POLITICIANS have been urged to "avoid petty point scoring" following a row over claims business rates from Darlington's new Amazon site could be used to introduce free parking.

Last month, Darlington Borough Council's new leader Heather Scott said her party's manifesto pledge, in the form of two hours free parking and three hours restrictive parking, could be introduced due to the business rates paid by Amazon, who are due to occupy Symmetry Park, next to Lingfield Point, later this year.

However, Labour councillor and opposition leader Stephen Harker said the money from the Amazon site had already been included in the authority's budget for the next four years, and further cuts would have to be made to fund the scheme.

The Northern Echo:

Darlington's Green Party leader Cllr Matthew Snedker said the row strengthens his party's "determination to champion collaborative working as the only way to deliver a better future for Darlington".

He said: "With the council under no overall control there are going to be differences of opinion on which policies we bring forward and which priorities we should pursue.

"We must remain constructive and avoid petty point scoring. I am deeply concerned when different views are dismissed out of hand as ‘feasting on sour grapes’.

"This signals an unwillingness to listen and threatens to mire the next four years in populism and grandstanding when there is real work to be done.”

“Ten years of grinding austerity has stripped the council budget to such an extent that virtually no discretionary spending is left. The government grant continues to shrink and, even with maximum council tax rises, we do not cover the additional responsibilities that continue to be given to local government.”

Last year, two hours of free parking was introduced in council-owned long-stay car parks, but the authority has faced mounting pressure from shoppers and businesses ever since to increase the offering as way to boost town centre trade.

Cllr Bryony Holroyd added: “For its small size, Darlington’s traffic is appalling. We should be subsidising bus fares, improving their routes, and building more protected walking & cycling routes.

"People will then get to work or the shops conveniently, safely and cheaply without the daily crawl on polluted snarled up roads. We need new ideas to better this town, provide cheaper and better alternatives to bulky and expensive cars that currently overwhelm our town.”