FREE parking in the run up to Christmas would not help independent businesses, a senior Councillor has claimed.

At the most recent meeting of Bradford Council, members were discussing what could be done to help the District’s independent businesses in the vital Christmas period.

Councillor Debbie Davies (Cons, Baildon) had put forward a motion calling for the Council to recognise the pressures of online shopping on small businesses, and “To suspend parking charges in Council car parks in towns and villages across the district on the three weekends running up to Christmas.”

At the meeting she said: “We should do all we can to help people shop local. We’re keen to promote our towns and villages, but there is no free parking available in many places. This is the chance to show we are serious about supporting local business.

Here is when Bradford's Christmas lights will be switched on

“With free parking it would encourage people into town centres and they would have more money to spend in shops rather than in car park.

“The run up to Christmas is a vital time for lots of shops. Lets not be seen as Scrooge like.”

Councillor Alex Ross Shaw, Executive for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, replied: “This is the second year I’ve been called Scrooge like at a Council meeting.”

He listed a number of things the Council had done to support local businesses, including “upskilling” staff and supporting the expansion of the Real Food market in Ilkley.

But he said free parking was not necessarily the best way to get more people shopping. He said: “Shopping needs to be more of an experience. That is why we’re developing a new market and public square in Darley Street.

“Christmas is a key trading period, and that means many car parks are full, you can’t always find a space. Free parking wouldn’t help in places were car parks are already busy. It wouldn’t help in Shipley and it wouldn’t help in Ilkley. There isn’t anything in your motion in how we get more people into buses and trains to go shopping.”

He proposed an alternative motion, which said: “The run up to Christmas is a very important time for local shops and businesses and many car parks are full during this busy time so free parking would not be able to deliver any benefits in these locations.”

It also voices support for Small Business Saturday on December 7, calls for better promotion of public transport over the Christmas period and to urge residents to shop locally at Christmas.

That amended motion was approved.