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Councils' £756m parking charges surplus represents 9% rise - study

The surplus produced from council parking operations in England rose by 9% over the past year, according to a new study.

Some £756 million was generated from the on and off-street parking activities of t he 353 local authorities in England during the 2015/16 financial year, research found.

The figure was calculated by taking income from parking charges and penalty notices and then deducting running costs.

Income was up 4% and costs fell by 2% in the past year.

It represents a 9% leap on the 2014/15 surplus of £693 million, and is 34% higher than in 2011/12.

The data - analysed for motoring research charity RAC Foundation by transport consultant David Leibling - comes from the statutory annual returns that councils make to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, said local authorities must "strike a balance" when setting charges in a bid to ensure there were parking spaces available and traffic was not held up.

The largest totals were seen in London, with the capital's 33 local authorities accounting for 44% of the country's total.

Westminster had the largest surplus (£55.9 million) followed by Kensington and Chelsea (£34.2 million) and Camden (£25.2 million).

The biggest amounts outside of London were reported by Brighton and Hove (£20.1 million), with Nottingham in second place (£13.6 million) and Milton Keynes in third (£10.8 million).

The figure for Nottingham was significantly influenced by income of approximately £9 million from the city's controversial workplace parking levy, through which firms are charged a fee for having more than 10 parking spaces.

It was introduced in 2012 to cut traffic and reduce pollution, but its opponents claim it is anti-business.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said the " eye-wateringly large" amounts reflected the growing competition for parking spaces in many towns and cities, with the number of cars on Britain's roads rising from 21 million in 1995 to 31 million today.

He went on: " Parking charges are one of the tools councils use to keep traffic moving whilst also allowing people reasonable and affordable access to high street shops and other facilities.

"The good news is that any profit generated by councils from on-street parking must by law be spent on transport-related activities, and as every motorist knows there's no shortage of work that needs doing."

The LGA's transport spokeswoman, Judith Blake, insisted that "c ouncils do not make a profit from parking".

She said: "Income from on-street parking charges is spent on running parking services and surpluses are spent on essential transport projects, such as tackling the £12 billion roads repair backlog, creating new parking spaces and providing subsidised bus travel for children or elderly residents."

A Department for Communities and Local Government s pokesman said: " We've been clear councils shouldn't use parking as a cash cow and many recognise the benefits that reduced or free parking has on encouraging footfall on the high street."

The department added that it was supporting Tory MP David Tredinnick's private member's bill to make it easier for English councils to lower parking charges at short notice in support of town centres and require them to hold a consultation if they want to raise fees.

:: These are the 20 councils in England with the largest surpluses from parking operations, according to the RAC Foundation:

1. Westminster (£55.9 million)

2. Kensington and Chelsea (£34.2 million)

3. Camden (£25.2 million)

4. Hammersmith and Fulham (£22.7 million)

5. Wandsworth (£21.2 million)

6. Brighton and Hove (£20.1 million)

7. Islington (£15.5 million)

8. Haringey (£14.9 million)

9. Nottingham (£13.6 million)

10. Hackney (£12.9 million)

11. Milton Keynes (£10.8 million)

12. Lambeth (£9.9 million)

13. Birmingham (£9.8 million)

14. Cornwall (£9.8 million)

15. Tower Hamlets (£9.5 million)

16. Manchester (£8.9 million)

17. Brent (£8 million)

18. Bristol (£7.7 million)

19. Newham (£7.7 million)

20. Richmond upon Thames (£7.5 million)

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