FRESH calls are being made to take the axe to parking charges - with campaigners saying councils are killing high streets with “exorbitant” fees.

Weeks before a final decision on whether Worcester City Council should increase prices, the Taxpayers’ Alliance has made a plea to help retailers.

It follows research last week from the RAC Foundation that in 2012/13, town halls got £594 million from parking charges across the country.

In Worcester, the council is expecting to get around £2.6 million from it this year and wants to introduce higher fees at selected sites from April.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance say some towns like Northampton are considering offering free parking, suggesting that is the way more councils should go.

Campaign director Robert Oxley said: “Too many councils view parking fees as a way of raising revenue and ignore the damage done to struggling retailers.

“If local politicians really want to help businesses and those struggling with the cost of living they should scrap these ludicrous parking charges.”

But the Labour leadership say such a radical idea is out of the question because of the impact it would have on the finances.

Councillor Richard Boorn, cabinet member for finance, said: “If you look at the income, £2.6 million, and take a five-year plan - if we don’t get that money how do we make up the shortfall?

“All councillors have got a responsibility to make sure the city council is solvent, as much as it’s an attractive idea, we couldn’t do it.”

The opposition Conservative group, which cut rates as low as 40p for half-an-hour one year ago before losing power last May, says it will campaign for a freeze.

Councillor Marc Bayliss, Tory group deputy leader, said: “This is bad for retailers, bad for business and it won’t lead to more income, it will just increase congestion down side roads.

“We will be campaigning with the public on this.”

The city council says most of the income goes into maintaining the car parks, and enforcement.

Labour wants to scrap the 30-minute tariffs from April, meaning drivers must pay for at least an hour.

The current deal where people can pay £1 after 7pm is also being stopped. Four-hour stays at car parks in Copenhagen Street, Cornmarket Street and Providence Street will also go up, from £5 to £6.

It will be voted on in February as part of the 2014/15 budget.