A WAR of words has broken out over Wyre Forest District Council's parking charges after a call by UKIP to provide shoppers with two-hours for free was labelled "irresponsible".
Members of the district's UK Independence Party (UKIP) have recently visited Stourport, Bewdley and Kidderminster to ask shoppers for their views on town centre car parking prices and said 100 per cent of people asked agreed there should be two-hours free parking in all council-owned town centre car parks.
Liberal councillors Fran Oborski and Tim Ingham, however, blasted the call as irresponsible and said UKIP had "showed ignorance of the council's financial situation".
Mrs Oborski said: "Faced with a petition calling for any free parking, it is easy to understand why it seems like a good idea but UKIP obviously don't understand the financial fall-out."
She said putting the policy in place would mean a loss to Wyre Forest District Council of between £750,000 and £800,000, with 85 per cent of the income coming from shoppers parking for up to two hours.
She added the alternatives were a 12 per cent council tax increase or the further slashing of services and said 30 per cent of Saturday shoppers in Kidderminster came from out of town, meaning district taxpayers would be subsidising their parking. The council also already provides one-hour free parking at some out-of-town car parks.
Michael Wrench, Wyre Forest UKIP's parliamentary spokesman, said: "UKIP wanted to substantiate the council's current parking policy was having an adverse effect on trade by taking £1.5 million out of the local economy.
"The results from the hundreds who responded shows UKIP's concerns are well founded and it was made overwhelmingly clear parking charges are a major concern."
He said as well as agreeing with introducing two hours free parking, everyone interviewed said there should be free parking between 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and market days. Few people believed the council should continue to charge for all parking but accepted there still should be some charges.
More than 80 per cent agreed parking charges were a main reason town centres were struggling and more than 90 per cent said if there was more free parking they would visit more often.
He added: "UKIP believe it is obscene the council make £500,000 profit every year from people parking while spending their money locally and it should not have become an easy source of revenue to disguise their waste and financial incompetence."