THE COST of a report delivered to Monmouthshire council which recommends increased parking charges in four of the county’s towns “beggars belief”, traders have said.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed the council paid consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff £28,000 for their report, which was delivered to councillors in February.

It recommends that charging increases in car parks in Chepstow, Usk, Abergavenny and Usk.

The president of Usk Chamber of Commerce, Phillip Mungeam, said: “My opinion is that it is a large waste of money. We are on about cuts, cuts, cuts. We have councillors who should be able to make the decision.”

He said the chamber of commerce will be putting together their own rival report which will be “fact-based”, when the Parsons Brinckerhoff report is “anecdotal”.

But the deputy leader of the council, Cllr Phil Hobson, defended the spending.

He said: “This was a complicated exercise which took into account not only local but regional and national considerations. Parsons Brinckerhoff provided the expertise - both technical and specialist - targeted to support the needs of business, residents and visitors.

“The study has enabled the authority to recommend a more balanced approach of parking needs across the county and we consider that it has delivered excellent value for money.”

The leader of Monmouthshire council’s Labour group Cllr Dimitri Batrouni said: “This sort of unnecessary spend on private consultants is exactly why the Labour group proposed to cap how much the council spends on them.

“Given the scale of Tory cuts, we shouldn’t be extravagant or wasteful of taxpayers’ money.”

And the manager of the Chepstow Castle Inn on Bridge Street, Phil Marsden, said the spending on the report was “pretty crazy”.

On potential parking charge increases, he said: “Because we are a tourist town they are attacking the tourists not the public.”

A spokeswoman for Parsons Brinckerhoff said she was unable to comment.

At a special meeting of Monmouthshire council’s economy and development select committee on February 20, councillors decided the plan should be sent out for further consultation to area select committees.

Presently charges for long and short stays in Monmouthshire car parks cost 80p for two hours, £1.30 for three hours and £1.80 for four hours. Five hours cost £2.80 and increases by a pound with every hour. All day parking costs £3.50.

But the report recommends a flat rate of £1 for two hours, £2 for three to four hours and £4 for all day stays, and that blue badge holders should be charged from 2016/17.