Councils are told parking fees must help high street

Parking enforcement tickets on cars
Parking enforcement tickets on cars

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CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed a government minister’s call for an end to parking enforcement being used as a ‘cash cow’ by local authorities.

Local government secretary Eric Pickles said parking enforcement should support high streets and motorists.

It comes as local councils are collecting millions of pounds from motorists, with some authorities such as Havant Borough Council controversially increasing parking charges earlier this year and sparking huge petitions from residents.

Mr Pickles said: ‘Car parking is being used as a way of raising money... and the law is very clear, local authorities can’t do that.’

He added: ‘We want to rein in these overzealous and unfair rules on parking enforcement, so it focuses on supporting high streets and motorists, not raising money.’

Mr Pickles called for a ban on local councils using CCTV cameras to fine motorists.

Councils in Portsmouth, Havant, Fareham and Gosport confirmed to The News they do not use this practice.

John Perry, who helped to collect more than 4,000 signatures to get the council to reconsider an increase in parking charges from 70p to £1 on Hayling Island, welcomed Mr Pickles’ comments.

Mr Perry, of St Catherine’s Road, Hayling, said: ‘The council needs to listen to the voters and listen to what they are being told by central government.

‘Residents should not have to pay extortionate car parking charges just to pop to the shops.’

A report by the RAC Foundation, an independent industry body, claimed councils were making large surpluses on their parking operations, with Portsmouth City Council banking £1.98m in 2011/12. Fareham Borough Council took £1.43m in the same year, with Gosport Borough Council taking £359,000 and Havant Borough Council taking £325,000, according to the figures.

However, council leaders have stressed income covers the cost of maintaining car parks and any excess is used to keep the council tax low and improve roads.

Natalie Meagher, service manager for neighbourhood quality for Havant, added: ‘No profit has currently been made from on-street parking enforcement and if it is, we are legally required to use this to improve roads and streets in the borough. With respect to off-street parking enforcement, any profit is ploughed back into improving the running of the service and the facilities provided in our car parks.’