Business group slams councils' parking 'revenue grab'
A business group with hundreds of members in Devon is calling on councils not to use car parks as a cash cow.
The Federation of Small Businesses used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain data showing that the amount motorists pay to councils across England in parking charges and fines has increased by almost 10 per cent in the last five years.
In Devon, the increase is over 10 per cent for some council areas.
For the first time the FSB has asked all councils to detail their total income from parking, permit and penalty notice charges. Across the country, in 2008 this was £810 million, increasing to £884 million in 2011 – a rise of almost 10 per cent.
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It found the number of people buying parking permits in Devon increased threefold from 2008 to 2011.
Exeter City Council made more than £5.4m from off-street parking tickets, permits and penalty charges in 2011 – up nearly five per cent from just under £5.2m in 2008.
East Devon District Council’s income from off-street parking charges, parking permits and penalty notices increased by nearly 12 per cent, from £2.7m in 2008/09 to just over £3m in 2011/12.
The FSB believes there is a clear connection between protecting local high streets and the impact of parking charges. The organisation wants to see business groups and central and local government join forces to discuss creative solutions to the parking issues faced by regions, with heavy parking charges used only as a last resort.
David Shephard, the FSB’s Devon regional chairman, said: “We know there is no such thing as free parking, but businesses need a voice in the local community about parking. We know that budgets are tight, but we don’t want to see parking being used as a revenue grab.
“FSB experience shows that when parking charges are introduced many shops suffer. We want to see organisations and local authorities come together to discuss parking provision to make it work, not just for business, but for customers too.”
Across the country, East Yorkshire received the least in parking income from motorists. While, unsurprisingly, London and Thames Valley were the regions to take the most from motorists, Devon was in the top third.
However, the FSB believes some councils could be using parking charges as a revenue raiser, with several authorities posting above inflation increases in their income.
In addition, FSB research shows that businesses in urban and rural areas have different priorities when it comes to availability and cost of parking, which must be addressed. For example, 59 per cent or urban retailers believe that reducing the cost of parking is a priority, compared to 45 per cent of rural retailers.
Just over half of urban retailers believe that increasing the availability of parking should be a priority, compared to 31 per cent of rural retailers. This is backed up by the FOI request showing that the top five councils that take the most from motorists are in urban areas, taking a staggering £480m.
The FSB supported the Mary Portas Review, launched 2011. It gave 18 recommendations to Government, one of which suggested that “local areas should implement free, controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres and should have a new parking league table”.