We were shocked this week by the proposals of Oxford City Council to increase car parking charges in the centre of the city by 15 per cent.

The council is facing a tough environment. It has lost money through investment in Icelandic banks and is struggling to maintain its income as the credit crunch bites on residents.

We believe, however, that it has a duty to do all it can to support the local economy in these troubled times.

A 15 per cent increase could be disastrous for trade in the city. Shops are having a difficult time as it is, without having to contend with a sharp increase in car parking charges.

This is not just a feeling of sympathy for shopkeepers. There are jobs and livelihoods of many local people tied to the success of Oxford city centre.

More than ever, it needs to be able to compete with local rivals Swindon, Milton Keynes and Reading.

Yes, the city council has to balance its books. There are many ways of doing this. At the very least, it could delay these increases for six months or more to see how the local economy copes with the recession.

The vitality of the local economy should be its number one priority.