THE president of Newport Chamber of Trade has not had a meeting with a Newport City councillor since our “Keep City Parking Free” campaign began.

Alan Edwards, chamber president said the group was disappointed by the lack of consultation with the council.

He added: “The chamber was hoping we would have been called up to the civic centre and sat down round the table with councillors and had a proper discussion.

“We might not have changed anybody’s mind but it would have been nice to have the chance.

“No councillor has come to the chamber to talk to us.

“I haven’t had an official meeting with a councillor since November 7.”

Mr Edwards said that since being criticised by traders in the Argus for not consulting with them he has been to see them to hear their views and try to work with them.

He also accepts a number of the chamber committee think our campaign is “great” even if he himself is still sceptical.

But Mr Edwards, who was part of the chamber’s meeting last night which discussed the free parking issue, agrees with us that the council’s figures on how much the scheme will save are wrong.

He said: “It is not £1 million you are right, particularly when they are going to lose the Cambrian car park next year.

“We have not been happy with some of the emotional blackmail the council has used around this, saying it is the budget of Mount Pleasant school and things like that.”

Mr Edwards said the chamber will now press ahead with plans to try and garner support for a Business Improvement District (BID), similar to one set up in Swansea.

This would involve traders setting up a public limited company which would raise money through a business rate levy and receive funding from the Welsh Government.

It means the BID could go to the council and offer to help fund parking initiatives if it was set up.

However, such schemes require a huge amount of red tape to be cut before they can get off the ground – including the need for Welsh Government approval – all of which can be very time consuming.

The only response we have had from the council since we launched our campaign more than two weeks ago is a statement from cabinet member for infrastructure, Cllr Ken Critchley, describing the scheme as “unsustainable”.

He said: “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.”