Councils across England have collectively raked in an eye-watering £930 million surplus via parking fees between 2018 and 2019.
‘Raking’ It In
Councils throughout England have collectively accumulated a surplus of £930 million between 2018 and 2019 via parking fees. This staggering figure represents a 7% increase from the previous 12-month period, where the figure stood at £867 million. This figure itself is a rise from £744 million surplus achieved between 2015 and 2016. That’s according to research conducted by the RAC Foundation.
Overall, English councils received an income of £1.74 billion from parking related revenues over the last 12-month period. Around £454 million of this was produced by issuing fines and penalties. The amount councils spent on the running of parking infrastructure and services stood at £816 million; not including depreciation of assets or interest rates. Legally, this must be reinvested in parking services.
Money Moving In One Direction?
Whilst councils are generating an extraordinary amount of money via parking fees, there are concerns it’s not being managed properly. Steve Gooding, the RAC Foundation’s director, emphasised that money being spent on road infrastructure was actually going down. He said, “penalties now seem to account for nearly half of all on-street parking income. What will surprise drivers is that even as parking income soars, the amount of money being spent on routine road maintenance by councils has been in reverse”.
The RAC Foundation’s research was conducted by transport consultant David Leibling. He scrutinised data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Just 41 of 353 councils in England reported a loss on their parking operations. The most lucrative operations were in Westminster (£69.2 million), Kensington & Chelsea (£37.3 million) and Wandsworth (£26.3 million).
David Renard, a spokesman for the Local Government Association, responded to the research. He said, “councils are on the side of motorists and shoppers when setting parking policies which aim to make sure that there are spaces available for residents, high streets are kept vibrant and traffic is kept moving”. He added, “any income raised through on-street parking charges and fines is spent on running parking services and any surplus is only spent on essential transport projects, such as filling potholes, supporting concessionary bus fares to help reduce congestion and other local transport projects that benefit high streets and local economies”.
It’s clear that councils want to highlight the necessity of parking fees. According to their narrative, they pay for vital investments in the road network and transport-related infrastructure. However, as the RAC has pointed out, whilst revenues are going up, investment is actually going down. Precisely what’s happening with this money, then, isn’t entirely clear. But given that the UK is facing a ‘pothole pandemic’, there does seem to be some room to doubt at least some of David Renard’s explanation…
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