Capital motorists pay £2m more ‘to plug council budget’

Rising parking charges are hitting motorists hard. Picture: Andrew O'Brien:
Rising parking charges are hitting motorists hard. Picture: Andrew O'Brien:
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MOTORISTS have faced an inflation busting £2 million hike to meet the cost of rising parking charges by the council in Edinburgh, it has emerged.

There are now fears that drivers are being used to “fill the gap” in cash-strapped local authority budgets, after Scottish drivers collectively paid out more than £70m in last year alone, according figures obtained through Freedom of Information.

Edinburgh is Scotland’s biggest earner from parking, with £26.7m in 2016/17, up £2m on the previous year. The cash raised comes from parking fines, on-street and off-street charges, as well as residential parking permits.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “Motorists in Scotland must feel short-changed by these findings as councils appear to be using them to try to fill the gaps in their budgets.

“This must be particularly galling for drivers who regularly have to battle their way through pothole-ridden roads that are causing unnecessary wear and tear to their vehicles which will soon – if they haven’t already – lead to expensive garage bills.

“We know from RAC research that eight out of ten motorists are dependent on their cars so this really seems like a stealth tax as few people have a realistic alternative to owning and running a car.”

The overall cash raised across fines, charges and permits is up £5.6m to £70.5m, an 8.6 per cent increase, more than three times inflation. There has been an £8m increase since 2014/15 when £62m was raised.

The cash taken in by councils from on and off street parking charges has jumped by £3.7m to £49.6m 2016/17. The Capital again took in most cash with a record £18.3m taken from drivers through pay and display and RingGo. The phone app overtook cash payments for the first time, as £9.3m was paid out by drivers electronically in Edinburgh.

Lesley Macinnes, the city’s Transport and Environment Convener, insisted that parking fines are “critical” to keep streets as safe and accessible. “Short stay on-street parking boosts the local economy by increasing turnover of parking spaces and promoting higher footfall to the city’s many businesses,” she said.

Tory local government spokesman Alexander Stewart said: “Scotland’s motorists have to put up with terrible road surfaces, delays due to congestion and roadworks and lack of alternative public transport.

“The SNP must fund local councils properly so that they can provide essential services, including reasonable parking so that those needing to use the road network are not met with fines.”

Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research, IAMRoadsmart said: “Inflation busting increases in parking charges cannot be justified unless the overall customer service has improved for Scottish drivers. In reality it has not, with no major improvements in supply of spaces, new machines or signposting and markings.”