COUNCILS have generated record “profits” of almost £600m in surpluses from their parking charges and fines, according to a new report.
The RAC Foundation found that in 2012/13 councils made £594m from on and off-street parking operations.
The figure was five per cent higher than the previous year with data showing 85 per cent of authorities have generated a surplus.
Leeds and York brought in the most money through parking in Yorkshire and were both ranked in the top 30 of a table of more than 350 councils across England for the size of their surplus. RAC figures show Leeds generated £6.2m in surplus while in York the figure was £5.2m.
Today’s report has sparked a war of words between town halls and Whitehall over whether local councils are using parking charges to make profits. A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) described the use of parking fines to raise money as an affront to civil liberties.
She said: “Encouraged by the Labour government, parking fines have become an unjust form of arbitrary taxation, corrupting Britain’s justice system and fleecing innocent drivers. Using fines to generate revenue is an affront to fundamental constitutional principles and civil liberties in Britain, contrary to the long-standing principles of the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. This Government is taking action to rein in the town hall parking bullies.”
However, a Yorkshire council leader commenting on behalf of town halls across the country said the RAC report was “peddling the myth” that councils use parking charges to make money.
Wakefield Council’s leader and member of the Local Government Association’s economy and transport board, Coun Peter Box, said: “The reality is that the average motorist is paying 30 times more to Whitehall in charges and taxation each year than they do to their town hall through parking.”
The Labour councillor added: “Councils are on the side of hard-pressed motorists by keeping a lid on parking charges. Many already publish annual parking reports to be open and transparent with residents and combat the deep-rooted misconception that they are being used to raise money. Councils do not make a profit from parking.
“All income from charges and fines is spent on running parking services and any surplus goes on essential transport projects such as bringing our dilapidated road network up to scratch and providing subsidised bus travel for children or elderly residents.”
The RAC said its data came from the annual returns councils make to the DCLG. The figures are calculated by adding up income from parking charges and penalty notices, then deducting running costs.
The RAC Foundation’s director, Professor Stephen Glaister, said: “It is a case of déjà vu. Once again English councils have made record amounts from parking. Yet overall spending on local roads has fallen by nine per cent over the past three years with road safety expenditure down by as much as 20 per cent.”
He added: “The Government’s recent decision to consult on changes to parking rules and regulations is timely and we have always argued that at the very least all councils should publish an annual parking report to explain how much money is collected from drivers and, just as importantly, where that cash is going.
“It might be that some of the extra ‘profit’ has arisen because councils’ costs for running parking services have been reduced but drivers need to know this. There’s no disputing the figures we have looked at. They are the numbers the councils themselves submit to central government.”