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Potholes and parking charges top motorists’ concerns

The RAC’s comprehensive annual report into motoring reveals widespread anger and concern about parking charges and potholes.

RAC Report on Motoring 2014 says that 67% of motorists feel parking restrictions are becoming more stringent, while the authors note: “Motorists are well and truly caught in the crossfire when it comes to parking – trapped between ever-increasing parking charges as some local authorities seek to raise extra revenues from parking to fill gaps in other areas of their budgets. Others reduce parking spaces to discourage the use of cars in town and city centres or, at best, have failed to provide extra parking to accommodate increased car usage over many years.”

The report says 22% of motorists have seen previously free parking spots having charges imposed and 67% of those who’ve noticed parking becoming more expensive have cut down on trips into town centres, while English councils’ total ‘current account surplus’ from on-and-off street parking operations has risen £54m since year last to £594m.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The bottom line is that hundreds of millions of pounds are being contributed annually to council coffers through parking charges and the drivers who are paying them have a reasonable expectation to see the cash spent on improving the roads. Sadly, this does not always happen – as was the case last year when a judge declared Barnet Council had acted illegally trying to set charges to raise general revenue, rather than as part of its traffic management plan.”

But the Local Government Association says the report is “not a true reflection of the reality of parking in our communities”.

A spokesman said: “Councils remain on the side of hard-pressed motorists by keeping a lid on parking charges which are only set to rise with inflation this year.

“Councils have to try and strike a balance when setting parking charges to ensure there are spaces available for everyone at all times of the day.

“Parking charges are essential to help councils keep traffic flowing and pedestrians and motorists safe. On-street parking revenue is spent on paying for parking services. Any surplus is spent on essential transport projects, such as tackling the £12bn roads repair backlog and creating new parking spaces.

“Local government is already the most open and transparent part of the public sector. Many councils already publish annual parking reports to make it easier and clearer for residents to understand and combat the deep-rooted misconceptions about parking.”

On potholes, another key concern of motorists according to the RAC report, Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Britain’s pothole-riddled roads are a national disgrace. Millions are paying the price for many years of underinvestment, risking damage to vehicles and threatening road users’ safety. The government should be embarrassed that our roads are in a worse state of repair than ever before. Motorists don’t want to hear a long list of excuses for our crumbling roads, they want to see action. More money needs to be ring-fenced by central government to establish a sustained, long-term roads repair programme which not only clears the unacceptable maintenance backlog, especially on the local roads, but provides investment upfront to ensure Britain’s shameful pothole pandemic never happens again. Ministers should focus on sorting out local road potholes rather than developing grandiose motorway plans.”

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