BUSINESS leaders in Torbay have welcomed a salvo from Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles warning councils not to treat motorists as 'cash cows' with parking charges.
Torbay Council is the third biggest earner in the south west with its car parking revenues.
In the region, councils are forecast to pocket a £30million profit from motorists in parking fees and fines this year, according to new government figures.
The three biggest earners in the south west for 2013 to 2014 are expected to be Cornwall Council (£6.6million profit), Exeter City Council (£4million) and Torbay (£3.5million).
Torbay made just over £3million that year , up from £2.7million the year before and £2.6million in 2009/10.
Teignbridge made £1.8million in 2011/12 and the South Hams made £1.7million.
Mr Pickles said: "The law is clear that parking is not a tax or cash cow for town hall officers.
"Councils aren't listening, and local shops and hard-working families are suffering as a result."
He has called for councils to put to an end 'Draconian' parking policies which he says are contributing to the death of high streets.
He wants to see charges lowered and speed bumps and parking bollards got rid of, claiming they put people off from travelling into towns to shop.
Cllr Robert Excell, in charge of parking policies in the Bay, has revealed another review is being planned.
He agreed car parking should not be used as a cash cow, insisting revenue was used for repairs and transport improvements.
He said: "My mantra is making parking affordable. We are talking to residents and traders about the issue and have started to bring some of the parking charges down for residents.
"We still have a long way to go and parking should not be used as a cash cow.
"We have to make affordable so we increase footfall in our town centres."
Cllr Excell said another parking review would take place next month and would once again involve traders and residents.
John Doherty, from Dot's Pantry in Torquay town centre and chairman of the Torquay BID steering group, said high parking costs were responsible for a 25 per cent downturn in trade.
He added: "When talking to customers they are always complaining of the high costs of parking which is why they don't come so often into the town centre.
"Torbay Council don't seem to understand the cost of parking is part of the offer and people do take it into consideration when shopping.
"I understand they are trying to make up any money the government has taken away from them, but they could be entrepreneurial about it rather than just cash collecting."
Mr Doherty said while the £50 off peak parking permit for residents was to be welcomed, more could be done to generate money for the town and alleviate the pain for motorists.
He said: "They could use car parks for car boot sales, for auto traders, or offer a camper van service like they do in France."
James Cross, chairman of the Torquay Chamber of Trade, said: "We welcome Mr Pickles' comments which have highlighted an issue which is one for each council to look at and make sure that parking charges are not used as a cash cow or kill town centres."