Local councils made a healthy profit from their car parks, new figures have revealed – £600,000 a year in Preston alone.
Across the UK, the surplus cash from car parking charges has reached a record high, but councils in central Lancashire are generally generating less excess cash.
Profits from Preston City Council have fallen steadily over the years, from £716,000 in 2011/12 down to £638,000 in 2015/16.
It’s a similar story in Chorley, where profits have fallen from £601,000 in 2011/12 to £431,000 in 2015/16.
It was a different story in South Ribble, which went in to profit this year, after steadily losing money on its car parks for the last four years.
In 2015/16 the council made a profit of £9,000. In the previous years, the service had run at a loss – losing £59,000 in 2011/12.
A council spokesman said the turnaround in profits had been achieved by streamlining the service and cutting costs.
Wyre Council did not provide a comment but said its ‘fuller’ figures showed profits fell from £204,521 to £139,828 last year. The figures were compiled by motoring organisation the RAC, which revealed the council making the biggest profit was Westminster, which made £55.9m in 2015/16.
Further up the Lancashire coast, Blackpool council made £3.7m from people parking in the resort last year.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, 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.
“In 1995 there were only 21.4 million cars on Britain’s roads, today there are 30.7 million.
“Parking charges are one of the tools councils use to keep traffic moving whilst also allowing people reasonable and affordable access to high street shops and other facilities.
“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.”
Year / PRESTON / South Ribble / Chorley
2015/16 / £638,000 / + £9,000 / £431,000
2014/15 / £622,000 / - £20,000 / £418,000
2013/14 / £790,000 / - £34,000 / £444,000
2012/13 / £764,000 / - £59,000 / £494,000
2011/12 / £716,000 / - £59,000 / £601.000
Total / £3.5m / £153,000 loss / £2.38m
Preston Council was unable to provide a comment.
Councillor Graham Walton, South Ribble Borough Council cabinet member with responsibility for Neighbourhoods and Street Scene, said: “The change in the figures between 2014/15 and 2015/16 is due to a number of factors.
“We have worked really hard to streamline the service and cut down on costs.
“On top of this, we’ve found the number of people using the council-run car parks has increased this year, which is testament to the popularity of local businesses that people are visiting.
“We will show our support for traders in the borough over the festive period by suspended parking charges for all motorists on our car parks (except Leyland Rail Station) after 10am from the period of December 12 to December 24.”
Gary Hall, Chorley Council chief executive, said: “As you can see, Chorley’s figures have reduced considerably over the past few years and any surplus is reinvested back into transport and environmental improvements.
“The figure will reduce again in the coming year as we introduce even more free parking in the town.
“The free parking we’ve provided so far has proved extremely popular and worked well.
“This includes 30 minutes free parking in Market Street and on Fleet Street car park, three hours free parking on the new Cleveland Street car park, and free parking on all car parks after 5pm on weekdays, from 1pm on Saturdays and all day Sunday.
“From April 1 2017, all our short stay car parks, apart from the Flat Iron, will have one hour free parking, and all our long stay car parks will have three hours free parking.
“We have some of the cheapest car parks around and we intend to ensure that continues as the current charges will remain the same on short stay car parks and will become even cheaper on long stay car parks.”