Councils in London are making up to £155m a year in surplus cash from parking charges, a report from the RAC Foundation has revealed.
As one would expect, Westminster tops the list with a surplus of £41.6m while Kensington and Chelsea and Camden are the runners up with £28.1m and £25m respectively. You can see the RAC Foundation's figures here. Transport minister Norman Baker said:
"The law is quite clear. Councils should not be pricing their parking in order to make a profit.
"Any monies raised from parking in excess of the cost of administration has to go back to transport purposes which can be dealing with pot holes, improved road management or can be investing in public transport to encourage people to free up the roads."
What councils are meant to do and what they actually do are generally two different things. Take Barnet council, for example. Followers of the Barnet parking charge saga may have noticed the recent High Court ruling against the local authority after it illegally hiked parking charges. The charmless (and now disgraced) former councillor Brian Coleman told irate residents at the time that the council 'never knowingly undercharged'. The ruling could open the way for further challenges to council parking charges, especially in light of the fact that councils expect income from parking services to rise next year.
It's the second time this week that parking has made headlines after the recent proposal from Conservative communities secretary Eric Pickles that motorists be allowed to park for 15 minutes on double yellow lines to boost trade in the high street. This has to be one of the stupidest ideas we've heard. There's certainly an argument for improving parking in some areas and ending the practice of setting targets for tickets issued, but a 15 minute derestriction would allow people to park even more inconsiderately than some of them already do and be pretty much impossible to enforce. Automobile Association president Edmund King said:
"Rather than just allow drivers to park on double yellow lines, a thorough review of the lines would be more effective. Many double lines are there for historical reasons and could be lifted. There is plenty of opportunity to ease back on the signs and lines in many places, giving drivers short-term waiting bays instead, so they can stop briefly to buy a paper or loaf of bread."
The Guardian has helpfully published a video on how to challenge a parking ticket.
Photo by D I C K S D A I L Y in the Londonist Flickr pool.