London councils head list of parking charge surpluses


Motorists give their views on parking charges in Westminster and elsewhere

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Parking charges are providing huge cash surpluses for some English councils, according to the RAC Foundation.

The 359 councils across England had a total current account surplus of £565m from on and off-street parking schemes in 2011-12, according to the figures.

Eight of the biggest 10 surpluses came from London councils with Westminster leading the way with a £41.6m profit.

Westminster City Council disputed many of the figures but said it would work with motorists to reduce fines.

The other two councils outside London making the top 10 were Brighton and Hove in sixth with £14.4m and Cornwall in eighth with £7.9m.

The total profit represented a £54m increase on the surplus from 2010-11 and only 52 of the councils reported a deficit on their 2011-12 parking operations.

The RAC Foundation figures, produced for them by transport consultant David Leibling, are from the annual returns councils are required to provide to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

They are based on three factors - on-street parking charges, off-street parking charges and parking penalties.

Running costs of parking operations are deducted from this total to produce the surplus or deficit figure.

Top 10 parking surpluses

  • Westminster £41.6m
  • Kensington and Chelsea £28.1m
  • Camden £25m
  • Hammersmith and Fulham £19.5m
  • Wandsworth £16.1m
  • Brighton and Hove £14.4m
  • Islington £10.9m
  • Cornwall £7.9m
  • Newham £7.3m
  • Hounslow £7.3m

Source: RAC Foundation. Figures for 2011-12

Tackling congestion

Transport minister Norman Baker said: "The law is quite clear. Councils should not be pricing their parking in order to make a profit.

"Any monies raised from parking in excess of the cost of administration has to go back to transport purposes which can be dealing with potholes, improved road management or can be investing in public transport to encourage people to free up the roads.

Subtracting the money spent by councils on capital projects - such as fixing potholes or traffic schemes - the surplus for 2011-12 stands at the "still very large figure" of £412m, a spokesman for the RAC Foundation said.

Details of what the money is spent on is not provided to the Department for Communities and Local Government, he added.

While disputing some of the figures, Westminster City Council still signalled its intention to work with road users to reduce fines.

Local Government Association's David Sparks: "Local authorities are reviewing their parking charges"

Councillor Daniel Astaire, Westminster City Council cabinet member for business, said: "The system is already changing and councils are already looking to work with motorists to issue fewer fines and crucially increase the amount of people parking correctly.

"Parking is about traffic management, tackling congestion and trying to implement positive benefits for businesses and high streets.

"If we stay in this Jurassic age of pure rhetoric about cash cows and money making, innovation will be stifled and we cannot engage with motorists properly in order to find the best solutions that will benefit everyone."

Kensington and Chelsea Council made the second biggest surplus of £28.1m and a spokesman told BBC London: "There is a greater demand for parking spaces in Kensington and Chelsea than practically anywhere else in the country.

"The council has discretion on how to spend any surplus that may arise, within the allowable purposes provided for by Section 55 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984."

Professor Stephen Glaister, from the RAC Foundation: "Temptation to ramp up charges to pay for general council budget"

Havering Council had the second lowest figures in London, despite its surplus of £703,000 having gone up by £563,000.

A spokeswoman said: "These latest figures show our commitment to giving residents and visitors to the borough value for money, as well as showing our support for local high streets and as a result the wider economy.

"Despite being the third largest London borough, parking charges in Havering are still among the lowest in London and have stayed the same for several years. But in April this year, we cut prices even further."

'Cash cow'

Councillor Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association's economy and transport board, said: "Parking revenue is spent on paying for parking services.

"Any money left over goes towards transport services like filling potholes, concessionary travel and road improvement projects.

Is technology the answer to London's parking problems? BBC London's Tom Edwards finds out

"As the report makes clear, many councils have to subsidise parking services as the cost is not covered by charges.

"Parking charges and fines help councils keep traffic flowing and pedestrians and motorists safe."

On Wednesday, government figures showed that money made from parking charges and fines by English councils is set to continue to rise.

The councils expect that net income from parking services is likely to increase from £601m in 2012-13 to £635m in 2013-14.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said: "This municipal parking profit shows why we need to review and rein in unfair town hall parking rules. The law is clear that parking is not a tax or cash cow for town hall officers."

Last week, the High Court ruled against Barnet Council's move to raise the cost of residents' parking permits in a landmark victory for campaigners.

