COUNCILS have been accused of “ripping off” drivers as it was revealed authorities made £667 million ‘profit’ from parking charges in 2013/14.
The RAC Foundation found that councils across England made 12 per cent more from their on and off street parking operations than the previous year.
Leeds, York and Sheffield brought in the most money through parking in Yorkshire and all three were ranked in the top 50 of all English councils for the size of their surplus, the ‘profit’ calculated by adding up income from parking charges and penalty notices, then deducting running costs.
Leeds, ranked highest at 23rd, generated £6.9m in surplus, up 10 per cent on the previous year, while in York the figure was £4.8m, and in Sheffield it was £3.5m.
The data came from the statutory annual returns that councils made to the Department for Communities and Local Government. The authority with the largest surplus was Westminster with £51 million, with the top ten biggest “earners” dominated by councils in the capital.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the figures show how “town halls are committing daylight robbery by ripping off drivers with exorbitant parking charges and unfair parking fines”.
RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said parking profits had risen annually for the last five years, yet over the same period spending on local roads had fallen about a fifth.
He said that across the country, an increase in parking profits had come not from extra income in penalties, but savings in how parking operations are run.
Prof Glaister said: “This suggests local authorities are making efficiency savings and should bring some good news to both drivers and council tax payers.”
Last year Leeds Council introduced parking charges on Sundays and in the evenings. A council spokesman said that with developments like Trinity Leeds and the First Direct Arena, demand for parking is on the increase.
“In order to make the most of what the city has to offer, we must find a delicate balance between managing the increasing demand for parking and the need to keep traffic and the economy moving while encouraging people to make the most of public transport,” he said. “Parking charges mean we can create a turnover in all pay and display spaces and also help the economy with better management of parking.”
A cut to parking charges at one city centre car park had contributed to a rise in income for off street parking, he added.
While York remained the second highest earning Yorkshire council, both parking revenue and surplus dropped from 2012/13, with the surplus down 6.7 per cent to £4.7m. Sheffield’s surplus grew 114 per cent from £1.6m in 2012/13 to £3.5m in 2013/14.
York Council’s Assistant Director of Highways, Transport and Waste, Neil Ferris, said the authority had looked at alternatives to car parking, like Park and Ride, to deal with the “unique” traffic challenges in its city centre.
He added: “Our parking rates are in line with other cities but prices need to influence behaviours to keep the traffic moving, whilst still maintaining choice.”