A GRANT of close to £150,000 granted to develop parking schemes in Newport will instead be used by the council to fund other services, the Argus can reveal.

Finance minister Mark Drakeford AM announced last year that Welsh councils would receive a share of £3m to support town centre parking schemes.

Of the £3m Newport City Council received £142,000.

But a former Conservative leader for Newport council has since told the Argus that the money has been spent on “other things”.

“The money for city centre parking initiatives doesn’t seem to have gone on it,” said Cllr Matthew Evans. “I inquired where the money is and was told by the head of service it had gone to the general budget to fund other existing services.”

Cllr Evans said he would have liked to have seen the money go towards developing free parking.

“That sum of money is significant and could actually have made an impact,” he said. “If it had been used on parking initiatives it could perhaps have gone to introduce free parking on a Sunday or even encourage people to use the market by bringing in a pick-up and drop-off scheme. Bridgend council used the money to bring in a form of free parking.”

He added: “I am concerned. That’s the reason why I put a question to the council asking who had made this decision.”

Responding to Cllr Evans’ question, the leader of the council Cllr Debbie Wilcox said: “No formal decision was made on this and the issue was not flagged up for a formal decision with members because it was not made clear at the time of the settlement and budget setting that this issue was required to be funded. It is only as the year has progressed that this has become clearer as updates have been requested from Welsh Government on this issue. It does not detract from the fact that it for authorities individually to decide on the allocation of the budget.”

She added that Streetscene would now “formally review” the matter.

A Welsh Government spokesman added: “A £3m fund has been made available to all local authorities to explore the potential benefits that free car parking, or wider strategies, can have in supporting the regeneration of our towns and cities.

"We recognise however that different approaches exist to support the vitality and viability of town centres and we respect that this funding will be used in varying ways.”