Mrs Justice Lang ruled that the council acted unlawfully when it increased permit costs to generate more money for road maintenance.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    14 Minutes ago

    To those people complaining about spending a few £s on parking in the town centre, how much do you think it cost you to drive there and back?

    Less than it would using public transport, and I wouldn't be there yet if I did use public transport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    'Councils screw motorists'

    OMG do the BBC know of any other scandals that the vast majority of the British public don't know about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    No surprise that my council, Milton Keynes, are close to the top of the list: for creating a surplus from fleecing motorists. Parking charges are amongst the highest I've ever seen outside London. In the meantime, some of the roads which were great a decade ago, are now close to third world tracks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.


    No... not a cash cow at all. It's all 'rhetoric', of course.

    Er... what planet are these idiots on? We all KNOW these are used to milk every penny from them hapless motorist. The numbers just prove the point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    .. I can tell you that it is all a pack of LIES.
    As it is, where I live, not many pot holes road scars have repaired properly for YEARS.
    So maybe you live somewhere that isn't charging enough to pay for pot hole repairs. Calm down and stop shouting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    "spend the surplus on the roads, which would benefit the 85% of journeys by car"

    Not really a smart move, as we head into an era of increasingly scarce and expensive energy. For each family, there is a fuel price point at which they can't use their car for silly one mile trips.

    Town centre policies have to start focusing on this rapidly developing, and irreversible phenomenon

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    People are confusing two things (1) fines for parking illegally - good thing, traffic flows more freely and safely if you don't like paying the fine then park your car more appropriately. (2) Car park charges - excessive charges are helping to kill off town centres - bad thing. Councils should enforce illegal parking penalties aggressively and use the money to reduce fees at car parks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    Phil Castle
    Why not put traffic wardens on anti-litter lout patrol once a week (Saturday night perhaps?)

    They could certainly make a bit of money out of those who insist on vomiting on the pavements on Friday and Saturday nights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    No comments so far on what councils do with these surpluses. Most goes on the three anti-car measures; road withdrawal, road denial and traffic hindering lights and signage. The more they take in, the more they spend closing roads altogether, putting in hazards and paying contractors to set lights sequences so as to frustrate traffic. Traffic volumes are massively down but so are average speeds.

  • Comment number 695.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    High parking charges are a byproduct of local politics.

    Whichever party controls the local council looks for ways to increase revenues so they can keep down council tax so at the next local election they can say 'we are the party that froze your council tax' thus winning votes & staying in power.

    Actual public service is more of a side-issue, its staying in power that counts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    daylight robbery again by councils shame on you,i suppose its to pay sum high ups severance payment w n e s

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    What really irritates me are the Council parking machines that don't give change but offer no option to pay by card. Another example of Councils seeking cash to which they are not entitled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    I'm sick to death of the PC mantra about "spending the surplus on public transport".
    Only about 13% of journeys are by bus and train. Fact! Check Eurostat.
    95% are by road. So why not actually spend the surplus on the roads, which would benefit the 85% of journeys by car. You know, that hated method of transport most of us actually use......

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    Why are all these people talking about fines? this article is about councils overcharging for parking legally not fines for parking illegally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.


    Car drivers aren't paying a fraction of what they cost the rest of us - it's not just the cost of the roads, it's the choking fumes and the damage they are doing to our children's planet"

    - The worst fumes come from diesel engines, which tend to power buses, lorries etc. Cars are actually cleaner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    "looking to work with motorists"
    "engage with motorists"
    "best solutions that will benefit everyone"

    If you haven't got anything original or meaningful to say, Cllr Astaire, it's best not to say anything at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    As everyone knows car owners are evil and must be demonised by local councils.
    If we all stop paying council tax the local councils wont have any money to pay anyone to fine drivers over parking.
    Also the fat cats that run the councils would have to go out and get real jobs so wont be able to fleece us anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    Why has it taken so long for the BBC to catch on to this...? Didn't we all know this already?

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    I just can't believe, with the imminent demise of town centres, that councils think charging car drivers is a wise move. No wonder people go to out-of-town 'Malls'. Illegal parking is one thing but charging people silly amounts of money simply to leave their car is going to speed up the death of shopping in towns. Might as well knock them all down and make car parks... oh, the irony!


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