Parking is £5m 'earner' for B&NES Council

Published on: 12 Aug 2013

Bath and North East Somerset Council generated a £5.1 million surplus from its parking charges in 2011-12, figures reveal.

Ranking England’s 359 local authorities by highest surplus, the survey places B&NES at number 22.

Locally, this puts it ahead of Bristol City Council, which was placed at number 35 with a £3.7 million surplus, and way above neighbouring South Gloucestershire where parking operations were run with a £578,000 deficit, placing the council almost at the bottom of the list at 357.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, which analysed the figures, said the results showed parking charges were “a nice little
earner” for many local authorities.

In Keynsham, where traders have argued for free short-stay parking in the High Street for several years, Chamber of Commerce chairman Lynn Young said she believed the figures showed B&NES could afford to introduce the scheme.

She added that she felt there could be a “basic ruling” for all councils on issues such as parking charges.

“Two or three hours’ free parking gives shoppers and retail outlets a lot of help. It’s so unfair that you can go to Longwell Green and have free parking where there is no private retail while we are all struggling in Keynsham as private high street retailers.”

Keynsham councillor Charles Gerrish, who has supported the traders’ long-running parking campaign, said: “The level of surplus generated from the
whole of B&NES is a surprise and while most of this is no doubt generated by Bath, I suspect Keynsham will have made a contribution to this, although we do not have figures as to the overall costs.

“This information does, however, justify our case for the recently introduced free spaces in Keynsham. Many people in Keynsham still feel there is an argument that we should be regarded in the same way as Midsomer Norton – ie no charges at all.

“It also begs the question as to why we do not have better on-street enforcement on the High Street, as this is a subject on which I receive many complaints.”

B&NES Council leader Paul Crossley said parking charges in the council’s car parks had been frozen for three years, and added: “All parking charges support the council to balance its budget, which includes covering the cost of parking enforcement. Any decrease in parking income makes it more difficult to achieve local priorities, such as protecting services for the public, freezing council tax, and investment in new homes and jobs for local people.”

Using the annual returns local authorities make to the Department for Communities and Local Government, the RAC Foundation calculated the totals by offsetting the revenue from permits, on- and off-street parking charges and fines against the cost of running parking operations. Eric Pickles, who heads the government department, said last month that rising revenue from parking schemes – with councils forecasting a £635 million profit in 2013-14 – showed there was a “need to review and rein in unfair town hall parking rules”, amid concerns they were hitting the high street.

He said: “This government has scrapped the last administration’s Whitehall rules which told councils to hike up parking charges and adopt aggressive parking enforcement. But councils aren’t listening, and local shops and hard-working families are suffering as a result. The law is clear that parking is not a tax or cash cow for town hall officers.”

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