NEWS that bus travel in Monmouthshire will be free during the weekends in December has been welcomed – but the timing of the announcement has been questioned by opposition councillors.

Labour-run Monmouthshire County Council announced earlier this week that at all weekend bus journeys within the county will be free to all users every weekend in December.

But the Conservative opposition group has highlighted that it had already put forward a motion to this week’s full council meeting proposing free bus travel and free parking in the county during December weekends.

Group leader Councillor Richard John said: “We welcome the announcement, which should encourage bus travel and make it easier for residents to shop local this Christmas and support local businesses.

“This is exactly the sort of steps the council should be taking to support our town centres, although a cynic would think the announcement has been carefully timed to avoid debate and take credit for the proposal.”

At the council meeting, on Thursday, October 27, Conservative councillor for Mitchel Troy and Trellech, Jayne McKenna, who had put forward the free travel and parking proposal, said she had done so ten days ago, in line with council rules on tabling motions.

She said: “I’m pleased to see the administration has taken this on board.”

She withdrew her motion for debate but said she felt it was important the council in future does discuss other ways it can support businesses in the county.

Monmouthshire council announced on Monday it had secured Welsh Government funding for the free bus travel on weekends in December . It is also offering, for the third year in a row, free parking in council-owned car parks in Abergavenny, Chepstow and Monmouth every weekend in December.

Other towns in the county already have free parking spaces.

Cllr Catrin Maby, cabinet member for climate change and the environment, said when announcing the initative: “We’re so pleased to have secured Welsh Government funding to help encourage residents to use the county’s buses more.

“Every weekend in December on the approach to Christmas you’ll be able to hop on to any service for a journey between two locations in Monmouthshire and not have to pay.”