Traders can once again look forward to free parking in the run-up to Christmas this year, but the Tories have taken flak for their decision.
At last week’s full meeting of Northumberland County Council, Coun Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland Conservatives, presented a motion calling for free parking in the county’s market towns, including Alnwick, from December 16 to 25.
The motion was passed with a Labour amendment, which added off-street parking to the areas affected.
But the Labour group has now hit out at the Tories for calling for a festive exception when discussions are in progress, which could see towns and parishes introduce free parking all year round.
A Labour group spokesman said: “We’ve already started discussing with local town and parish councils, which are affected by parking charges, how they can best manage their traffic.
“We promised free parking where local communities wanted it and that’s what we’re now delivering. It’s hard not to see Coun Jackson’s motion as a stunt and we’d obviously prefer to get on with our plan.
“After all, under Labour, free parking will be for all year round; under the current Conservative plans, it’ll just be for Christmas. We’re left wondering whether this motion marks a U-turn in Conservative policy – have they turned their back on free parking to favour Christmas parking only?”
But Coun Jackson said: “Northumberland Conservatives believe that there should have been free car parking throughout Northumberland already and it’s a great shame we have got to make these special arrangements for Christmas.
“It’s proven to be such a success and traders tell us it’s a really important support at that time of year.”
Referring to the Labour parking proposals, he added: “It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere with any urgency whatsover.
“The very earliest date it could be brought in now is April 2014.
“That’s why we decided the county of Northumberland needed to have this certainty.”