Councils make £594m from parking
Councils are making record surpluses from their parking activities, according to the RAC Foundation.
In 2012/13 councils in England generated a combined "profit" of £594 million from their on and off-street parking operations, the foundation said.
This was a 5% increase on the figure of £565 million for 2011/12, and just 52 of the 353 parking authorities in England reported a deficit in 2012/13.
The RAC said its data came from the annual returns councils make to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
The figures are calculated by adding up income from parking charges and penalty notices, then deducting running costs.
The authority with the largest surplus in 2012/13 was Westminster with £39.7 million. The four biggest earners were all in London with only Brighton, Nottingham and Manchester breaking into a top 10 dominated by councils in the capital.
Budgets submitted to the DCLG by local authorities suggest the surplus (before capital charges) for the current financial year will be higher still, at £632 million.
RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: "It is a case of deja vu. Once again English councils have made record amounts from parking.
"Yet overall spending on local roads has fallen by 9% over the past three years with road safety expenditure down by as much as 20%."
He went on: "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. What's more, council budgets show that the surplus for the current year is set to be higher.
The RAC Foundation published this table of the councils most in surplus (before capital charges) in 2012/13
1. Westminster, £39.70 million
2. Kensington & Chelsea, west London, £30.44 million
3. Camden, north London, £23.,53 million
4. Hammersmith & Fulham, west London, £19,39 million
5. Brighton & Hove, £ 16.25 million
6, Wandsworth, south London, £15.89 million
7. Lambeth, south London, £12.00 million
8, Nottingham City, £11,79 million
9. Manchester, £8,78 million
10. Islington, north London, £8.21 million
The RAC Foundation said Nottingham's surplus has grown significantly because of the introduction of the Workplace Parking Levy which is expected to raise £14 million a year.
Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association's economy and transport board, said: "This report further peddles the myth that councils are using parking charges to raise money.
"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."
He went on: "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."
A DCLG spokeswoman 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."
AA president Edmund King said: " It is no surprise that certain London boroughs are top of the parking profit league. Use of CCTV enforcement has mass produced parking tickets and some councils still ramp up parking charges to the detriment of local trade.
"The large majority of AA members in our polls say the cost of parking has big influence on where they visit."
Mr King went on: "Only a few dozen out of hundreds of councils now produce parking reports as recommended by the Government this further heightens feelings that they have something to hide.
"The AA welcomes the Department for Transport's recent consultation on local authority parking and hope it will lead to reigning in the worst of the excesses of some councils who still seem to want to wage war on drivers and local business."