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RAC Foundation highlights council parking surplus

Local authorities made a £565m surplus from parking services last year, new analysis by the RAC Foundation shows.

In 2011-12, councils generated £54m more than the year before. By law, any such surplus has to be spent on transport services and cannot be used to plug holes elsewhere in council budgets. After capital charges to replace infrastructure, the total surplus was £412m.

52 councils reported a deficit, but the biggest surplus was found in Westminster with £41.6m. Brighton & Hove and Cornwall also ran up big surpluses.

RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: “For many local authorities, parking charges are a nice little earner, especially in London.

“Not all authorities make big sums. Several run a current account deficit and indeed of those with surpluses many will see the money vanish when capital expenditure is taken into account.

“But the bottom line is that hundreds of millions of pounds are being contributed annually to council coffers through parking charges.”

And communities’ secretary Eric Pickles said “unfair town hall parking rules” must be reviewed and curbed.

“The law is clear that parking is not a tax or cash cow for town hall officers,” he added.

Cllr Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Economy and Transport Board, explained: “Parking revenue is spent on paying for parking services. Any money left over goes towards transport services like filling potholes, concessionary travel, park and rides, street lights and road improvement projects. As the report makes clear, many councils have to subsidise parking services as the cost is not covered by charges.

“Parking charges and fines help councils keep traffic flowing and pedestrians and motorists safe. They also help keep the roads clear for emergency services and business deliveries, and ensure that people can park near their homes or local shops.”

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