SHEFFIELD Council has £640,000 of cash sitting unspent in a fund to help businesses - at the same time as it is making a major hike in parking charges.
Opposition Liberal Democrat councillors say the money could allow the council to retain or reduce current charges instead of raising fees from £1.70 to £2 per hour and introduce Sunday fees for the first time.
Shopkeepers say the increase, which is predicted to raise £215,000 for council coffers, will ‘kill off’ trade.
However, the council said the money is already allocated.
The figure is dwarfed by £640,000 of £800,000 from the council’s Keep Sheffield Working Fund – money set aside to help businesses – which has not been spent.
Gordon Millward, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Is it so beyond the wit of council planners to understand a 17 per cent increase in parking charges will merely serve to force more businesses into closure, reducing visitors further and resulting in greater falls in parking revenue?
“According to latest analysis, Sheffield’s economy is under-performing by 15 per cent for a city of its size, costing the city £1.6 billion per year.
“We urgently need to hear from the council its strategy for making up this prosperity shortfall.”
Coun Ian Auckland, Sheffield Liberal Democrat business spokesman, said: “These parking charges are a kick in the teeth for traders at a time when the retail sector is already struggling.”
But Coun Bryan Lodge, council cabinet member for finance, said the rise in on-street parking fees is being off-set by a decrease in charges for off-street car parks.
He said: “The Keep Sheffield Working money may not yet be spent, but it has been allocated for various projects such as loans for start-up firms.”
What do you think about the rise in parking charges?