PLANS to increase the cost of parking in Wrexham could drive visitors away, the town’s MP has warned.

Wrexham Council is currently consulting on proposals to hike fees by up to 50p in the town centre as it looks to generate an extra £71,000.

Senior figures said the additional money was needed as the authority faces a budget shortfall which could rise to as much as £7.2m next year.

However, Wrexham MP Ian Lucas has condemned the suggestion by members of the council’s independent and Conservative led administration, accusing them of being “short-sighted”.

The Labour politician said it could lead to people choosing to shop elsewhere and add to existing problems with parking in surrounding residential areas.

Mr Lucas has now called on leading councillors to consider reducing charges instead in a bid to attract more visitors.

He said: “This proposal is dreadful and extremely short-sighted.

“We should be encouraging people to come into our town centre, not considering measures which will drive them away.

“A lot of people work very hard to boost footfall in the town centre – the recent Singing Streets choir festival being a prime example – and they should be supported by the local authority, not let down with a proposal such as this.

“I believe there are better ways to approach parking in Wrexham. There should be reductions in car parking charges to assist the town centre.

“We should, however, be looking at parking more broadly as I have many complaints from residents in areas like Smithfield, Rhosddu and Bradley Road about their own parking areas being taken up by people working in the town centre.”

In announcing the budget consultation, council leader Mark Pritchard said the authority had little choice but to explore the proposals because of funding cuts from the Welsh Government.

But Mr Lucas accused him of ignoring spending reductions by the Conservative government in Westminster.

In the consultation document, the council said it was looking to increase parking fees by between 20p and 50p, depending on the location and length of stay.

It is hoped the rise in charges, which will not apply to locations such as country parks, will help to improve capacity at some of its busiest car parks in the town.

In response to the comments made by Wrexham’s MP, Cllr Pritchard said: “As Mr Lucas is fully aware this is a consultation and everyone’s views will be taken into account.

“This is an annual process and now is the time, regardless of political allegiance, to take part in this process so we are able to make what will be difficult decisions to bring in a balanced budget for 2020/21.”

The consultation will run until November 13, with the authority expected to set its final budget in February next year.

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