NCP has raised multi-storey car park charges just as prices were slashed at a rival town centre site.
The shock increase sparked dismay among civic leaders who said it was wrong to hike levies during tough economic times.
The Worthing Town Centre Initiative, which represents shopkeepers, said it had not been consulted.
NCP said increased charges at High Street, Grafton and Buckingham multi-storeys would come into effect on April 1.
That’s the same day the TCI takes over the 180-space civic centre surface car park in Stoke Abbott Road.
The TCI said it would cost just 50p an hour to park there, compared to £1.70, up 10p, at NCP’s High Street multi-storey.
An NCP spokesman said: “NCP is a commercial business and works to provide car parks that have sustainable revenues to allow us to keep sites viable for the long term.
“It is for this reason we took the decision to amend our prices in Worthing.
“Worthing Town Centre Initiative is not party to the tariff pricing discussions which are agreed between the council and NCP.”
Paul Yallop, leader of the borough council’s ruling Conservative group, said: “I cannot support any price increases in the current fragile economic recovery.
“The 10-year contract negotiated with NCP in 2004 was a bad deal for Worthing because it gives the council no veto over price increases.”
Alan Rice, leader of the opposition Lib Dems, who signed the contract with NCP, said: “Naturally, we are disappointed but it must be remembered the NCP deal does provide a significant income to the borough council every year.”
Town centre manager Sharon Clarke said: “The TCI is very disappointed NCP is not working to help the businesses through these difficult economic times and it shows what can happen when the local authority gives away pricing control to a profit-making organisation. ”
A full-length version of this story appears in the Thursday, March 24 edition of the Worthing Herald.
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