RAC Cars News


Cheaper Parking On the Way?

By raccars Published

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A groundbreaking High Court judgement has been passed that could affect the way councils charge for parking. Barnet Council was told increasing parking charges for residents and visitor permits to levy income was illegal in a case that could have a knock-on effect countrywide.

Barnet residents challenged the council with the argument that residents of controlled parking areas were paying to support transport services in the borough. Parking charges that were ostensibly classed as a traffic management scheme were in fact used to subsidise reduced fares and a wider range of transport expenses. Barnet Council's defence was that it was perfectly legal for it to re-purpose the surplus parking income for other transport uses.

The case has gained a high profile following as it is believed to be the first time a challenge to the legality of council parking fees has been successful, leading the way for thousands of resident to launch similar challenges against their council parking charges. The issue under debate is the policy of using parking fee income to fund other transport schemes.

In 2011-2012, British councils earned £412 million through charging for resident and visitor parking, a significant amount of which was diverted to alternative transport projects. RAC Foundation research shows that the total income was in fact £565 million, up by £54 million from the previous year, but the figures were adjusted to reflect expenses such as ticket machines and other parking infrastructure investments.

Overall, only 14% of 359 local councils failed to make a profit from their parking charges for the year 2011-2012, among which were Essex, which had a £1.8 million deficit and Surrey, which came up £1.3 million short. London councils proved to be the biggest earners, closely followed by popular holiday destinations including Brighton and Cornwall.

Capital residents will be unsurprised to hear that Westminster held the number one spot with a parking charge surplus income of £41.6 million, with Kensington and Chelsea taking the second place with a £28.1 million surplus. Camden was next with £25 million. The top 10 continues with Hammersmith and Fulham, Wandsworth, Brighton and Hove, Islington, Cornwall, Newham and Hounslow.

The landmark court case means that in the future councils could be forced to use parking and penalty charge surplus income to fund a specific list of appropriate road maintenance projects rather than a wider range of transport projects or to forego increases.

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