A decision on the future of car-park charges will now be made at a full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council.
The infrastructure services committee had been expected to make a decision today to approve the removal of free periods and the introduction of new tariffs to balance the books.
But in a last-gasp move described by committee chair Councillor Peter Argyle as “something of a waste of time”, a group of five councillors exercised their right to have the charges referred.
Facing a projected £211,000 car-park budget deficit for the current financial year, officials are proposing to scrap free parking periods and replace them with a 50p charge for up to one hour across the region.
The recommendations before the committee also included the introduction of free parking after 5pm and changes to time bands and tariffs to encourage longer stays and more economic activity.
Councillors heard that prior to the introduction of the free tariffs there were around 800,000 transactions annually in its car parks, but while that has risen to 1.3 million in 2017/18, some 80 per cent were free.
Earlier this year the committee unanimously agreed to a very minimum of a neutral budget for car parks and said to balance the budget a significant change in income was required.
Head of transportation Ewan Wallace said that even with a 35% reduction in the overall transactions due to any changes in the behaviour of the people parking in towns, the proposed tariffs would still generate sufficient income to cover the budget deficit.
Councillor Argyle stressed that around 75% of all parking remained free in the region’s towns through off-street parking and said there were no proposals to change that.
He said: “I want to make it absolutely clear that we are not ending free parking in Aberdeenshire. 75% of all the places off-street and 100% of all the places on-street where people can park are currently free and there is absolutely no proposal to change that.”
The councillor said the focus was on the free element within the 25% of paid-for spaces which had lead to a “huge impact on the budget which was frankly not sustainable”.
Potential loss of free parking had been branded a “retrograde step” by the chairman of a business group.