IT’S understandable why Kirklees Council would be loath to allow free parking in its town centres.

The idea has been mooted by the Forum of Private Business which has said local authorities should spare a thought for struggling shopkeepers when drawing up their budget plans for 2013-14 and make car parking free for shoppers.

But it’s a big money-spinner for the council – more so than ever before – and rakes in around £4.5m a year. What the cash total doesn’t show is the number of shoppers put off by having to pay to park when there are other attractive shopping options in Yorkshire such as the White Rose Centre or Meadowhall.

Free parking would come with practical problems – if it was all day the spaces would be taken by people who work in the town centre so it would need limited hours to work to bring the shoppers in.

But, there again, free parking is offered at Christmas so Kirklees, along with other councils, realises the link between free parking and a boost for town centre trade.

Perhaps now’s the time to offer some free parking for shoppers all year round – even if it’s just a few hours one day a week – and use that to find out if it really does make a difference.