LOCAL politicians crossed swords over plans to bring in parking meters and on-street parking charges in the Lake District.

Councillors traded verbal blows today during the first full meeting of Cumbria County Council since a mass public outcry in Windermere and Ambleside.

Coun James Airey, leader of the opposition Conservatives, called on the Labour Lib-Dem coalition running the council to scrap the plans - saying they were in ‘total disarray’.

“This whole idea is failing and should be ditched,” said Coun Airey.

He was speaking following the announcement this week of a scaling back in the original plans.

It is now proposed to reduce the number of meters as well as scrapping their introduction to Windermere altogether.

Coun Airey told the chamber in Kendal: “It’s a complete and utter waste of money and in three years, when this coalition breaks up, this group will rip these meters out across Cumbria and will dump them in skips across Cumbria.”

Questioning Labour’s Keith Little, the council's transport portfolio holder, Coun Airey claimed that the decision to drop meters from Windermere had been done to help the Lib Dem leader and ward councillor Jo Stephenson, ‘keep his job’ and 'avoid deselection.'

Following street protests this week, Coun Stephenson announced that he would be instructing the county council’s South Lakeland Local Committee to scale back the number of meters.

And at today's meeting, Coun Little told Coun Airey: “We consulted on this for 12 weeks. I wish all those people who are ringing now and sending letters and emails had done so at the time. Many did, many did not. It (the consultation) went through every door in Cumbria.”

One voice on the Tory benches quipped: “Oh, so it’s the public’s fault now is it?”

But Coun Little said: “I’m not saying it’s the public’s fault. What I’m saying is they may read it (the next consultation) more diligently next time.”

Labour’s Tim Knowles said the on-street charges were necessary to properly organise parking, which he described as ‘chaos’ in the Lake District.

And Labour leader Stewart Young said the business rates levied by the Tory-Lib Dem Government were now ‘completely disproportionate’ to the income town centre businesses receive.

He suggested that out-of-town superstores should now pay more so that town centre business can get a reduction.

“Why not take it up with one of your mates in Government,” said Coun Young to Coun Airey.

On July 17, the council’s South Lakeland Local Committee will be presented with final plans on where the meters will go.

Meters are now likely to be introduced on Glebe Road in Bowness, Wansfell and Lake Road in Ambleside, but none in Windermere.