COUNCIL bosses have been accused of simply trying to "paper over the cracks" by offering eight days of free parking in the run up to Christmas.
Shepway District Council (SDC) has waived charges in its car parks in Folkestone, Sandgate, New Romney and Hythe for the first four weekends in December.
But traders in Folkestone have labelled it a "half-hearted" effort to repair some of the damage businesses claim has been done by the council's parking strategy.
Johnny Cotter, who has acted a traders' spokesman, said: "I find it disgraceful that after all the evidence we presented at the council offices, and the fact that (council leader) Councillor Bliss didn't attend a meeting arranged with him, we now have this half-hearted effort to paper over the cracks.
"I am alarmed this council does not have the ability or the IQ to join the dots and see the connection between paying to park and severe enforcement, and the lack of shoppers. Giving a few free weekends does not sort the problem.
"When – and it will – this town dies, the blood will be on every councillors' hands for not standing up and kicking out this ludicrous policy and the cabinet that sanctioned it. Happy Christmas.... what a b***** joke."
Owner of Moda in Rendezvous Street John Parry said: "I appreciate the council's gesture and it is welcome. But it's missing the point completely."
Campaigner Kay McLoughlin added: "This isn't new or special, they've done it in previous years and it doesn't address any of the problems. I'm not impressed."
SDC said seven car parks offering more than 400 parking spaces would be free.
It said it was waiving income worth £16,000 and would also launch a marketing drive to promote the town as a destination for festive shoppers.
Councillor Malcolm Dearden, cabinet member for parking, refused to comment on the criticism.
In a statement, he said: "We appreciate that smaller shops don't always have the resources for marketing which is why we are launching a campaign to encourage people across the district and beyond to shop in Folkestone.
"We hope that local traders will support this drive to promote the excellent retail opportunities that exist."