A MEMBER of David Cameron's Government has waded into the debate on Worcester's car parking cuts - hailing it as "excellent news".
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has thrown his weight behind the city council's move to reduce rates from Monday, July 21.
Mr Pickles has long been a fierce critic of town halls across the country that have hiked up parking charges, and only last year accused them of "milking motorists dry" and using them as a "cash cow".
The Tory minister was told about Worcester's reductions in parliament by Worcester MP Robin Walker on Monday - and asked if he had a view on it.
Mr Pickles, who threatened to allow drivers to park on yellow lines last year unless some councils brought down their prices, said: "This is excellent news - congratulations".
His backing comes as Worcester's opposition Labour group insisted the rises could increase congestion rather than boost trade.
Councillor Adrian Gregson, group leader, who led the move to put rates up in April before being ousted from office, said: "It's becoming a political football.
"Car parking prices need to be part of a proper transportation strategy for the city, but the Conservatives don't have one.
"Croft Road car park has been full recently - the rises will add to fumes and congestion."
But Mr Walker, who led a campaign to get the prices reduced, said: "Businesses on Worcester’s High street were outraged when shortly after the floods Labour hiked the parking charges, harming local businesses.
"It's not as if the shops weren't outspoken about the rises, they were - not one of them said they agreed with it.
"The new Conservative administration could have said 'we'll do this at the end of the year' but they've acted quickly and deserve credit."
Councillor Marc Bayliss, deputy leader and the cabinet member for economic prosperity, said: "When the Conservatives regained control of Worcester City Council in May we promised to reverse the parking price hikes that Labour introduced.
"This is our first step towards doing that and I know motorists, visitors and businesses will welcome it."
Among the changes is the re-introduction of the 40p for half-an-hour rate at selected sites, a flat £1 charge from 7pm and four hours parking for £5, down from £6.
Coach prices at Croft Road car park will go from £10 to £5 and for lorries, from £25 back to £5.