Plans to introduce year-round free parking have been revealed ahead of next week’s council elections.

The Conservative Party in Carlisle have announced their intention to make parking free in the city centre after 3pm.

Initially covering 1,000 parking spaces, the Conservative proposal would be extend if proven to be successful.

Gareth Ellis, Conservative candidate for the Belah and Kingmoor ward, explained further.

“We recently conducted a survey of residents asking them what the most important thing would be for the city. Free parking was top of the list,” he said.

“If we are to attract more people to use our city centre, we need to make it as attractive and accessible as possible.”

But Dr Les Tickner, Labour Party candidate for Newtown and Morton, described the Conservative policy proposal as “gesture politics”, providing little real benefit to the city.

“The Conservatives are quick to talk the city centre down, but recent performance is bucking the national trend.”

“The all-day-charges are now £2.50 in those car parks. In 2011, when the Conservatives were in charge it was £4.

“When you take inflation into account, we’re charging 50 per cent less than the Conservatives were back in 2011.”

Mr Ellis said figures seen by the Conservative Party indicated the impact on city council revenue would be negligible if the free parking policy was put in place.

“We’ve got figures showing the income raised in the city’s car parks from the council. The total raised after 3pm is less than £30,000 annually.

“The car parks are largely empty in the afternoon and the evening. The council is making very little revenue, and putting people off visiting the city centre at the same time.”

However Dr Tickner said that current city council car parking charges formed part of a balanced budget, which was supported by the Conservatives when put to the city council two months ago, and included freezing current parking charges.

“There’s no new money to cover any lost revenue from introducing free parking now the national Conservative government has taken 54 per cent of our budget from us.

“We don’t feel our car parking charges are prohibitively high.”

Belah and Kingmoor ward Green Party candidate Helen Davison said that “we should be focusing on making public transport more accessible and affordable for everyone as a more sustainable long-term approach to promoting our city centre”.

  •  A full list of candidates standing in the Belah and Kingmoor ward are: Steven Bowditch, Labour; Helen Davison, Green; Gareth Michael Ellis, Conservative; Michael Anthony Gee, Liberal Democrat; David Douglass Morton, Conservative; Anne Quilter, Labour; Jessica Riddle, Labour; Niall James Scott, Ukip Make Brexit Happen; Alan Toole, Independent; Trish Vasey, Conservative.
  •  For a full list of candidates standing in all wards, click here