Conservative Party politicians in Carlisle have attacked Labour rivals for what they say is an attempt to block a free city centre parking scheme.

Councillor Gareth Ellis, the city council’s new deputy leader after last month’s narrow Conservative election victory, and John Stevenson, the city’s Conservative MP, have hit out at a decision made last week by the economic growth scrutiny panel to review the free parking proposal.

The policy, if approved, would introduce free parking in three city centre car parks from 3pm. If successful, the pilot scheme would then be rolled out across other council-run car parks.

But after last Thursday’s decision, the policy will now be reviewed by the scrutiny panel.

Mr Ellis said this opened the door for the panel - politically balanced but chaired by Labour councillor Lisa Brown - to put the policy before a full council meeting.

“[The Conservatives] don’t have a majority in the full council, so we can’t guarantee we’ll get it passed,” Mr Ellis said.

“[Labour] want to stop it for no other reason than it wasn’t their idea.

“It’s party political game playing. We’ve just won an election, and this was our flagship policy.”

Scrutiny panel chairwoman Mrs Brown dismissed this claim, saying “it wasn’t a party-driven decision”.

“Members from other parties have reached out to me about this as well,” she said.

Mrs Brown explained that she and other panel members felt more detail was needed on several issues, including how the parking trial would be measured and whether the environmental impact of the scheme had been thoroughly considered.

“It’s a bit worrying that he feels it’s an affront to be asked to come and spend a couple of hours answering questions,” Mrs Brown added.

“Scrutiny is there to make sure that the people of Carlisle are getting the best value for money, that the policies are well thought through.”

But Carlisle MP John Stevenson described the move as “sending a very negative message to the people of Carlisle and to the retail sector”.

“They don’t support the city centre and shopping in Carlisle,” he said.

“It represents the danger that they have a very negative attitude to the city centre.”

Mrs Brown rejected the idea that Labour had anything other than a strong record supporting the city centre.

“The Labour administration in place until last month did a lot for the city centre, from bringing Primark to Carlisle to our work on the Borderlands project,” she said.

“We even trialled the ‘free after three’ parking scheme at Christmas.

“We didn’t need to turn this into a party political fight, we just have a few simple questions.”