City’s parking ‘profits’ soar to £19.3m

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ALMOST £20 million in parking “profits” were raked in by Edinburgh City Council last year.

The surplus from fees and penalty tickets was also 12 per cent higher than in 2014-15.

Edinburgh accounted for nearly half of Scottish councils'parking "profits" last year from fees and penalty tickets

Edinburgh accounted for nearly half of Scottish councils'parking "profits" last year from fees and penalty tickets

The £19.36m windfall accounted for nearly half the total of £40.3m surpluses generated by Scotland’s councils in 2015-16.

Edinburgh’s extra £2m surplus was the seventh largest in Britain.

The RAC Foundation motoring group, which published the figures today, said drivers wanted “understandable rules and fair enforcement”.

The news comes days after Edinburgh’s parking charges increased by up to 20 per cent.

Motorists now pay up to £3.80 an hour on streets in the city centre - £1 more than five years ago.

The hourly increases, introduced last Saturday, range between 20p and 40p, depending on the street.

The RAC Foundation, for parking revenue and penalty notices minus spending, were taken from councils’ annual returns to the Scottish Government.

They showed Edinburgh’s surplus has grown from £15.23m in 2012-13 to £15.3m in 2013-14 and £17.36m in 2014-15.

The figures do not include the number of parking tickets - fixed penalty notices - but a report to the Scottish Parliament in December showed these increased from 179,300 in 2014-15 to 185,000 last year.

They accounted for nearly one fifth of the city’s parking income.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “Edinburgh is both a capital city and global attraction, so it is unsurprising traffic is heavy.

“Parking charges and restrictions are necessary to manage the jams.

“What locals and visitors alike want are understandable rules and fair enforcement.

“The mark of a good parking system would be one where the city council issued no penalty charges rather the 185,000 currently being dished out annually.”

The new figures also showed Edinburgh cut its spending of parking revenue by £200,000, while increasing revenue by £1.8m.

The surplus pays for 60 per cent of the city’s transport spending.

That is a far greater proportion than Glasgow’s 34 per cent and Aberdeen’s 41 per cent.

Mr Gooding said: “Providing and managing the space for us to park our cars is not a cost-free activity for councils, but controlling those costs is clearly important.

“By keeping the bills down and seeing a rise in parking income, there has been a significant increase in the annual surplus, or profit, councils are making from parking activities.

“The good news is that this money must be re-invested in transport services including, Scottish drivers will expect, maintaining the road network.”

The figures also showed Edinburgh surplus was far ahead of Glasgow’s total, which recorded an 11 per cent increase to £12.58m.

Aberdeen had an 8 per cent increase to £4.9m.

Dundee saw one of the biggest rises, with a 34 per cent hike in profits to £1.6m.

The IAM RoadSmart motoring group said such “profits” must be seen to be fair.

Its Scotland-based policy and research director Neil Greig said: “Once again, the figures show an increase in ‘profit‘ for councils running an activity that most drivers see as a basic service.

“No one can object to costs being covered but, until councils can demonstrate clearly where the extra money is being spent in the transport system, doubts will remain on fairness and transparency.

“Variable annual amounts of surplus and penalty charge income simply cannot be the best way to plan for long term improvements in roads.

“With high streets struggling financially, a return to providing car parking as an attraction for visitors rather than an opportunity to profit from them is long overdue.”

Edinburgh City Council said parking charges improved the city’s transport.

Transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “Funds from parking income are reinvested in road maintenance and other transport infrastructure across Edinburgh.

“Charges for permits and on-street parking are important for reducing pressure on limited kerbside space and keeping our roads clear and accessible.

“As Scotland’s capital, it’s essential that we keep the city moving, and parking restrictions ensure accessibility for all road users by maintaining road safety and encouraging free flow of vehicles.

“Parking charges also help businesses, residents and their visitors by encouraging a frequent turnaround of spaces, as well as deterring all-day parking.”

The figures also showed Scottish councils’ total parking profits were £40m, but half of the 32 local authorities saw levels fall, or made a loss.

East Dunbartonshire lost the most - £500,000 - compared to £330,000 the previous year.

Aberdeenshire’s surplus tumbled the furthest, from £130,000 in 2014-15 to a £150,000 loss last year.