Sefton Council made nearly £1.5 million surplus from car parking fees
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Nearly an extra £1.5 million was collected by Sefton Council last year in parking fees and fines, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
It found that council bosses had made £3.7 million in parking revenue across the borough in 2015/16 while they had only needed to spend £2.2 million on administering the service.
And an increase in parking fees this year could see the Local Authority make an even bigger surplus for the next financial year.
Despite making an extra £1,497,576, the council have for this financial year set aside a budget of £2.3 million to continue administering the parking services in the hope that more revenue will help boost ailing council coiffeurs – a product of what they say is strenuous government cuts.
However the council have, controversially, also increased the minimum parking charges across the town which has caused huge uproar from businesses and even members of the clergy, who say parking fees are driving away parishioners who park outside churches.
One campaigner has branded the surplus as ‘unlawful’ and has asked the council to rethink how it acts in regard to parking.
Resident Terry Durrance has questioned why there was a need to increase parking fees when the council made such healthy returns.
He said “These figures show that the total amount of car parking revenue collected for the last financial year was £3,782,999.
“The cost of administering the service for this period was £2,285,423 which I am sure you will agree showed a healthy surplus which I accept that the council are then entitled to use on general expenditure.
“However, it is unlawful to purposely set car parking income with the express intention of making a profit.
“I am informed by the council that the budget for the current financial year for car parking administration is £2,313,660 which is again much less than what they must expect to collect as revenue.
“If last years revenue was £3,782,999, I think you can safely say that after increasing parking charges, and doing away with half hour parking, that this years income will be far in excess of that figure and could even double what the council pay out to run the service.
“This would appear to me to be unlawful. It is unlawful to increase parking charges if the purpose is to generate a surplus beyond the monies needed to operate the parking scheme, even if that money goes towards other traffic expenditure such as road repairs and concessionary bus fares.
“It would appear that Sefton Council purposely budget for a surplus so that this money can be spent outside the realm of administering their car parking scheme.
“Car parking revenue is not intended to provide general revenue raising power. It can only be used for the statutory purposes set out in Section 122 of the Road Traffic Act 1984, namely to ‘secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic and the provision of suitable and adequate parking facilities on and off the highway’.”
Sefton Council Highways Manager Dave Marrin has, however, defended the surplus, saying that the money is desperately needed by the council.
He said: “There are no other traffic regulation costs that made it necessary to increase parking fees in Sefton.
“The introduction and increase of parking charges across the borough was not taken lightly by the council.
“The decision is a result of continued budget cuts by Central Government which have resulted in the Council to make savings across the board.
“In order to meet these savings, while continuing to protect other vital services, the Council has had to make a number of difficult decisions including reviewing both its parking services and charges.
“The increased fees will generate an income which help with the day to day running of the service, future improvements to the service and address any potential shortfall in meeting ongoing Council deficits.”
A spokesperson for the Southport BID added: “The BID as the collective voice of the businesses, are extremely aware of our members concerns over the effect the parking rate changes are having. We have an ongoing review into the changes in parking patterns, footfall and sales data since the parking changes came into force, and we continue to address the issue with the council.
“We are extremely conscious of the concerns of our members, and we share them, however we want to build a factual case demonstrating the reality of the impact to make a stronger case for change and review. This issue is high on the agenda of our new CEO Hugh Evans and he will lobby at every level for a change should a genuine, negative impact show in the figures”