Free parking to increase town business?

My colleague Councillor Angela Lawrence, today wrote on her blog:

COUNCILLORS will push ahead with free parking in Abingdon and Wantage despite warnings it is unaffordable.
The Conservatives promised free short-stay parking in council car parks by Christmas after taking control of Vale of White Horse District Council in May.

To read the whole post, see her blog: Councillor Angela Lawrence’s blog

Vale officers warned the cabinet on 8 July 2011 that spending cuts will be needed elsewhere to make up for lost income, forecast to be £250,000 a year.

In the Herald coverage, Council leader Matthew Barber said the council was committed to the scheme and the expense was something he had planned for. He said the council was likely to use the home bonus cash and make some (unspecified) long-term savings. What he didn’t mention was all the parking fees are going up top help cover this cost! When you pay for parking, you;ll now pay more.

Richard Webber, the leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, said the free parking promise was “electoral bribery”. He said: “It’s a promise they frankly should not have made. I’m really anxious about what’s going to have to go to pay for it.”

The previous, Lib Dem led council, had already given 2 hrs free parking (after 4pm is free instead of after 6pm). Under the new plans, those hours will not be exempt.

The Abingdon Herald ran some polls (as they do).

Should the Conservative-controlled Vale council push ahead with plans for free parking despite the view of its chief finance officer?

20% Yes, 80% No

They took it down before I could get a picture of it.

The second question was: “Do you believe providing free parking will increase business for traders in our towns?