RAC Cars News


UK gets into a tight spot with parking spaces

By raccars Published

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The BBC’s Parking Mad series has just come to an end and was a ratings hit. It seemed to touch a nerve with British motorists who are finding it harder to secure a parking space anywhere near their home or place of work. It is not just the motorist’s imagination that finding a parking space is getting difficult and it is not purely down to the increasing number of cars on our roads.

Instead, it is at least partly due to an initiative by local authorities to deliberately reduce the number of parking spaces available, as Professor Nick Hounsell of Southampton University’s Transport Research Group, confirms: "Over the past decade or so, there have been a number of initiatives used by local authorities to try and reduce the number of parking spaces available. It’s linked to promoting the use of more sustainable modes of transport: cycling, walking and public transport."

The issue is public transport is not always a viable option, or even available at all. At the same time, city businesses are being pressed to develop plans to reduce the number of their staff commuting in private cars. In addition to the spread of yellow lines, parking charges are also on the increase, reaching a point where they are becoming uneconomic to the average commuting motorist. Again, there is evidence that this is intentional.

In December 2013, the RAC Foundation carried out an investigation into councils’ use of parking charges and fines. This revealed the record profits being enjoyed by councils in England and suggested that this cash was being used to make up for funding cuts. The research confirmed that councils made a profit of £594 million in the financial year ending April 2013, up from £565 million on the previous year. The profit figures are derived by adding up all the income the councils got from parking charges and fines and then deducting the costs of running the service. Councils are banned from making a profit from parking but a famous High Court case in 2013, concerning Barnet council, found that it had been using inflated parking permit charges to pay for cheap bus travel and road repairs.

This practice was roundly condemned by Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, who said: "We are looking into the potentially illegal use of councils’ parking contracts. Councils should open their books so that any interested members of the public can scrutinise local parking practice and expose any dodgy deals."

It remains to be seen whether Mr Pickles’ challenge will have an effect on the latest council parking figures.

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