A SOUTHAMPTON residents' group has branded city council chiefs' controversial pay to park plans as "ridiculous" and "underhand".

Regents Park Community Association has joined the battle against council plans to charge residents to park outside their homes.

Association chairman Len Bellows yesterday said the proposed charges "don't make any sense."

He said: "It is an absolutely ridiculous charge.

"It's just another underhand tax.

"To ask people to pay to park their second cars is acceptable but this proposed charge is not.

"It is not something that the council should be doing at all.

"They are causing more problems than they are fixing - it just doesn't make any sense."

The controversial plans, which would see residents forced to pay for car parking permits, sparked anger across the city and led to the launch of the Daily Echo's Parking Mad campaign demanding a U-turn in the policy.

To make it worse, parking bosses have said that even after forking out for a permit, residents will still not be guaranteed a space.

Further outrage came after the Daily Echo revealed most of the Labour and Lib Dem Cabinet who voted in favour of the parking charges would not be eligible to pay.

Council leader June Bridle sought to draw a line under the row by pledging no new permit charges for at least 12 months.

But she refused to rip up the hated policy and said higher charges may even be brought in for second permits.

The Daily Echo tried to contact Cllr Bridle yesterday but she was unavailable for comment.

Figures released by the council show it costs about £840,000 to run residents parking zones, yet just under £495,000 comes in from penalty charges and permit sales.

Opposition councillors have been left questioning where the money will come from.

Transport chiefs say they need £342,000 to make the scheme self-funding.

While there are 6,280 residents with free permits, 550 residents have paid £57.50 for a second.

But if only second permit holders were forced to make the scheme pay for itself they would face huge bills of £622.