COUNCILLORS in Oswestry have voted to follow Shropshire Council's lead in making car parking free when non-essential shops reopen on April 12.

Last month Shropshire Council announced it would be making its car parks free from April 12-25 to give traders in town centres a boost.

Last week, Oswestry Town Council did the same following a request from traders in the town, but while it was unaminously backed, some councillors admitted they were worried about the financial impact.

Former mayor Councillor Sandy Best started the debate, and she said: "We still need to make the point that we rely on that car park funding and we don’t get any help for that.

"We’ve been losing a substantial amount of money during Covid."

Cllr Best also asked if there was to be free public transport also, and current mayor Cllr Duncan Kerr agreed.

He said: "I’m happy to [make the parking free] because we have to be consistent.

"But we have to write to Shropshire Council to ask them to recognise free parking is disproportionate to help people who travel by bus so everyone gets the chance to come into the town to shop."

He suggested writing to them but Cllr Vince Hunt shot down the need for a letter, stating that Shropshire Council already subsidised public transport.

But he added: "But we have lost a lot of money to Covid – I would support two weeks and not much longer."

Cllr Paul Milner also called for the car parks to be free for 'unity across the town' while Cllr John Price asked if Oswestry Business Improvement (BID) could run a similar scheme across the two weeks as used at Christmas for free transport.

The motion was passed.

Meanwhile, councillors spent time discussing what the best way to provide financial support for a counselling service in Oswestry.

U&I Counselling, based in English Walls, had requested around £2,800 from the council's grant fund; however, Cllr Milner put forward a motion to raise that amount to £3,000.

This sparked a conversation among councillors – who all agreed to raise the money – about whether a larger lump sum payment was the better option for the group, or to receive what is asked for and then work with the council on a longer-term basis.

Cllr Kerr suggested running the money across four months and if they run out, U&I could re-approach the council for money, while Cllr Hunt gave an impassioned speech about the vital services it provides.

He said: "If we want a clean town and keep youngsters out of county lines and want good citizens for the future, it’s a good service and I’d like to double what they’re asking for."

Cllr Milner's motion for £3,000 was passed, while The Marches school received £1,000 and Parkinsons in Marches's bid for £100 was doubled to £200.