£2,400,000, £2.4m, two million four hundred thousand … however you write it, it’s not an insignificant number, and yet that’s how much profit is being made each day through parking charges. Note the word profit, not revenue.

And despite that, some motorists are facing increases of up to 230% to park their vehicles from next month. The RAC Foundation are predicting that profits will clear £1bn for the year 2019/20.

That’s before we get to the whole ‘parking at work’ issue, and heaven help you if you happen to drive a diesel that’s a few years old. ‘Persecuted’ comes to mind, as does ‘cash cow’ and ‘stealth tax’.

Record profit, part II

Back in November 2018, we wrote an article about councils making record profits from parking, fines and charges for motorists daring to enter a city centre, we also noted that one in ten shops were empty, footfall in city centres fell by around 1.6% and out of town shopping was on the increase by a similar amount.

With that said, there was an element of at least a vague attempt by councils to assuage the concerns of the pro-motoring groups by keeping evening & Sunday rates lower; they couldn’t claim congestion was a problem, nor was there a need to limit church-goers from entering the city en masse. But come April, all pretence of ‘fairness’ ends.

Across the country, a number of councils are already planning on millions of pounds worth of extra revenue generation for the coming year and beyond, Edmund King, president of the AA says: “Some councils are already budgeting to make millions of pounds more from motorists, on top of the millions they already get, by increasing parking charges, extending restricted parking zones, enforcing new bus lanes and looking for new opportunities to catch drivers”.

Councillors are insisting that higher fees are necessary because of major budget cuts from central government, as well as “the need to tackle congestion”. Perhaps that’s the definitive proof that the motorist is seen as the answer to any budgetary shortfalls.

Transportation spending

Analysis from a money comparison site has shown that revenues from parking charges have increased by around £170m in the last five years, currently sitting around £867m per year, and yet the same analysis tells us that councils are spending approximately £400m less on road improvements than they were five years ago.
So where is that money going?

Some councils are on the verge of bankruptcy; in the early part of 2018, Northamptonshire County Council effectively went bankrupt, and a survey by the Local Government Information Unit thinktank found that typically, 8 out of 10 councils were gravely concerned by their finances.

On a completely unrelated note, Northampton council are trebling evening car parking charges, but it isn’t all bad news, Councillor Martin Tett, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association says that councils are on the side of the motorist and shoppers.

Residential parking

Perhaps the most significant blow to motorists is an upsurge in paying for their right to park at home, and some councils are looking to maximise what they feel is acceptable; Hampshire, Reading, Cambridge, Brighton and Exeter are all looking to raise residential parking prices, with Hampshire being the most … optimistic … with up to a 230% increase.

Residents of Camden should feel grateful that they’re only looking at a 70% increase in permit fees, and that in itself tells you that something is seriously wrong. When motorists are feeling relieved that a 70% increase in what amounts to an absurd stealth tax is the better option, you have to wonder just what happens next?

Indeed, residents in Romsey paying £50 per year to park at home doesn’t sound like the ending of the world, but an increase from £15 is significant, and once residents get used to £50, will that rise again by the same percentage? £50 becomes closer to £170.

The need for a car has never been greater; high parking costs have pushed traffic away from city centres, city stores raise their prices in a bid to survive lower footfall, shoppers can’t afford to spend more than necessary on their weekly shopping so drive out of town to their nearest supermarket where prices are cheaper. The statistics bear that out; there is no need to manipulate facts to give a pro-car viewpoint.

Yes, there are a number of people who agree that cars should be made to pay for air pollution, for damaging their environment, for bringing pestilence to the world, but a world without motorised personal transportation or the ability to deliver goods to the far corners of East Sussex or the wilds of the Highlands doesn’t make sense either. All we need is a balance.

Do you think this is just another shot at the motorist? Another stealth tax dressed up in green legislation? Or is it genuinely a good thing? Let us know in the comments.

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