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Could councils be forced to cut parking charges?

Published 02 August 2013

Councils across England could be forced to cut parking charges following a landmark High Court judgement. It ruled it illegal for Barnet council to increase the cost of residents and visitor permits as a way of boosting revenue and subsidising its other services.

Residents argued that 10 per cent of locals who lived in controlled parking zones, were effectively subsidising transport across the whole borough and that rather than being part of a traffic management plan, the charges were being increased in order to pay for things such as fare concessions and other transport costs.

Mrs Justice Lang ruled that Barnet Council had misinterpreted the law in concluding that it was lawful 'to budget for a surplus of parking charges at any level which it considered appropriate in order to generate income for other transport purposes which it wished to fund.'

It's thought to be the first successful legal challenge against council parking charges and could mean thousands of resident claiming millions of pounds in unlawful parking costs. More importantly it could have implications across the UK and prevent similar increases now it's been deemed illegal for councils to use parking charges to raise money for other transport projects.

"In fact it is enshrined in law  that profits gained from on street charges and penalties must be ploughed back into a very limited number of things including maintaining the roads."

At the same time it's been revealed that councils in England made a total of £412 million from parking charges in 2011-2012 with the vast majority generating an often healthy profit from their on and off street charges.

The figures, sourced by the RAC Foundation, show that the actual total amount generated was £565 million - a £54 million increase on 2010-11, although this doesn't take into account the cost and investment in parking infrastructure such as ticket machines.

Not all councils made a profit from parking charges but out of the total only 14 per cent of the 359 councils made a deficit. Essex had the biggest shortfall, losing £1.8 million while Surrey had a £1.3 million deficit.

The biggest earners were, unsurprisingly, those councils in and around London but holiday destinations such as Cornwall and Brighton also made it into the top 10. Westminster made by far the biggest surplus with £41.6 million with Kensington & Chelsea second with £28.1 million.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said, "The bottom line is that hundreds of millions of pounds are being contributed annually to council coffers through parking charges and the drivers who are paying them have a reasonable expectation to see the cash spent on improving the roads.

"In fact it is enshrined in law – as underlined by the Barnet case – that profits gained from on street charges and penalties must be ploughed back into a very limited number of things including maintaining the roads."

 

 

 Account surplus before capital charges (£ millions)

 

 

2011/12

2010/11

2009/10

Change 2011 on 2009

1

Westminster

41.6

38.2

34.6

20%

2

Kensington & Chelsea

28.1

21.1

21.8

29%

3

Camden

25.0

21.1

10.5

139%

4

Hammersmith & Fulham

19.5

16.6

14.1

39%

5

Wandsworth

16.1

14.4

12.2

32%

6

Brighton & Hove UA

14.4

12.7

11.7

23%

7

Islington

10.9

5.6

5.0

118%

8

Cornwall UA

7.9

8.2

10.2

22%

9

Newham

7.3

3.9

1.8

306%

10

Hounslow

7.3

6.0

5.1

43%

View the whole table here:

Council Parking 2011-12

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