Parking profits earn Scottish councils £80k a day

Picture: Jon Savage
Picture: Jon Savage
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Scottish councils are accused today of using parking charges and fines as “big cash generators” after figures showed some had more than doubled their parking profits in a year.

Moray’s parking “surplus” rocketed by 117 per cent to £358,000 in 2011-12 compared with the previous year.

Perth and Kinross and Aberdeenshire’s increased by 43 per cent each, to £1 million and £282,000 respectively.

The figures, published by the RAC Foundation and based on the latest available Scottish Government statistics, show local authorities made a total of £29m from parking after operating and capital costs were removed. The profit increased from £28.6m in 2010-11.

Figures were provided by all but East Lothian, Inverclyde and North Lanarkshire councils.

Edinburgh made the largest surplus, which increased by 7 per cent to £14m, followed by Glasgow, whose £6.8m fell by 2 per cent. Third-placed Aberdeen’s rose 1 per cent to £4.3m.

However, 12 councils lost money on parking, which the RAC Foundation said could be because they had spent a lot on car parks or did not charge for parking.

Half of Edinburgh’s transport spending is funded by parking, compared to 28 per cent in Aberdeen and a fifth in Glasgow. Elsewhere it is in single figures.

Professor Stephen Glaister, the RAC Foundation’s director, said: “For many local authorities, especially in Scotland’s two biggest cities, parking charges are big generators of cash.

“Not all authorities make big sums, but added together the surpluses dwarf the deficits. Faced with these figures, drivers will understandably want to know why parking charges are set at the level they are and what happens to the ‘profit’.

“We would hope that the money is being ploughed back into local roads.”

The Institute of Advanced Motorists said councils must make it clearer to drivers how parking profits were spent.

Scotland-based policy and research director Neil Greig said: “Councils must stop seeing parking as a source of revenue and more as a tool to attract much- needed footfall into our high streets. Transparency is the key, with councils having to be much more open about where the money goes and justifying the millions they are making.

“Yes, their profits must by law go back into transport, but what does that mean – fewer potholes, better road markings, new signs, more buses? The day-to-day experience of most drivers is they are paying lots more but getting little obvious benefit back.”

Edinburgh’s transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “As a major UK city and capital of Scotland, Edinburgh must keep traffic moving, accommodate all road users and promote economic vitality. Parking enforcement is a very important tool in achieving these outcomes. Charges for permits and on-street parking are used to manage demand for limited kerbside space and encourage drivers to make informed choices about their mode of transport.”

Moray Council said most of its surplus rise was due to accounting changes, so the two years were not directly comparable.

A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council, whose surplus increased from £197,000 to £282,000, said: “The surplus will reflect both changes in charges and efficiencies achieved in relation to running costs.”

A Perth and Kinross Council spokesman said: “The reason there will have been a larger surplus in 2011-12 is, during that year, the council will not have spent as much on infrastructure improvements as during the previous 12 months.”