Conservative councillors have thrown out Liberal Democrat plans for free one hour car parking across the county at a debate on Wiltshire Council's budget in Trowbridge on Tuesday.

Councillors went head-to-head on the issue which has dogged the council's agenda for months. Twenty three councillors said yes to the plans, but nine abstained and 54 said no.

Trowbridge councillor Jeff Osborn, for the Lib Dems, said: "In my town takings are down and various car parks are largely empty. This is our chance to show we are listening to local people."

But Cllr Dick Tonge, cabinet member for car parking, said: "Where there is one hour free parking you find that people rush to do their shopping, to the detriment of the retailer."

In other areas of the budget, council leader Jane Scott, in her opening speech, promised to protect the most vulnerable in Wiltshire while making further savings in line with new government cuts.

She said: "We have got a clear vision to create stronger and resiliant local communities.

"We will be open and honest in all our decision making.

"We are ambitious and visionary as an organisation."

The Liberal Democrats also proposed free swimming throughout the year for under 16s and over 65s but that proposal was rejected by Conservatives. They also turned down a plan to reopen leisure centres on Bank Holidays.

Cllr Stuart Wheeler, cabinet member for leisure, said: "We do not have the money for this. It is not advisable or justifiable to move this money from somewhere else."

The budget was approved by a majority of councillors.


16.17: Budget is approved

16.13: Jane Scott sums up her administration's budget: "If there's one thing this administration wants to leave, it is a legacy that local government can be a force for good and that it can do what is right for our communities."

15.56: All of the Lib Dems' amendments have been rejected or withdrawn. Discussions turn to the original budget plan.

15.51: Cllr Dick Tonge says there is an "opportunity" in the Lib Dem plan to convert street lights to LED to save money and become more energy efficient. He said: "We need to look at what gives us the best return. There is an opportunity to get a good recovery. Over the past year we have converted 1,300 units and we have learnt a great deal about what is reasonable and what is unreasonable. I am concerned about going down this route without a full assessment. I don't want to support this even though I support the principal." The amendment was withdrawn by Lib Dem leader Jon Hubbard and the administration agrees to investigate the possibilities further.

15.45: Plan to distribute more money to Community Area Transport Groups is rejected.

15.31: Lib Dems' funding plans to pay for leisure centre Bank Holiday opening is criticised and the plan is overwhelmingly rejected. No details on which councillor voted which way as recorded voting is now banned.

15.15: Conservative councillors decide to prevent their voting intentions at the budget meeting from being recorded by name, publicly. Jane Scott is among those who wants to ban her votes from being recorded at today's meeting. There were 51 councillors who wanted the ban, 25 against the idea and 2 who abstained. The ban is enforced - no more recorded votes on the remainding Lib Dem amendments.

15.02: Councillors debate whether to suspend recorded voting at the meeting. Lib Dems accuse the Conservatives of a cover up, the Conservatives say it is wasting time. Cllr Chris Caswell says: "Recording how a councillor has voted is for the benefit of the public to see a record of that." Lib Dems demand a recorded vote on whether to suspend record votes... debate grinds to a halt.

15.00: Free swimming plan is overturned by Conservative majority - 23 for and 56 against.

14.55: Lib Dems force recorded vote to take place on free swimming issue.

14.52: Jane Scott on swimming: "The reason free swimming is only during holiday time is because the children are active when they are at school and with the small amount of money that we do have this seems the right thing to do."

14.43: Personal attack by a Calne councillor on Cllr Jon Hubbard's weight during debate about obese swimmers raise eyebrows. Chairman of the council Cllr Robert Hall says "we should take this to heart" and asks for personal attacks to stop.

14.37: Cllr Keith Humphries says that free swimming will not necessarily encourage obese people into Wiltshire's pools because they often shy away from the facilities. A new referral programme will get them back into a healthy routine, he adds.

14.31: Cllr Stuart Wheeler, cabinet member for leisure, on free swimming proposal: "I don't think this is money we should spend. This is a big risk and a large amount of money which is already being spent on better things. This is a one year, one off special Liberal Democrat offer and I don't understand how this will be funded year after year."

14.29: In an aside from the actual debate, some councillors are bickering about spelling errors in the Liberal Democrat proposals.

