TWO Dunfermline councillors argue parking must remain free in the town centre to help the economic recovery from COVID-19.

Fife Council scrapped all charges in the Kingdom in March when the pandemic struck and, as more shops and businesses prepare to open, Lib Dem James Calder and Tory Gavin Ellis are driven to keep it that way.

Both men backed the Press' Keep it Free campaign, which first called on Fife Council to scrap Sunday parking charges back in January 2019, and now they want that extended to cover the whole week.

Councillor Calder, who represents Dunfermline South, said: “Last year, after our campaign to end Sunday parking charges, Fife Council trialled free Sunday parking in the town centre of Dunfermline and many shops appreciated this.

"COVID-19 has had a terrible financial impact for many of our local businesses.

"With shops now re-opening, we need to encourage local residents to shop at them and by maintaining free parking in Dunfermline we would help our local businesses in this difficult time.

"I hope Fife Council will keep this in mind to give our local economy a much-needed boost.”

Scrapping charges would undoubtedly be popular but the council, already facing huge financial challenges, are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

While they'll want to support town centres by encouraging more shoppers and visitors, at the same time they have a yawning £78 million hole in their budget caused by the virus.

Finance chiefs have warned of the "significant" loss of income from areas like car-parking charges and, while keen to kick-start the local economy and help it recover, they have to bring in more cash to balance the books.

Cllr Ellis commented: “The continued support of our town centre and its businesses is one where Cllr Calder and I are happy to push for positive change.

"We know the economic recovery from COVID-19 will not be easy and I hope Fife Council will be looking at parking restrictions in the town centre along with more free parking to do what we can for our retailers.”

The Press launched Keep it Free in January 2019. We urged the council to breathe new life into the town centre by scrapping Sunday charges. Parking charges on a Sunday, which apply between 1-6pm, have been condemned by angry traders, shoppers and politicians for “killing” business and threatening jobs.

The power to get rid of the charges was handed down to local area committees and in Dunfermline, that led to an £18,000 trial.

In the run-up to Christmas, a free shuttle bus ran between Leys Park Road car park and the town centre and then, between January and March, there was free Sunday parking.

The council monitored usage and footfall to see if the initiatives were worthwhile but the results have not yet been published.