Millions pocketed through council parking charges

Library picture
Library picture

With almost nine million pounds pocketed by Lancashire’s councils through parking related charges in the last financial year, TOM EARNSHAW breaks down where the money comes from and where it goes once it leaves your wallet.

We’ve all done the frantic dash to the car – arms weighed down with heavy shopping bags – where you’ve risked putting only one hour of parking on your car’s windscreen, not wanting to pay for a second and hoping the parking warden is a little behind on his ticket checks.

Parking meter.

Parking meter.

But whether you beat the looming warden or not, for Lancashire’s councils, a combination of parking and penalty charges, and parking permits, has seen them rake in a surplus of almost nine million pounds in the last financial year.

It means that in the last five years, surplus income has risen by a third (33 per cent), from £6,634,000 to £8,887,000.

The data, from The RAC Foundation, finds that Lancashire County Council made a profit of £694,000 in 2016/17.

A county council spokesman said: “The main aim of parking management is not to make a profit but to minimise disruption from illegal parking and keep our roads moving so that people can get to work, and easily visit our town and city centres for shopping and other services.

Breakdown of parking profits for councils across Lancashire.

Breakdown of parking profits for councils across Lancashire.

“Revenue from parking pays for the cost of operating the service, and the law requires that when parking generates a surplus, it is always reinvested in the county’s transport infrastructure.”

For Preston Council, a surplus of £712,000 was filed for 2016/17.

Coun Peter Moss said: “The quoted figures are significantly reduced by capital charges and staff costs. Any surplus is used to support the provision of valuable council services, such as benefits advice, and parks and open spaces.”

At Chorley Council, £387,000 was pocketed in 2016/17. Council leader Alistair Bradley said: “We’ve been offering more free and cheaper parking to bring in more visitors and support our town centre traders so that’s why the income is going down.

“Any money we raise through parking is generally spent on the car parks whether that’s through maintenance or improving the offer with services like our trial park and ride.”

South Ribble Council took home £7,000 in profits. Coun Graham Walton said: “Any income we generate from receiving parking fines is simply injected back into the service: maintaining, running and staffing our car parks.

"The ‘RinGo’ app we’ve introduced also allows drivers to top-up their parking while they’re out and about, helping them to avoid fines and having to ‘hurry back’.”

A spokesman for Fylde Council disputed the RAC's figures, stating that for 2016/17 their books show a surplus of £300,530.

They said: “The surplus funds raised through the provision of off-street parking facilities are used to off-set the costs to the Council of providing services to the public. Without these surplus funds, those costs would have to be met through Council Tax.”

Similarly, Wyre Council took issue with the figures next to its name.

A spokesman said: "The figures in the RAC report do not include capital charges and therefore do not accurately show the financial status.

"In recent years, our car park facilities have changed and in some areas reduced, such as the disposal of the Teanlowe Car Park in Poulton-le-Fylde to a retailer.

"We have begun a five week consultation into the car park facilities in Wyre to learn how we can improve these areas and whether there are changes that could be made to increase their usage. Anyone can take part in the consultation by visiting www.wyre.gov.uk/carparking.

"Although our figures do not show a surplus, any surplus would be used to contribute to the wider services provided by the council."