£8.1m coun­cil park­ing sur­plus ‘ is stealth tax’

Bath Chronicle - - NEWS - Stephen Sum­ner Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter @stephen­sum­ner15 | 07741 295876 stephen.sum­[email protected]­plc.com

Bath and North East Som­er­set Coun­cil raised nearly £12 mil­lion from park­ing charges, per­mits and fines last year. Af­ter ex­penses were taken out, the coun­cil was left with a sur­plus of £8.1mil­lion from park­ing - money which has been branded a stealth tax by mo­tor­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions. The fig­ure was up by a quar­ter com­pared to the au­thor­ity’s £6.3 mil­lion sur­plus in 2016/17. Coun­cils across Eng­land made £871.5mil­lion in so called “prof­its” from park­ing in 2017/18, the high­est amount since records be­gan in 2008/09. Driv­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions crit­i­cised ris­ing sur­pluses across the coun­try for leav­ing mo­torists with less money to spend. But B&NES Coun­cil said its in­come had been boosted by a greater num­ber of trans­ac­tions, not in­creased charges. AA spokesman Luke Bos­det said: “The high cost of park­ing is suck­ing money out of con­sumer spend­ing - money that could be spent in shops. “Coun­cils are in­creas­ingly re­liant on their park­ing money to prop up their other ser­vices. “In that re­spect, it’s a stealth tax. It should cover the cost of pro­vid­ing the ser­vice. “What it’s be­come is a mas­sive source of in­come from coun­cils to spend on things not re­lated to park­ing.” A B&NES Coun­cil spokesper­son said: “In 2017/18, the coun­cil made a sur­plus of £8.1 mil­lion, from a to­tal in­come of £11.9 mil­lion from park­ing-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties. This in­cludes in­come re­ceived from paid for park­ing, per­mits (both on and off street), penalty charge no­tices and other ser­vices pro­vided to the pub­lic. “The in­crease to the sur­plus from 2016/17 to 2017/18 rep­re­sents a rise in the num­ber of trans­ac­tions within our car parks and at our on street park­ing lo­ca­tions and is not the re­sult of any in­creases in charges.” B&NES Coun­cil’s park­ing strat­egy, adopted in Fe­bru­ary 2018, set out how the au­thor­ity would try to in­flu­ence be­hav­iours and travel choices. The spokesper­son said: “This in­cludes changes to park­ing charges, which is one of the main tools that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have to change wider travel be­hav­iour and achieve the coun­cil’s trans­port pol­icy aims of re­duc­ing con­ges­tion and im­prov­ing air qual­ity and park­ing man­age­ment. “In ad­di­tion, a suc­cess­ful pric­ing strat­egy will of­fer choices to the cus­tomer whilst re­flect­ing the value of the park­ing pro­vided. “In lo­ca­tions of high pros­per­ity, such as the cen­tre of Bath, car parks are lo­cated on valu­able sites and park­ing charges should re­flect this and their con­ve­nient lo­ca­tion.” The coun­cil is legally bound on how it spends any sur­plus and will use it to fund im­prove­ments to trans­port and trans­port re­lated schemes, such as safer routes to schools. Coun­cil­lor Martin Tett, trans­port spokesper­son for the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, said park­ing in­come is spent on run­ning park­ing ser­vices, with any sur­plus only spent on es­sen­tial trans­port projects, such as tack­ling a na­tional £9 bil­lion roads re­pair back­log, and on other projects that ben­e­fit high streets and lo­cal economies. He said: “Coun­cils are on the side of mo­torists and shop­pers. They have to strike a bal­ance when set­ting park­ing pol­icy, both on street and off street, to make sure that there are spa­ces avail­able for res­i­dents, high streets are kept vi­brant and traf­fic is kept mov­ing. “Coun­cils through­out the coun­try are al­ready lead­ing the way in trans­form­ing the fu­ture po­ten­tial of their town cen­tres in the face of un­prece­dented changes in shop­ping habits and the re­tail land­scape and park­ing is only part of a suc­cess­ful so­lu­tion to high per­form­ing town cen­tres.”

Nearly £12 mil­lion was raised from park­ing charges, per­mits and fines last year

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