Council parking profits criticised

Local Councils have been accused of planning to profit from parking fees and fines at the expense of High Streets by the Government.

New official statistics show that, nationally, councils are forecast to make a £635 million surplus from parking charges and fines in 2013 to 2014. The figures also show that councils will make £34 million more in net income from parking charges this year than in 2012 to 2013. Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, pointed to these figures as evidence why town hall parking rules need to change.

The Coalition government has scrapped rules that bound councils to raising parking charges, and adopt strict enforcement. Ministers say they are considering what further steps can be taken to ensure that town hall parking policies and practices support local high streets.

Concerns have been raised that town hall parking rules are undermining local high streets and shopping parades. A 2012 survey found that almost 7 in 10 people intentionally avoided shopping areas with high parking prices. Two thirds said they would return to the high street if parking was more affordable. 1 in 5 felt there were not enough spaces available. It also found that 4 out of 5 people pay up to £150 per month for parking.

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.”

“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.”

Retail guru Bill Grimsey, currently undertaking a review of High Streets, also believes the High Street parking charges are making life even harder for High Streets. He thinks that while parking at out of town locations is free and plentiful, and that on High Streets is controlled and expensive, town centres will continue to struggle.

The BBC has published a table of the councils making the most money from parking. Unsurprisingly London councils fill eight of the top ten, with Wandsworth, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Hounslow, all featuring.

It is difficult for councils. The parking revenue stream is one of only a few they can control, so the temptation to profit from it to pay for other services regarded as essential is strong. However, the effect on their town centres may ultimately be a more powerful local effect.

If councils had control of more elements of their revenues, it would be easier for them to reduce charges and relax enforcement in ways likely to be more locally effective than Eric Pickles’ plan to allow wholesale parking on double yellow lines which, in some places, could bring unprecedented chaos or gridlock.

Giving councils a say on business rates, and the ability to keep them and spend them as they wished, would be a helpful step in the right direction.

 

The Top Ten profits from parking

  • Westminster £41.6m
  • Kensington and Chelsea £28.1m
  • Camden £25m
  • Hammersmith and Fulham £19.5m
  • Wandsworth £16.1m
  • Brighton and Hove £14.4m
  • Islington £10.9m
  • Cornwall £7.9m
  • Newham £7.3m
  • Hounslow £7.3m
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