A DUDLEY Council plan to charge residents for tackling parking nightmares near Russells Hall hospital has been slammed as harebrained.

The Labour-run authority this week launched a consultation on a year-long trial where householders in streets near the hospital will be charged £95 for a permit to park in residents’ bays.

Residents would also have to buy visitor permits for friends and family and even disabled drivers with blue badges would have to cough up to use residents’ or disabled parking bays.

People living in the area are to be asked for their opinions and if 80 per cent say yes the plan will be put into action.

Councillor Khurshid Ahmed, Dudley cabinet member for transport, said: “We have been looking for solutions to help with on-street parking in the roads around the hospital for some time.”

The plan instantly came under fire from UKIP, whose Dudley North parliamentary candidate, Bill Etheridge, said: “We believe that asking residents to pay money to park outside their own houses is an absolute disgrace. Has the local authority ever heard of road tax?

“There should be appropriate, affordable parking at the hospital. That would remove the need for harebrained schemes like this.”

Black Country disabled rights campaigner Steve Daniels also hit out. He said: “Money is more important to the council than the needs of disabled people.

“There should be permits but they should be free to residents and the blue badge scheme should still be applicable.”

Cllr Ahmed said charges were only being imposed to cover costs but insisted there would be no exceptions and claimed disabled residents may be better off than neighbours who are “not able to work”.

He added: “It is a service we are providing to look after everyone, local people need to be able to park.”

Dudley North MP Ian Austin focused on a street near the hospital where residents say they are plagued by parking problems caused by hospital visitors and staff.

Mr Austin said: “I’ve been campaigning for double yellow lines in Abbotsford Drive and I’m hoping the council will introduce them.

“Residents around the hospital are very frustrated. Some have been unable to get off their drives and out of their homes.”

Cllr Ahmed said double yellow lines remain an option for Abbotsford Drive, which may be treated as an individual case after the consultation.

Dudley Council’s Conservative group leader, cllr Patrick Harley, also has his doubts.

He said: “I can’t see people that live around Russells Hall wanting to pay £100 for the privilege of parking outside their own properties. It just smacks of this being another way to get more money out of residents.

“It’s welcome to rip off Britain under the Labour Party in Dudley.”