THE Tories have formally reversed plans to end free parking in Bolton town centre as proposed before the pandemic.

Free parking will continue all day at weekends and bank holidays in the Octagon, Topp Way and Deane Road multi-storey car parks.

In a bid to boost business, drivers will also get up to two hours of free parking on weekdays at Ashburner Street car park and all NCP multi-storey car parks.

Free weekday and Saturday parking in on-street pay and display bays is set to start in August after machines have been reconfigured.

This comes after the ruling Conservative group proposed ending free parking altogether – but Labour called-in the decision for further scrutiny in February.

Deputy leader Martyn Cox put forward an amendment to the proposals at a meeting last night – the first of its kind since lockdown began in March.

He said: “The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on local economies across the globe and Bolton has been no exception.

“As we come out of lockdown, the executive has to do all it can to within constrained resources to stimulate economic activity particularly in town centre’s across the borough were many jobs are at risk.

“Included in this package of measures is to reverse previous plans to end free parking at weekends and to go one step further by extending the free parking at weekend scheme to cover every day of the week for up to two hours.

Councillors unanimously voted for the Conservative amendment which requests that the council reviews this policy in the new year in the light of prevailing economic data at the time and brings proposals in early 2021.

Labour leader Nick Peel reminded fellow councillors that had his group not called in the decision, free weekend parking would have ended in January.

He said: “I have never in my life seen a motion brought by an executive member that actually tries to take credit for reversing a decision that that same executive member had originally made in the first place.

“Even if it is only a temporary reversal. We are indeed living in strange times.

“This amendment by Cllr Cox is a capitulation. It is a U-turn. It accepts 90 per cent of Labours arguments, and for that reason we could not vote against it.

“But remember, it is only temporary using one-off monies.

“It’s a half flip flop, and we are sure to see the second half of the flip flop in the new year.”