Motorists could be given discounts to parking fees and enforcement hours could be slashed under plans to boost the economy in the wake of Covid-19.

The plans, to encourage shoppers back to Southend town centre, would risk £115,000 of Southend Council’s normal parking income as motorists buy one hour of parking and get a second free in all off-street car parks.

Enforcement times would also be reduced so there are no charges in the car parks after 4pm.

However, it has also announced £96,000 will also be spent on continuing contracts for five extra parking enforcement officers over six months - who are expected to be “self-funding” through the income generated by fines.

Independent councillor Ron Woodley, who oversees transport in Southend, said the extra officers will not be there to make residents pay for the millions of pounds lost in parking revenue during the height of the lockdown.

He said: “These five officers were already there before the pandemic, we are just extending their contracts for another six months.

“We have had them in place since sometime around January.

“People should only be looking to park safely anyway. You only get a fine if you don’t park safely.”

He said the council hopes discounted parking will boost the early afternoon trade in the town centre, specifically for the restaurants and pubs which will be able to re-open from Saturday.

“It is there to help bridge that afternoon shopping to the early evening-type trade, such as the restaurant businesses.

“By giving that extra free hour, visitors will have more time to consider going out for a meal.”

The plan will be discussed by council bosses at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon before going to the Place Scrutiny Committee next week.

Councillors will be asked to vote on three options, the first is to do nothing, the second to have the buy one hour get a second hour free discount as well as extra enforcement officers, and the third will be to buy two hours parking get a third free.

A council report published ahead of that meeting explained that introducing the discounted prices and paying the extra enforcement officers will “support the rejuvenation of the town centre” and “protect congestion and abuse of parking”.

Mr Woodley said he sees the parking discounts as being in place until October when he hopes to introduce a major change to parking permits that would allow residents to pay a monthly fee to park anywhere in the borough.