NEW figures show two hours free parking was having a massive impact on the number of cars coming into Newport city centre, with more than 13,000 extra cars parking in just six months his year.

As our campaign to "Keep City Parking Free" moves into its third week, the council’s own figures show the continuing success of the two hours free parking scheme in attracting people to the city centre.

As we have already reported, the number of people parking in the council’s city centre owned car parks shot up from 2010 the year before the scheme was introduced, and 2011 the first year of two hours free.

Those figures, taken from a council report compiled in July of last year showed an increase of 17,918 cars parking for the months of January, February, April and May between the two years.

In the latest council figures, which the Argus has seen, those figure have increased again this year compared to 2011.

From May 1 2011 to October 31 2011 a total of 343,719 cars parked in the city centre car parks, including the Cambrian and Park Square multi-storeys.

For the same period this year 356,900 cars parked across the same car parks, an increase of 13,181 for the six month period.

In a response attached to the figures, a council officer, says: "This shows there has been an overall increase in usage rather than decrease in this period. "

David Fouweather, council member for Allt-Yr-Yn, said: "It is no surprise that the scheme has been so successful. We knew free parking would get people in because traders told us it would help.

"This is a decision taken by a cabinet member who is totally out of touch with traders in the city centre."

Cabinet member for infrastructure, Ken Critchley’s sole response throughout the entirety of the process has been to call the scheme "unsustainable."

Despite requests for alternative comment, Mr Critchley’s response to this point remains: "Free parking costs the council almost £1 million a year which is no longer sustainable at a time when central budgets are facing significant cuts and we face a funding gap next year of £8 million.

"To continue to offer free parking would adversely impact on other services such as street cleaning, waste collection and road repairs."