Councils expect to make almost £900million from parking fees this year after imposing punishing hikes on shoppers driving into town centres
Local councils expect to make almost £900million from parking fees this year after imposing punishing hikes on shoppers driving into town centres.
The extraordinary haul predicted by town halls – £100million more than for 2017/18 – has raised fresh fears over the future of Britain’s high streets, as fed-up customers turn to out-of-town shopping centres or home delivery from internet retailers.
As parking fees soar, local councils are expected to rake in a fortune
In the most extreme cases, local authorities forecast their parking profit – which they call a surplus – will more than double, according to official figures provided to the Government.
The RAC Foundation, which analysed the figures, said the total surplus could even top £1billion for the first time as officials have historically underestimated the amount they will make. Even if official forecasts are correct, it will mean councils’ parking surplus – the amount left once operating costs are deducted – will have soared more than a third in just five years.
Tory MP Sir Greg Knight added: ‘Hiking parking charges is likely to prove to be the final nail in the coffin for many high street businesses.
‘It might bring short-term gains but has long-term consequences of a potentially dire nature.’
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According to the RAC analysis, the 354 local authorities in England made an estimated surplus from parking of £786million in 2017/18 but they are expecting this figure to rise by 13 per cent to £885million this financial year.
They made £658million in 2013/14, meaning profits are set to soar by 34 per cent in just five years.
James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: ‘Expensive parking charges are a major contributor to consumers avoiding high streets, as shopping online or out-of-town is almost always free.’
The cost of parking is soaring across much of the country. Northampton Borough Council expects to make £1.9million from parking this year. If its predictions are correct, this will equate to a 262 per cent rise in just one year.
Havant in Hampshire is expecting a 186 per cent increase, while the City of London is forecasting a 140 per cent rise. The amount generated by parking is also expected to at least double in Devon, Mole Valley in Surrey and Tameside in Greater Manchester.
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A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium said: ‘It is unacceptable to use parking charges as a source of local revenue. Excessive parking charges discourage visitors and harm the local economy.’
An audit by the Local Government Information Unit think-tank earlier this year reported as many as half of councils were planning to raise parking charges this year.
Councillor Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s economy spokesman, said: ‘Councils are on the side of motorists and shoppers.
‘They have to strike a balance when setting parking policy to make sure there are spaces available for residents, high streets are kept vibrant and traffic is kept moving.
‘Income raised is spent on parking services and any surplus is spent on essential transport projects, such as tackling our £9billion roads repair backlog and other transport projects that benefit high streets and local economies.’
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