Westcountry councils earned £189 a minute on parking in a year when spending on road maintenance fell, new figures have revealed.
Income from pay and display tickets, parking permits and fines was in excess of £41 million last year in the South West – actually a drop of 14% from the previous year.
Authorities in the region have been accused of treating drivers as ‘cash cows’, while one council pledged to increase its fees for parking to make the most of the income.
The total revenue from parking charges across the South West works out as the equivalent to £189 per-minute at a council car park during tariff hours of 8am to 6pm, seven days a week including bank holidays.
Motorists in Devon handed-out more than £14m in parking charges in 2012, and those in Cornwall paid-out almost £5.7m, according to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). Exeter City Council topped the list of authorities in Devon, receiving £3.1m from parking, up 38% from the previous year.
But the Labour-led authority still planned to increase charges in some car parks following a 27% funding cut over the past four years.
Rachel Sutton, city councillor responsible for transport, said: “Putting up car parking charges is never going to be a popular move. We need to, like all businesses, make our assets work. Our funding from the Government is steadily declining. And because we own our car parks, that income helps us to keep council tax low for Exeter residents.”
Exeter Chamber of Commerce, the leading business organisation in the city, expressed “concerns” about the council’s move which would come into effect on January 21. Derek Phillips, chamber vice president said: “We will be raising our concerns at our regular quarterly meeting with the City Council on Monday evening.”
In England councils made over £411m in parking charges last year – an increase of almost 15% since 2011.
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “This massive rise in parking charges over the last year suggests that councils are using already hard-pressed motorists as a cash cow.
“What’s more, these hikes in parking charges are likely to have discouraged people from driving into town centres to go shopping, meaning that high street businesses suffer too.”
IAM chief executive Simon Best said: “Councils are making record-breaking profits from parking, while cutting road safety spending on life-saving services such as education for young drivers, cycle training, and safe routes to schools schemes. Cuts to road maintenance will mean a backlog of repairs which will cost more n the long term.”