Government to rein in ‘unfair parking charges after new RAC report finds councils are making large surpluses

Some councils are racking up huge surpluses from their parking-charge activities, according to figures from the RAC Foundation released today.

In 2011/12, English councils had a total current account surplus of £565 million from their on-street and off-street parking operations. This is a £54 million increase on the £511 million surplus in 2010/11, said the foundation. It added that the figures showed that just 52 (14%) of the 359 councils reported a deficit on their parking operations in 2011/12.

East Lindsey District Council has caused controversy recently by increasing it’s parking charges and introducing charges for the first time in some locations.

The council says the increased revenue from car parking helps to fill a budget deficit and protect frontline services.

ELDC’s Portfolio Holder for the Environment, Councillor Steve Newton, said the number of tickets issued in East Lindsey in comparison to last year has risen, but that “we will review the car parking arrangements in the coming months.”

The RAC Foundation said the data, produced for the foundation by transport consultant David Leibling, came from the annual returns that councils made to the Department for Communities and Local Government. Even after capital charges - money councils put in to replace infrastructure - are taken into account, the combined surplus in 2011/12 was still £412 million.

RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: “For many local authorities, parking charges are a nice little earner.

“Not all authorities make big sums. Several run a current account deficit and indeed of those with surpluses many will see the money vanish when capital expenditure is taken into account.

“But the bottom line is that hundreds of millions of pounds are being contributed annually to council coffers through parking charges .”

The RAC figures came a day after the Department for Communities and Local Government published English local authority revenue and expenditure plans for 2013/14. These figures showed that English councils expect that net income on parking services (off-street and on-street parking) was expected to increase from £601 million in 2012/13 to £635 million in 2013/14.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said: “This £635 million municipal parking profit shows why we need to review and rein in unfair town hall parking rules.

“This Government has scrapped the last administration’s Whitehall rules which told councils to hike up parking charges and adopt aggressive parking enforcement.

“But councils aren’t listening, and local shops and hard-working families are suffering as a result. The law is clear that parking is not a tax or cash cow for town hall officers.”