Parking charges will rise across Perth and Kinross this summer, as council bosses battle a £50 million covid black hole.
The 10% increase will be enforced from August 1, when charges are re-introduced for the first time since lockdown began.
The local authority has already lost an estimated £4.8m income from parking payments this year.
However, the decision to raise the cost while trying to re-open town centres has come under fire.
Local SNP MP Pete Wishart criticised the council’s decision to push ahead with the planned costs increase, while Dawn Fuge, who co-chairs the Perth Traders Association described the timing as “poor”.
Perth and Kinross Council said reintroducing charges – with more contactless paymen machines – was essential to encourage turnover of spaces and bring more visitors into local shops, cafes and restaurants as restrictions ease further.
The rise in charges was agreed at budget talks in March and they were due to be introduced in April.
Chief executive Karen Reid said: “We are doing everything we can to keep people safe, while supporting the local economy.
“People in Perth and Kinross want safe and well-maintained facilities, and our local businesses are hoping for high footfall when they return.”
Mr Wishart said: “Whilst it is understandable that parking restrictions will have to be brought back as our town centres get busier again, it is really poor show for the Conservative administration to press ahead with this planned rise in parking costs.
“We need local authorities to incentivise people shopping locally, and I am certain that the majority of town and city centre traders will not be behind the proposal to raise parking costs further at this uncertain time.”
Councillor Grant Laing, leader of the local SNP group, has also questioned the raise. “I’m not sure we should be doing this at a time when we are trying to encourage more people back into our town centres,” he said.
Ms Fuge, who runs the Precious Sparkle store on Bridge Lane, said: “I think the timing is poor.”
She added: “Personally, I would have hoped they could postpone the increase, but at the same time I have a lot of sympathy for the council because they really need the income. I understand why they felt the need to do this.”
Conservative councillor Angus Forbes, environment convener, said elected members were not involved in the decision by officers to introduce a parking rise in August.
He added: “At a recent Zoom meeting, open to all businesses, it was clear from the city centre traders that they supporting parking charges as this creates turnover of cars and allows more people to park in the centre.”