County gets £1.8m from car parking

While car parking is free in many areas of south east Northumberland, it is not in Morpeth.
While car parking is free in many areas of south east Northumberland, it is not in Morpeth.

Northumberland County Council has raked in more than £5.5m in car parking charges and fines over the last three years.

Statistics released by the RAC Foundation showed that in 2011-12, the local authority made £1.8m from parking charges and fines – placing it 81st nationally amongst local authorities.

But despite predicting to make £1.6m in the current financial year, the council has said that figure will be a lot less if plans are moved and agreed which would see all parking charges scrapped.

The authority is in discussions with local town and parish councils to produce plans for free parking to help stimulate high streets, with charges only used if there is a need for a scheme to manage high demand.

A spokesperson for the county said: “The council is working with town and parish councils in Northumberland with the aim of introducing free parking to stimulate economic benefits.

“We are urging local councils to produce parking plans and come up with innovative solutions that see parking charges used only where there is a traffic management need for managing high demand.”

The latest RAC Foundation figures – which show the county council made £1.7m in 2010-11 and £1.9m in 2009-10 – come as the government is calling on authorities to support town centres by avoiding high parking prices.

With councils around the country predicting to make £635m profit from parking charges and fines in this current financial year, calls are being made to look again at charges.

Local government secretary Eric Pickles, MP, said: “This £635m municipal parking profit shows why we need to review and rein in unfair town hall parking rules.

“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.”

In regards to Northumberland’s figures, the council spokesperson said: “Like the other councils, we operate within government guidance.

“The council has a number of income and expenditure budgets which we balance at a global level.

“We don’t specify what particular income budget funds a particular expenditure budget, but the relatively small level of surplus car parking income we have offsets expenditure within highways within our accounts.

“Our accounts are open and accessible on the website.

“The charge that Northumberland makes for residents’ parking permits only covers the cost of administering the scheme and there is no surplus.

“All other council parking permits represent good value for money and offer significant savings as an alternative to pay and display.”