A PLEA to scrap parking charges at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch was rejected by county council leaders.

Worcestershire County Council’s Conservatives rejected a call from its Labour opposition to contact the chief executive of the county’s NHS trust and the Health Secretary Matt Hancock about the problems caused by dangerous and anti-social parking near Worcestershire’s three main hospitals - The Royal in Worcester, the Alexandra and Kidderminster General - and urge them to scrap parking charges.

The motion also asked whether money could be put forward by the government to trial free parking at the county’s hospitals.

Councillor Chris Bloore said the council could be doing something to save money and improve the lives of residents who live near hospitals as well as putting money back into the pockets of key hospital staff and the seriously ill.

He said the council was picking up the burden and the cost when people park recklessly or anti-socially and the council did not have the money to employ more enforcement officers to hand out punishments.

Cllr Bloore said he was just asking for two letters to be sent and wanted to “get the ball rolling” and start a dialogue between the council, NHS and the government on how to tackle the problem.

Putting forward the motion, he said: “Hospitals are struggling from under-funding but the gap should not be filled by charging sick patients, anxious relatives or hard-pressed NHS staff for an essential service.

“We have spoken to part-time NHS workers and patients who are priced out of their car parks. Shift workers and on-call clinical staff who start their shifts in the early hours and late at night are forced to choose between car parking charges or taxis when no public transport is available, or park for free near residents' houses.”

Cllr John Smith, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said the call was “totally unsustainable” and would cause Worcestershire’s acute hospitals to lose at least £5million a year if charges were dropped.

Cllr Smith asked if the Labour councillors wanted to see the hospital lose millions through free parking and then lose millions more a year through having to maintain and update the hospital car parks.

He said: “We all know car parking is a contentious issue. I’m sure everyone here would love to have free car parking but, unfortunately, in the real world there is no such thing as free car parking.

“The land has to be purchased, adequately serviced, maintained and in many cases, lighting and security needs to be installed.

“My understanding is that when Worcestershire Royal was built – through a Labour government – it was never big enough. We all knew it at the time but nobody would listen.”

Cllr Pattie Hill said car parking was “absolutely ridiculous” at the Alex and urged the council’s leadership to help start tackling the problem and have some common sense about car parking at hospitals.

She said problems at Nine Days Lane which runs alongside the Hospital in Redditch continued despite yellow lines being put in place.

She said the car park “looked like Mars” despite being told car parking charges paid for its upkeep.

Cllr Hill said she had been told by a doctor that he was being forced to pay £800 a year to park at the hospital and a part-time nurse was charged around £300 a year.

Cllr Peter McDonald said hospitals were charging “exorbitant amounts” at times when people were at their most vulnerable and at a time when austerity had taken its toll on hard-working families.

He said it was morally wrong to charge patients who used the hospital every day and make their families worry about paying for parking.

It was another case of “profit over patients” and the NHS should not be relying on car parking charges for funds, he added.

Cllr Alan Amos said the motion was “one of those popular things but one without any serious thought or intelligence gone into it” and the motion was pointless.

The cabinet member for highways said the hospital car park was already “choc-a-bloc” with charges in place and buses were struggling to get in and out. He said offering free parking would “make a bad situation worse.”

Cllr Andy Roberts, who represents Warndon, said he hoped the motion was “through naivety and not politics” because a “horrendous amount” of misinformation surrounded it.

He said seriously ill patients attending Worcestershire Royal could park for free.

“The problem isn’t the charge, it’s the capacity of the car park,” he said. “That comes back to the planning permission which only allowed for 75 per cent capacity. We have suffered ever since.

“It is a capacity problem and it comes with its roots through PFI and the planning permission and you can look in the history books for who gave that.”

Cllr Udall said it was the sick, elderly and most vulnerable who were funding the hospital.

He said: “It is budget cuts, inefficient mismanagement and Tory governments have caused the financial problems of the trust and not the patients.”

He said further cuts to public transport had left patients and families with no alternative but to drive to the hospital.