Passing its 2014 budget in the wee hours of this morning, Tallinn City Council decided to begin charging drivers for night-time parking in the Südalinn area of the city center, and also to raise rates.
The decision was decried by the Social Democrats, who said it was pushed through at the last minute and would affect tens of thousands of city residents.
"The decision was literally made overnight," said City Councilor Lauri Laats, who heads the Social Democrats on the council. Laats said the city estimated the changes would raise an additional 980,000 euros in revenue.
The Center Party's leading city councilor, Toomas Vitsut, told uudised.err.ee that parking fees haven't been raised for a while and eliminating free parking in the evenings and nights would help solve congestion problems. The higher fees would go toward pay raises for public transport drivers, he said.
City officials have said that free parking in the evenings brings hundreds of cars to the city center, often making it difficult for residents to find a parking space.
The heated budget sittings - which the Social Democrats filibustered while IRL and the Reform Party walked out - also brought a 1,000-euro monthly pay raise for Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar, as well as 500-euro raises for deputy mayors.
Tallinn TV's budget was also raised by 200,000 euros, amounting to 3.2 million euros next year. Critics of the TV channel denounce it as the city's propaganda machine.
"We intend to bring these last moment decisions back onto the council's agenda in January," Laats said. "More people park their cars in Tallinn than Tallinn TV has viewers, and decisions affecting the wallets of tens of thousands of people should be discussed with interest groups during daytime," Laats said.
The City of Tallinn raised the issue of axing the free parking hours in 2012. Currently, parking fees apply in downtown Tallinn on weekdays from 7:00 to 19:00 and on Saturdays until 15:00. Parking on Sundays is free.