Council boss defends car parking deficit

Council bosses say supporting Northumberland’s tourist industry and town centres is the reason for it running up a £30,000 car parking deficit last year.

Friday, 29th January 2021, 3:47 pm

Northumberland County Council was one of the few local authorities nationally to make a loss on its parking services in 2019/20.

Analysis by the RAC Foundation shows local authorities across the country made a combined surplus of £891m from car parking.

Northumberland County Council made a loss of £30,000 – significantly smaller than a £267,000 deficit 2018/19.

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Council leader, Cllr Glen Sanderson, said: "The fundamental reason for this difference in Northumberland compared to other local authorities is the decision some years ago to introduce free parking across the county to support our town centre economies.

“Free parking is also key to our tourism and visitor offer - a priority for the council as we work to plan our way out of this pandemic.”

He added: “The council incurs costs in providing parking services, through employment of staff, management and maintenance of the car parks which is not fully offset through parking charges and income from Penalty Charge Notices.

“Our draft budget for next year also doesn't include any proposals to reintroduce parking charges in our town centres, to support the recovery of our local economies as COVID lockdown measures are eased."

Nationally, councils made a combined profit of £891m from parking activities in 2019-20 – down five from £934m a year earlier.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “Parking management is quite a money spinner for some local authorities, and nationally it is a big business,

“Going forward there are likely to be many councils who are actually looking to cut parking charges as a way of encouraging more people to visit their high streets which are fighting for survival.”

The analysis – based on data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – found the vast majority of the 338 councils who returned figures reported a surplus on their parking operations.

David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “Income raised through on-street parking charges and parking fines is spent on running parking services.

“Any surplus is spent on essential transport projects, including fixing potholes and tackling congestion.”