TRADERS are to be asked to subsidise their customers’ parking to win back shoppers to Salisbury.

Wiltshire Council’s own takings, along with those of the city’s retailers, have plummeted since it hiked its charges in April.

The parking accounts are heading for a £500,000 deficit over the year as shoppers and visitors vote with their wallets.

The council’s Cabinet agreed on Tuesday to consult retailers and business groups countywide about whether they want to start ‘redemption schemes’.

These permit traders to offer money-back discounts to people spending a certain amount with them.

The amounts involved and the operating details would be agreed locally and vary between towns.

The council would pay the cost of altering machines in its off-street car parks to issue two tickets per customer, one to be handed in to the retailer.

The small firms would have to fund the rebates themselves, while business groups and parish councils would do the administration.

But council leader Jane Scott admitted the idea has so far received a lukewarm reception.

She said: “I’m getting the impression that perhaps it’s not wanted, and if so, that’s fine, it was purely an offer to try to help people through a difficult time.”

And cllr Jon Hubbard described it as “an attempt to slap a sticking plaster over the complete and utter dog’s dinner that has been made of the parking charges” and added: “We are now facing a projected loss of half a million in income, primarily as a result of making it uneconomic to park.”

Salisbury city councillor Frank Pennycook warned on Monday that it would be unfair to offer discounts to motorists but not to bus users, pedestrians or park and ride customers, and would send out the wrong environmental message.