A recent report by the RAC reveals that Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) council are raking in just over £5 million in profit from its car parks, making it the ninth most profitable parking regime in the country outside of London.
‘For many local authorities, parking charges are a nice little earner’ says RAC Foundation director Stephen Glaister. ‘The bottom line is that hundreds of millions of pounds are being contributed annually to council coffers through parking charges and the drivers who are paying them have a reasonable expectation to see the cash spent on improving the roads.’
A recent court ruling said that on-street parking charges should not be used to support other council services, but that does not apply to off-street car parks. B&NES council leader Paul Crossley is unapologetic about raising extra revenue from motorists for general spending. ‘All parking charges support the council in balancing its budget,’ he said. ‘Any decrease in parking income makes it more difficult to achieve local priorities such as protecting services for the public.’
So, parking charges are now a tax to be extracted from motorists but spent on all other services.
’I find myself not uncomfortable with these numbers,’ says B&NES councillor Ian Gilchrist. ‘I am quite pleased that we are able to use our commercial estate [off-street car parks] in this way to generate a useful income, which if we were to abandon it would add 10% to Council Tax.’
But a Bath TPA supporter is far from happy with this. ‘The Parking Taxes are aimed at raising revenue to avoid the need to raise the Council Tax,’ he argues. ‘This should, in my opinion, be made clear to the electorate and published in the local press.’ Quite right too.