A NATIONAL business lobby has urged local councils to help businesses by scrapping car-parking charges for 2013.

It comes as our campaign to Keep City Parking Free moves into its fourth week and continues to urge Newport City Council to reverse its decision to scrap two hours’ free parking at its city centre car parks.

The Forum of Private Business has released the report to try to put pressure on local authorities as they decide on their budgets for 2013-14.

The forum’s head of policy, Alex Jackman, said: “There are so many good reasons why all councils should be considering something along these lines, but first and foremost would be to help retailers through another tough trading year.

“High streets across the country are under threat and have been for many years now from the likes of out-of-town shopping centres, where parking is universally free.

“Then there’s the internet and the rise of e-tailers taking an increasingly bigger slice of a shrinking consumer pie.

“It doesn’t take a genius to work out that councils charging people ever more for the privilege of coming into their town centres to spend their hard-earned cash is not the best plan to grow footfall.

“Set it against a backdrop of spiralling motoring costs and it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Mr Jackman continued: “If councils want to see fewer empty properties blighting their high streets, then axing car-parking charges is something they must look at.

“ It’s no longer acceptable to just offer free parking at Christmas to help traders during the festive period, a tactic in itself which shows councils do understand the link between free parking and increased trade.

“If councils want thriving town centres with improved occupancy levels then they need to take drastic action without delay.”