Parking Charges - Invested Into Infrastructure Or A Source Of Income?

Research shows councils make record profit from parking

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Figures analysed by the RAC Foundation show the vast majority of local authorities in England, including Wandsworth 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. The figure for Wandsworth was £16.1m.

This figure is a £54 million increase on the £511 million surplus seen in 2010-11. In this year Wandsworth surplus was £14.4m.

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.

Current account surplus before capital charges (£ millions)

  2011/12 2010/11 2009/10 Change 2011 on 2009
Westminster 41.6 38.2 34.6 20%
Kensington & Chelsea 28.1 21.1 21.8 29%
Camden 25.0 21.1 10.5 139%
Hammersmith & Fulham 19.5 16.6 14.1 39%
Wandsworth 16.1 14.4 12.2 32%
Brighton & Hove UA 14.4 12.7 11.7 33%
Islington 10.9 5.6 5.0 118%
Cornwall UA 7.9 8.2 10.2 22%
Newham 7.3 3.9 1.8 306%
Hounslow 7.3 6.0 5.1 43%

source: RAC Foundation

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.

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.

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.”

A spoeksman for the council said:
"Any surplus incomemust by law be spent on specified purposes, for instance improving highways and other transport-related issues. These include helping maintain roads and pavements and, in particular, the Freedom Pass scheme for older residents,as well as taxi cards for disabled people and paying the travel costs of disabled children and those with special needs who need help getting to and from special schools."

August 2, 2013