PLANS to introduce new car parking charges across Monmouthshire could be 'counterproductive' and hit town centre businesses, councillors have said.

Monmouthshire County Council is consulting on proposals to introduce a £1 charge for parking on Sundays, as well as increasing current parking charges by 10 per cent as part of its budget plans.

Charges for blue badge holders are also proposed after the first hour, while free parking at Christmas could be axed.

But at a meeting of Monmouthshire council's adults select committee on Tuesday, councillors raised concerns over the plans.

Cllr Jane Pratt (Conservative, Llanelly Hill ward) said businesses in the high street are already struggling with changes in shopping habits, and that the proposals could affect footfall.

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"I really do feel this could end up being counterproductive and the savings we make could be a retrograde step in other ways," she said.

"We have got to try and support our businesses all we can at the moment."

Labour councillor Roger Harris voiced worries over charging blue badge holders and suggested starting the change with a trial period.

The Croesonen ward councillor suggested the move could result in an increase in blue badge holders parking on double yellow lines.

"My concern is we charge in the car parks and blue badge holders will go out elsewhere," he added.

Cllr Sheila Woodhouse (Conservative, Grofield) echoed the concerns, adding that blue badge holders currently free up parking spaces in town centres for "severely disabled" people by using car parks.

But Cllr Phil Murphy, cabinet member for resources, said the council had little choice but to propose introducing the charges.

He said: "This is not exclusive to Monmouthshire, we are one of the last authorities to bring this in (charges for blue badge holders).

"We decided not to do it so many times but we are now in a position where what else do we do."

Cllr Murphy pointed out that car parking charges are still cheap in the county and that the increases were "relatively small."

"Sometimes we have to be a little bit hard," he added.

The proposals could save £215,000, although this will be offset by a cost to implement the changes in the first year.

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Roger Hoggins, head of operations at the council, said the proposals were about striking a balance between maintaining town centres and keeping charges 'reasonable.'

Cllr Louise Brown, vice chairwoman of the committee, said councillors recommended further scrutiny of the proposed charges for blue badge holders.