Angry motorists hit back last night as it was revealed English councils made a record £756 million profit in parking fees in just one year.
The ‘eye-watering’ figure was up by a more than a third in five years, the RAC Foundation said. It was also £66 million higher than town halls had budgeted for in 2015-16.
Campaigners accused councils of filling their coffers by going after ‘easy targets’ and using motorists as ‘cash cows’.
Hugh Bladon, from the Alliance of British Drivers, said: ‘It’s a shocking state of affairs. It’s expensive enough running a car without councils robbing us blind to park. The councils are cash-strapped and motorists provide such an easy target.
‘Councils would do much better if they provided better parking provisions, especially in city centres. It would encourage people to visit high streets and spend more money, boosting the local economy.’
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, added: ‘Councils are raking it in from parking costs and motorists have every right to feel like they are being used as cash cows.
‘Funding our road system is important but there are already sky-high taxes on fuel and car ownership, so councils must be careful that they don’t heap even more pressure on to hard-pressed taxpayers. What’s also important is that local authorities do not see these charges as a way of plugging gaps in their finances, instead of taking important decisions on spending.’
Westminster Council in London made £55.9 million, followed by Kensington and Chelsea (£34.2 million) and Camden (£25.2 million).
Outside of the capital, Brighton & Hove was the highest earner, making £20.1 million, followed by Nottingham (£13.6m), Milton Keynes (£10.8m), Birmingham (£9.8m), Cornwall (£9.8m), Manchester (£8.9m) and Bristol (£7.7m).
Town hall officials collected £1.5 billion from on- and off-street parking and fines in 2015-16. Income from fines jumped 3 per cent to £338m and cash from fees and permits for on-street permits was up 2 per cent to £483m. Off-street parking income was up 5 per cent to £682million.
Councils describe the extra money as a surplus rather than a profit because money made from on-street parking must by law be spent on transport projects.
Judith Blake, transport spokesman at the Local Government Association, said: ‘Councils do not make a profit from parking.
‘Income from on-street parking charges is spent on running parking services and surpluses are spent on essential transport projects, such as tackling the £12 billion roads repair backlog.
‘The growing demand for parking from traffic increases on our roads means parking services are playing an increasingly important role in reducing congestion and keeping pedestrians and motorists safe.’
The excess cash raised by the 353 councils jumped by 9 per cent on last year and is up 34 per cent on the £693m made in 2011-12.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘These numbers might seem eye-wateringly large, but in part they reflect the growing competition for space in many of our towns and cities.
In 1995 there were only 21.4 million cars on Britain’s roads, today there are 30.7 million. Parking charges are one of the tools councils use to keep traffic moving.’
One in seven councils reported a loss, with running costs higher than parking income.