Conservatives in Kingston have launched a campaign to give motorists 30 minutes of free on-street parking across the borough.
The party believes the move, ahead of May’s council elections, would tempt shoppers back to the high street, and have estimated it would cost £140,000 of the council’s £1.4m on-street parking budget.
The figure includes the cost of changing parking machines to issue free half hour parking tickets, and absorb the loss of income.
Councillor Eric Humphrey, Conservative spokesman for finance and resources, said: “This is something the hard-pressed people of Kingston and beyond deserve.
“The money will come out of the income from on-street parking. That is in surplus and all this will do is reduce that surplus.
“It will not affect the general fund, it will not affect council tax. The surplus from on-street parking is ringfenced to be spent on a very limited number of transport areas, and it has been allowed to get bigger every year by the Liberal Democrats.”
According to the council’s latest budget papers, the borough’s on-street parking profits were £1,409,646. They are projected to rise to £1,737,846 by 2016-17.
James Berry, the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Kingston and Surbiton, said: “The business owners I spoke to on New Malden High Street on Saturday thought 30-minute free parking pledge was an excellent idea.”
Andy Ross, owner of Suttles stationers, said: “It’s a great place to start to get people back into the local high street.”
Jerry Irving, chief executive of Kingston Chamber of Commerce, said: “If you look at some of the secondary retail environments [and not Kingston town centre], retailers have always complained people can’t stop, buy something and go off. So in that respect I can see the benefit.
“But the broader picture is more about sensible parking restrictions and sensible charges. They are there for a purpose. For example Victoria Road in Surbiton is always very busy. If you started letting people park there for free you would restrict traffic considerably.
“I think the other thing to consider is we want to be one of London’s biggest cycling boroughs.
“We’re trying to encourage CO2 reductions – we’re trying to encourage people not to use their cars.”
Liberal Democrat Councillor Rolson Davies, the lead member for finance and resources, said: “Presumably they have got the £140,000 set up costs from officers, but I don’t believe that figure includes the ongoing loss of income to the council.”