Despite guidelines that state parking fines should only be used for the improvement of highways, and for other road related uses, figures have emerged that show local councils are making more than £300m from on-street parking fines. Local business owners have said that over-zealous traffic wardens are hurting their profits, as people are being forced to drive to out of town shopping centres, rather than visiting their local towns and cities. Motoring organisations have said that drivers are still complaining about poor road conditions, and question whether the money is really being used for transport related schemes.
Government legislation dictates that fines from on-street parking should not be used to raise general funds for local councils. The money should be used to pay for the upkeep of roads, as well as for the payment of the parking systems. However, whether councils are listening to these allegedly strict guidelines has been questioned, following the release of new figures showing £300m has been raised over the past year.
Labour MP John Denham raised a parliamentary question regarding on-street parking, and figures for 2012-2013 caused a stir as they were released. Councils in England had made more than £310m in profit during the period, an increase of £100m since 2009-2010 and roughly the same as councils have made by running their own car park schemes.
It is believed that some councils are using the money raised from on-street parking fines to help fill the gap left by government funding cuts. Council tax freezes, cuts in spending, and other measures taken to help reduce the national deficit have left many local councils struggling for cash. However, in a bid to try and stop people from travelling out of town and to larger shopping centres, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles had previously stated his desire to loosen the laws on roadside parking.
Louise Ellman, of the Commons Transport Committee said that “Parking charges should not be imposed to raise funding for local authorities” while Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis has said that councils may be forced to produce annual reports in order to ensure that local authorities use funds correctly in the future.