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Transport boost as councils collect record £750m surplus from parking charges

The surplus cash that councils have gained from overseeing parking charges and penalty notices in England has reached a record high of £756m, the RAC Foundation has reported.

In 2015-16, England’s 353 local authorities generated a combined ‘profit’ of £756m from their on- and off-street parking activities, 9% higher than the 2014-15 figure of £693 million, and 34% higher than in 2011-12.

The figures, analysed for the RAC Foundation by the transport consultant David Liebling, was calculated from examining councils’ annual returns to the DCLG, and has been put down to a lucky combination of growing income and decreasing costs for councils – with almost 10 million more cars on British roads than 20 years ago.

Steve Gooding, the foundation’s director, said: “These numbers might seem eye-wateringly large, but in part they reflect the growing competition for space in many of our towns and cities.

“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.”

Not all individual councils made a surplus on their parking activities – 49 (14%) authorities reported negative figures, with North Yorkshire having by far the largest ‘loss’ of -£1m.

The largest surpluses were, unsurprisingly, seen in London, with the capital’s 33 boroughs making £332m between them, almost 45% of the total. Westminster had the largest surplus in England in 2015-16 (£55.9m), followed by Kensington & Chelsea (£34.2m) and Camden (£25.2m).

Responding to the RAC Foundation’s report, Cllr Judith Blake, transport spokesperson for LGA, explained that income from on-street parking charges is spent on running parking services, while councils spend surpluses on essential transport projects such as road repairs, creating new parking space and providing subsidised bus travel for children and the elderly.

“Councils are on the side of hard-pressed motorists, shoppers and businesses but 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 and we can keep traffic moving,” Blake said.

“The growing demand for parking from traffic increases on our roads means parking services are playing an increasingly important role in reducing congestion and keeping pedestrians and motorists safe.”

Outside of London, the biggest surpluses in the last financial year were reported by Brighton & Hove (£20.1 million), followed by Nottingham (£13.6 million) and Milton Keynes (£10.8 million).

The figure for Nottingham, which reported the ninth largest surplus in the country, was significantly influenced by approximately £9m of income from its innovative Workplace Parking Levy, which is now in its fourth year.

Cllr Alan Clark, energy and sustainability portfolio holder for Nottingham City Council, wrote in PSE’s Oct/Nov 16 issue about how the Levy, which encourages employers and employees to consider alternative travel options, has helped the council reach its climate change targets four years early.


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