A READING MP has launched a surprise attack on his party colleagues over their shake-up of visitor parking permits.

Reading West MP Alok Sharma has written to Reading Borough Council chief executive Michael Coughlin, criticising the former Tory-Lib Dem coalition's decision in January to replace the 20 all-day permits offered free to residents each year with 20 half-day vouchers.

The Labour administration has since increased the number of free half-day permits available a year to the 12,000 people living in residents' parking zones, from 20 to 40.

The Tory MP said residents are concerned about the lack of consultation over the January switch from all-day permits, which expired at 10am the next day. He said they received a "poor service" from the council, and added: "The residents made it very clear that they favoured the previous system over the new one."

Mr Sharma questioned the need for "draconian" and "excessive" 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week parking controls and has requested a copy of the parking service's accounts to see if any losses can be reversed.

He also suggested giving wardens scooters so they can cover larger areas more efficiently, and called for 'residents only' restriction from 8pm-8am to be removed, prompting borough transport leader Cllr Tony Page to accuse Mr Sharma of "ignorance" because visitor permit holders are already allowed to park in such bays.

Cllr Page said Labour will look at extending the permits to 10am once the "massive stockpile" of half-day vouchers printed under the coalition has been used up.

He added: "Mr Sharma is making the point we were making last year when he was, as usual, completely silent. We are now having to put right many of the mistakes.

"I have enormous sympathy with residents, they reflect the points we were making last year. There was no proper consultation ahead of these changes. As usual, Mr Sharma is coming late in the day to this problem but we welcome his belated support."