14.26: Plan for free swimming for under 16s and over 65s up for debate. This time last year the Lib Dems lost this very debate. What will happen this year?

14.24: Cllr Scott rejects Lib Dem plan to invest more in increasing trading with out-of-county schools. She says she sincerely accepts the principle but that 'the timing is wrong'. The amendment is withdrawn and a special scrutiny task force will be established to look into future possibilities.

14.15: Budget meeting to resume and Lib Dem proposals for free swimming for under 16s and over 60s, reopening leisure centres on Bank Holidays, tripling funding on highways and additional money for school improvements will be debated.

13.33: Car parking motion is refused. Charges will remain the same

13.27: Lib Dems demanded a recorded vote of who says 'yes' and who says 'no' to free one hour car parking plans. Vote is under way.

13.21: Jane Scott says on car parking: "Although it might seem a lovely thing to do for the people of Wiltshire - and there are lots of lovely things we could do - we have to make some sensible decisions. This is a risky plan."

13.01: Melksham councillor Rod Eaton proposes using part of council's bus subsidies to pay for one hour free parking. He says: "People are voting with their wheels."

12.56: Two hours free parking in Warminster until Easter was agreed by Warminster Town Council last night. The refund can be obtained through the town's shops, made possible by a £24,000 pot of money. To date only £3,000 has been used, it is claimed.

12.37: Trowbridge cllr Helen Osborn says free one hour car parking "is the answer to save our market towns". "I really feel strongly that psychologically this would help because people would take two hours car parking because the first hour is free."

12.34: Cllr Jonathon Seed, for the Summerham and Seend, says Lib Dem plans are 'high risk'.

12.24: Labour councillor Ricky Rogers supports Lib Dem proposals on car parking. Lib Dem Trowbridge cllr Jeff Osborn adds: "These charges should have gone up incrementally. In Trowbridge the takings are down and various car parks are largely empty. Approving these plans would show we are listening to local people."

12.13: Cllr Dick Tonge refers to Wiltshire Times editorial comment last week about whether free car parking was a priority for Wiltshire people - and he argues that the Conservatives have judged it right, and not the Lib Dems.

12.10: Dick Tonge adds, "Where there is one hour free parking you find that people rush to do their shopping, to the detriment of the retailer."

12.05: Cllr Dick Tonge, cabinet member for car parking, says: "There is going to be a freeze on car parking charges for two years." He says reduced car parking usage is no different to elsewhere in Britain and where towns had reduced their charges there was "little or no effect".

12.00: Jon Hubbard sets out Lib Dem proposals for one hour free car parking to be paid for by cutting council's communications department by £750,000 and cutting more senior managers.

11.46: Cllr Jon Hubbard, leader of the Lib Dems, says: "It is very true that Wiltshire has been hard done by in the government's grant formula for local authorities. Wiltshire should get its fair share."

11.36: Cllr Nigel Carter, from Devizes Guardians, says: "The devil will be in the detail and I hope that over the coming year we can get down and dirty with those details that support this financial plan."

11.28: Free swimming for under 16s during school holidays. JS says: "We recognise we need to support children to get fit and to tackle obesity. Sixteen per cent of our children who leave primary school are obese." The scheme will cost £140,000.

11.26: Queen's Jubilee celebrations and Olympics will be "two lifetime opportunities for the county" according to Cllr Scott. She said: "We can showcase our county. The world's media will be focused on Wiltshire. This level of publicity is priceless."

11.24: Extra £350,000 for Community Area Transport Groups (CATGs) swelling budget to £500k

11.19: "We did not take on the role of leading this council to cut frontline services. We are focusing on removing waste and inefficiencies from all of our services areas," says Jane Scott.

11.17: Number of over 85-year-olds in Wiltshire is 16per cent higher than national average and this figure is set to rise by 20 per cent, says Jane Scott. She adds: "This all means that we need to invest in older people." £7.1m budgeted for older people and mental health services.

11.07: On libraries, Jane Scott says: "Unlike other local authorities we have opened a new library in Pewsey and work on our new Trowbridge library is well under way. We have kept all of our libraries open withthe help of over 600 volunteers."

11.00: Jane Scott says the council is working with Wiltshire College to create 1,000 new apprentices in the county by July 2013. She adds no youth centres will close.