Merton Plans Inflation-Busting Surplus On Parking Activities

Council budgets for bigger profit rise than almost anywhere in England

Merton Council plans to increase the profit it makes on its parking activities next year by more than almost any other council in England.

Only Westminster council, of all 353 councils across the country, plans a bigger rise in its budget for the surplus it makes on its parking activities from 2014-15 to 2015-16.

Merton has budgeted for a surplus of £10.2 million in 2015-16, a rise of £3m from the actual surplus of £7.2 million in 2014-15. Westminster plans a £4m rise from £46.4 million to £50.5 million.

The figures are revealed in a report on parking profits by English councils prepared by the RAC Foundation. It is calling on local councils to reveal details of where they spend the surplus.

Merton has pointed out that it spends around £9m on the Freedom Pass and any surplus goes towards this cost.

The report also shows that Merton's £7.2 million surplus in its parking activities in 2014-15 made the top 20 of all councils in England. It is also 14th in a league table of all 33 London boroughs.

The figures are calculated by taking income from parking charges and penalty notices, then deducting running costs.

According to the report, Merton made a surplus of £4.4 million in 2010-11; £5.7 million in 2011-12; £6.9 million in 2012-13 and £7 million in 2013-14.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The financial sums involved in local authority parking are huge and the overall profits eye-watering. And once again the year-on-year direction of travel is upwards.

"It is unsurprising that London leads the way in making money. Its roads are most congested and the pressure on road space immense.

"The legal position is that parking charges are to be used as a tool for managing traffic. But with local government budgets under ever-greater pressure the temptation to see them as a fund-raiser must be intense.

"When a parking profit is made the law states that, essentially, the money can only be spent on transport and environment projects. We are simply asking that all councils publish annual reports to tell drivers exactly where this huge excess ends up."

Merton's cabinet member for environmental cleanliness and parking, Councillor Judy Saunders, said: "Residents have told us that traffic congestions is one of their top concerns and enforcing traffic regulations is one way the council tackles this.

"The council operates a firm but fair approach to enforcement and is completely transparent with motorists on where we will take action against inconsiderate driving or parking that clogs up our roads. The location of all sites in the borough where moving traffic contraventions are enforced can be seen on the council website.

"Our parking charter sets out what we expect from motorists and what they can expect from us in return. After including the costs of running our parking enforcement service, any surplus made from traffic contraventions contributes to the cost of the Freedom Pass which this year will cost the council around £9m."

December 9, 2015