FREE parking in town centres around Monmouthshire and a voucher scheme encouraging people to shop local are both needed to boost footfall around the region, politicians from the area have warned.

Peter Fox, who is the MS for Monmouth and former leader of Monmouthshire County Council (MCC), called on the economy minister, Vaughan Gething, to give the proposals the greenlight.

Mr Fox said: “Data reveals that Wales’ town centres have suffered the steepest decline in footfall out of the UK nations.

“But simple yet effective measures – such as granting free parking in town centres across the Monmouth constituency and offering £100 vouchers to be spent at local town centres - would incentivise increased footfall, at a time when our struggling towns need it the most.

“My proposals would provide a real boost and generate more income in the longer term for the Monmouth constituency.”

The Conservative MS added: “The only way this proposal can happen is with the blessing of Labour ministers, and I therefore urge them to heed our calls.”

In January of 2020, residents across the county reacted with fury to news that MCC - then under Mr Fox's leadership - was to increase parking charges in the vast majority of its car parks.

The first two hours’ parking in MCC pay-and-display car parks would now cost £1.50, a rise of 40p.

The council also introduced Sunday parking charges across many of the car parks where, until January 8, 2020, tickets were only required Monday-Saturday.

Charges were also be introduced in several car parks which used to be free.

Cllr Sara Jones, who is the deputy leader of Monmouthshire County Council, said: “Without any further delay, our town centres desperately need bold initiatives to allow them to bounce back post-pandemic.

“Supporting local authorities to provide free car parking, as well as an ambitious voucher scheme as seen in Northern Ireland, would be a huge step in the right direction for our crucially important businesses.

“Our town centres have been hard-hit during the pandemic and desperately need a welcome boost.”