a shop in Romford, felt that the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone has kept many out of Havering, and this is now another reason not to come into the shops.

Al Bates said the council should have focused on increasing the footfall into shopping areas to generate more revenue instead of making it harder to park and deter customers.

Another reader, Debbie Khaled, felt that small businesses will be affected by the move. She said: “People do not want to pay £2.10 just to pop in and buy and a couple of items currently. Parking bays that were always busy are now empty.

“And why is it only Romford that doesn't have the free 30 minutes parking in the borough?"

Peter Merison said he won’t shop in Romford and would rather go to Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock.

But Robert Lee argued that he would rather pay extra to park than have the council implement cuts that affect older people or children.

Cllr Wilkins labelled the budget for 2024-25 as the “most difficult one in the council’s history” and highlighted that if these savings proposals were not put forth, the council would have had to declare bankruptcy and lose its decision-making powers. 

He said: “As an administration, we do not want to be in this position.

“Havering has always managed its finances carefully; it has been prudent in its decision-making.

"Our financial challenges are driven by the increase in the unit costs and the demand of social care, as well as rising numbers of homeless families."

Other measures approved as part of the council's 2024-25 budget included a 4.99pc council tax rise, as well as ending Romford's Sunday market and launching a review of children's centres and libraries.