Figures analysed by the RAC Foundation show the vast majority of local authorities in England generate a surplus from their parking activities. In 2011-12, English councils had a total current account surplus of £565 million from their on and off street parking operations. This figure is a £54 million increase on the £511 million surplus seen in 2010-11.
Even where huge ‘profits’ are absent, the picture is still largely one of surplus rather than deficit with just 52 (14%) of the 359 councils reporting negative numbers.
And even after capital charges are taken into account, the combined surplus in 2011-12 was still £412 million.
(For the link to the full table of all councils go to the RAC Foundation website.)
The data, studied for the RAC Foundation by David Leibling, comes from the annual returns that councils make to the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The authority with the biggest income is Westminster Council in London which made a surplus of £41.6 million in 2011-12. Only Brighton and Hove, and Cornwall councils break into a top ten dominated by London authorities.
The huge sums being made from local authority parking are revealed just days after a judge declared that Barnet Council had acted illegally in trying to set charges to raise general revenue, rather than as part of its traffic management plan.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said:
“For many local authorities, parking charges are a nice little earner, especially in the Capital.
“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 the drivers who are paying them have a reasonable expectation to see the cash spent on improving the roads.
“In fact it is enshrined in law – as underlined by the Barnet case last week – that profits gained from on street charges and penalties must be ploughed back into a very limited number of things including maintaining the roads.”