Loss leaders: The other side of the parking coin


While research from the RAC Foundation found that English councils made a surplus of nearly £1bn on their parking activities in 2018/19, it also pointed out that 41 authorities recorded a loss on their ring-fenced parking accounts.

Chris Ames spoke to the five councils with the biggest losses about the figures and the balance of service provision and revenue stream.

Buckinghamshire – loss of £2,871,000

A spokesperson for Transport for Buckinghamshire (TfB) told Transport Network: ‘TfB does dispute the figures reported in the RAC Foundation document.


'The parking deficit for TfB in 2018/19 was £393,700 and the year prior to this was £494,000.

‘The figures included in the TfB report are for on-street parking and are published on the Buckinghamshire County Council website annually.

'In Buckinghamshire, the majority of off-street car parks are managed by the four district councils and not the County Council until the formation of the new Buckinghamshire Council in April 2020.’

However, the RAC Foundation pointed out that its data comes from a document published by communities department MHCLG based on data supplied by councils.

According to this document, Buckinghamshire had expenditure of £2,865,000 on off-street parking and income of £297,000 producing a deficit of £2,568,000. There was also a loss of £303,000 for on-street parking.

Slough – loss of £403,000

A spokesperson suggested that the figures published by the RAC Foundation included all on-costs, adding: ‘The annual cost and income from the service shows we are cost neutral.’

Wealden – loss of £386,000

A council spokesperson told Transport Network: ‘We make the net cost of managing our car parks in the financial year 2018-19 as £308,518.

‘Apart from two car parks in coastal areas, Wealden District Council has a longstanding policy of not charging at the point of use for its 41 car parks.

'The only other revenue we receive is through fines for abuse of the short stay parking regulations. This does not cover the cost of managing our public car parks.’

Babergh – loss of £359,000

A council spokesperson said: ‘Although our accounts for 2018/19 showed an adverse variance against car parks, our total spend of £288k is still significantly lower than the £359k loss reported by the RAC [Foundation], so we’d be interested in understanding their calculations.’

The spokesperson added: ‘Babergh is a rural district with over 90,000 residents living mainly in villages or small market towns. Across the district, the council manages 24 car parks, but only four of those car parks are pay and display. Three of those four pay and display car parks offer the first three hours parking free, with customers who then want to stay longer paying £2 for 24 hours, £4 for 48 hours and £6 for up to 72 hours.

‘While this provides exceptional value for money for local residents and visitors to the district it does mean that the council always requires more resources to manage the car parks than it receives in income from car park charges.

‘We regularly review this policy to ensure we are finding the right balance, supporting the economic growth of our market towns and providing the best possible quality of life for our residents. In fact, a major review of parking and sustainable transport across the district was approved at October’s Full Council meeting, and cabinet members are due to discuss next steps soon, together with preparations for the county-wide introduction of civil parking enforcement in early 2020.’

Dudley – loss of £339,000

Alan Lunt, the council’s deputy chief executive told Transport Network: ‘Under the Dudley Deal, which is an agreement between Dudley Council, businesses and residents, we have pledged to do all we can to support our town centres and to encourage people to shop local.

‘We currently offer two hours of free daytime parking and free night time parking on all Dudley Council car parks.

‘Local businesses inform us that free parking helps to bolster footfall in our town centres, without impacting negatively on the free flow of traffic.’

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