9 January 2013, 12:20
A road safety charity's unhappy councils are making huge profits from parking while cutting spending on safety.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists say councils in England took more than £411m in parking charges in 2011/12 - an increase of almost 15% on 2010/11.
Yet at the same time, the amount spent by councils on road safety, education and safe routes to schools, decreased by 18% to £105m, the IAM said.
It added that overall revenue spending on highways and transport reduced by 6% between 2010/11 and 2011/12, while capital expenditure (on construction, tarmac etc) reduced by an estimated 13%.
Milton Keynes Council was one of the highest earning councils outside London, taking more than £6.5m.
The IAM said the top council "earners'' from parking in 2011/12, all in London, were:
:: Westminster - up 8.7% from 2010/11 to £38 million;
:: Kensington and Chelsea - up 31% to £27.5 million;
:: Camden - up 18% to £25 million.
Outside London the biggest earners were:
:: Brighton and Hove - up 18.9% to £13.7 million;
:: Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire - up 9.3% to £6.5 million;
:: Newcastle upon Tyne - up 51% to £6.2 million.
IAM chief executive Simon Best said: "Councils are making record-breaking profits from parking, while cutting road safety spending on life-saving services such as, education for young drivers, cycle training, and safe-routes-to-schools schemes.
"At the same time cuts to road maintenance will mean a backlog of repairs which will simply cost more to fix in the long term.''
Peter Box, a councillor and chairman of the Local Government Association's economy and transport board, said: "Regulating parking is essential to keep traffic flowing, pedestrians and motorists safe, roads clear for emergency services and business deliveries, deterring drivers from blocking roads and pavements, and ensuring people can park near their homes or local shops.
"With the number of cars on our roads increasing, it's more crucial than ever that parking is properly managed.
"Council parking charges are set in consultation with local residents and businesses. Councils strive to strike a balance between discouraging commuters from clogging spaces all day while not putting people off from shopping locally, and they operate a range of incentives such as free Sundays, cheaper evenings, free Christmas parking and community group discounts.
"Councils also work hard to improve public transport and cycling provision to make it easier for people to travel without needing their car.
"Councils spend billions of pounds a year on transport services and are currently facing general budget cuts of up to 33% and a #442 million reduction in their highways maintenance budget. This means they have far less to spend on roads and transport initiatives.
"Surpluses from parking revenue help lessen the effect of these cuts as they must be spent on transport services such as filling potholes, bus passes for the elderly, park and ride schemes, street lights, parking services and road improvement projects, things which benefit all road users at some point.''
Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said: "The coalition Government has scrapped the last government's rules which forced up parking charges and demanded aggressive planning enforcement. Councils should now be supporting their local high streets and wider economy.
"Under our local government finance reforms, councils will now benefit from calling off the war on the motorist, encouraging shoppers and growing their town centres.
"However, the analysis by the Institute is wrong. Income from on-street and off-street parking only rose by 3.7% in the last year, which is lower than the prevailing rate of inflation. The Institute have failed to adjust for the fact that councils have cut costs through efficiency savings.''
Here are the parking charges for local authority areas in Beds, Herts, Bucks and Northants
(figures shown as Local Authority Name / 2010-11 (£) / 2011-12 (£))
Aylesbury Vale 2,510,000-466,000
Central Bedfordshire 4,000-12,000
Dacorum 158,000 455,000
East Northamptonshire- 92,000-91,000
Huntingdonshire 450,000 - 261,000
Luton 764,000 - 624,000
Milton Keynes 5,918,000 - 6,468,000
North Hertfordshire 460,000 - 364,000
Northampton 2,366,000 - 1,295,000
South Northamptonshire- 56,000-4,000
Stevenage 1,163,000 - 1,378,000
Watford 766,000 - 965,000