A SECOND car parking increase in 13 months will be a crippling blow to Halesowen traders, according to the town’s outraged chamber of trade chairman.

Businessman Wayne Edwards condemned the 17 per cent hike as a “kick in the teeth” to hard-pressed retailers.

He accused Dudley Council of “bleeding the town dry” and vowed to step up the campaign for free short stay on-street parking.

The increase, which will come into effect on Sunday, (June 29) follows an even bigger 25 per cent rise in May 2013.

The chamber has been campaigning for free spaces - to restore some parity with other towns in the borough – but the call has been repeatedly rejected by council bosses.

Mr Edwards said: “To increase parking charges again is outrageous and will hit retailers badly. I’m convinced parking charges have a massive impact on trade.”

He vowed to launch an immediate petition to pressurise the council to allow more free parking to attract shoppers and other visitors to Halesowen.

The Less4Ink boss revealed his turnover was down 12 per cent in the first half of this year and said a photograph he took of the High Street on Tuesday showed just half a dozen shoppers.

Mr Edwards said: “Local authorities use car parking as a source of revenue, but it’s not working in Halesowen, they are bleeding the town dry.

“Car parking should be seen as a vital service not a quick revenue grab at the expense of traders.”

He said Merry Hill owners had fought off parking charges for many years resulting in large corporations, many not even based in the UK, benefitting from the resulting high footfall, while small town centres and retailers suffered.

Dudley’s cabinet member for transportation, councillor Khurshid Ahmed, said the borough remained “one of the cheapest places to park in the Black Country”.

Motorists staying up to an hour on council car parks will have to cough up 70p instead of 60p; for up to two hours the cost will rise from £1.20 to £1.40; for up to three hours it will go from £1.80 to £2.10 and for over three hours the cost will be jacked up from £3 to £3.50.

Evening charges will rise from £1 to £1.10 across the board.