Parking charges are set to make councils £1 billion for the first time, analysis has shown amid fears that motorists are being “punished”.
This will mean that the surplus from parking charges across England has doubled in the last decade and increased by 34 per cent in the last four years alone, analysis for the RAC Foundation found.
The record estimate for 2019/2020 comes despite fears that the charges have a damaging effect on local businesses and struggling town centres.
The figure led to calls for a review of the system to ensure motorists are not being targeted by by cash-strapped authorities in order to make money.
It comes despite previous warnings from the Department for Communities and Local Government that councils should not “use parking as a cash cow”.
However, councils insist that they do not make a profit as any money made from parking activities must be spent on local transport projects.
Many of the highest totals for budgeted surpluses from this financial year were seen in London, with Westminster having the largest at £72.1 million followed by Kensington and Chelsea at £36 million and Camden at £28.3 million.
The biggest amount set to be made outside the capital was reported by Brighton and Hove at £24 million.
This was ahead of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole – which merge their parking operations – at £13.7 million, and Bristol at £12.5 million.
David Tredinnick MP, whose private members bill ensuring parking charges could be waived by councils to boost town centres became law in 2017, said that authorities needed to be careful not to use motorists as cash cows.
The Tory MP for Bosworth told the Telegraph he would “welcome a review” of the charges, adding: “I think where fines are being imposed in circumstances which are unnecessary or unfair or suspicious then I do think that needs to be reviewed.
“I have no doubt that some council see this as additional revenue and are punishing motorists.”
His concerns have been echoed by Gordon Millward, from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), who has said that councils “are cutting their noses off to spite their faces when they try to fill revenue gaps with parking charges”.
English councils have estimated a £913 million surplus from parking for 2019/20 which is the money made from charges, residents’ permits and penalties once running costs have been taken into account.
However, research has shown that they have underestimated the money they will make from parking by between 9% and 10% over the past three financial years, suggesting the final surplus for the current 12-month period could top a billion pounds.
In 2015/2016 council across England made a surplus of £744 million, according to the analysis of the budget figures provided by English councils to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Some 278 of the 343 councils reported that they expected to record a surplus from parking, while 65 are preparing to break even or incur a loss.
Steve Gooding, RAC Foundation director, said that the money would represent “quite a windfall from a service that is intended to be all about managing traffic”.
He said: “Not every authority makes big money, some even run at loss, but where authorities are making money drivers might reasonably hope that some finds its way specifically into tackling road repairs not just on transport more generally.”
However, Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, insisted that “councils are on the side of motorists and shoppers”.
He said: “They have to strike a balance when setting parking policy, both on-street and off-street, to make sure that there are spaces available for residents, high streets are kept vibrant and traffic is kept moving.
“Councils don’t make profit on parking charges. Any income raised through on-street parking charges is spent on running parking services and any surplus is only spent on essential transport projects, such as tackling our national £9 billion roads repair backlog and other transport projects that benefit high streets and local economies.”