Car parking charges – the benefits!

The revelation that most local councils make a ‘profit’ from car parking charges resulted in the expected furore.

The BBC reported:

The half-billion-pound parking cash cow reportedly enjoyed by some English councils has generated headlines, yet alongside hundreds of authorities that boosted their income another 52 apparently ran their parking services at a loss.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, describes the revenue from parking charges as “a nice little earner” for councils.

Are these councils being more sympathetic to motorists, or missing the opportunity to offer improved services to businesses and residents?

The Western Morning News headline was:

‘Cash cow’ parking profits bring Duchy £7.9m

Cornwall is the second biggest earner from parking charges outside London, as councils rake in more than £565 million each year from motorists, a report claims.

The authority was said to have made £7.9 million profit during the  financial year 2011/12 – the eighth highest in the country and topped only by six London boroughs and Brighton and Hove.


But is it correct to think of the surplus income as a profit?   Probably not.   Car parking charges are an integral part of traffic demand management.  Charges play a role in encouraging people to think about their travel plans and can result in a more efficient use of the roads cutting congestion and making life better for everyone.

Ideally funds raised from car parking charges, above the costs of running them, should be used for local public transport schemes.

Most people would really like ‘free parking’ but that would not be a good idea!  We should have a policy of car parking charges for all car parks.

  1. It would remove the disincentive to use town centre shops;
  2. It would level the ‘playing field’ for car users and bus users and those who shop online;
  3. It would create a revenue stream for local authorities to use to support public transport for example.;
  4. It would discourage ad hoc trips so we might find there was less traffic on the roads – good for everyone, including car users!

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