Aberdeen could become one of the most expensive places to park a car in Scotland if new on-street charges are introduced.
Motorists could soon be forced to pay out up to £4 to leave their vehicle for an hour in the city centre.
The proposed change comes as the local authority tries to identify £26 million of savings in an effort to balance the books at next week’s budget meeting.
The move would put the Granite City in pole position ahead of Glasgow and Edinburgh as the priciest place to park on inner city streets.
But council leaders are facing an angry backlash from motoring groups and business owners who claim premium parking charges could hurt the struggling high street.
Nino Lepre, owner of city centre restaurant Ciao Napoli, said forcing motorists out of the heart of the city would be “the stupidest thing the council could do”.
He said: “Given the downturn in oil, which is hurting all the local businesses, I don’t understand why they would do this.
“Just look at the local economy – Union Street is dying and we need to get people back into the city centre to support local business.”
And Neil Greig, from the Institute of Advanced Motorists, added that it could have knock-on effects for businesses.
Mr Greig said: “This could prove to be a short-sighted move if it was put in the official budget.
“Given the oil downturn and the struggles in business you would think the council would do all they could to get people into the city centre and increase business rates.”
Edinburgh City Council used its budget this year to up the cost of parking in city centre streets such as George Street and St Andrew Square by 10p to £3.60.
Aberdeen City Council’s finance convener Willie Young said raising parking charges was only one option being considered.
“We have found £20m of savings already without having to make a single job cut or affect people’s day-to-day lives significantly.
“We are also going to invest more than £500m in the city over the next five years to show the confidence we have in the city. The charges aren’t set in stone.”