The leader of Worcester City Council has defended increased car parking charges – insisting they are designed to encourage people to shop more, not less.

Councillor Adrian Gregson has fought back over criticism on plans to raise fees by saying there is “no evidence” last year’s cuts worked.

“Car parking isn’t the big issue it is being made out to be,” said Coun Gregson.

“There is no evidence the changes made to parking charges in the city last year actually increased income.

“We were told at the time that it could mean £1 million extra revenue, but that hasn’t happened."

One year ago the Conservative administration launched a £1 fee after 7pm at selected sites and reduced rates to as low as 40p for half-an-hour during the day.

The Labour leadership, which took over in May, wants to end both of those tariffs, as well as make small increases elsewhere.

The policy has been heavily attacked by the Conservative group, as well as the Taxpayers Alliance.

Coun Gregson says the 30-minute tariffs were discouraging people to spend more time in the city, the opposite of what Worcester needs.

Copenhagen Street, Cornmarket and Providence Street – the highestturnover car parks – will have their long-stay rates increased, with four hours costing £6 instead of £5.

But at St Martin’s Gate the all-day charge of £3.60 is staying, mainly due to competition from Asda.

Coun Gregson said: “This is a positive strategy which encourages people to stay for longer, and ending the 7pm rate means it will be less confusing.

“St Martin’s Gate is still a good deal, and overall car parking is only one element of a transportation strategy to deal with regeneration, congestion, car speeds, visitor management and so on.”

The measues are due to be put to a vote at full council in February.

The Tory group has described the move as “lunacy” but the Liberal Democrats, whose sole politician in the cabinet is Coun Liz Smith, are not objecting.