WEST Berkshire motorists paid out more than £3.5million in council parking charges and fines during the last financial year, new figures reveal.
The sum for 2016/17 is the largest ever recorded by the cash-strapped local authority and comes amid a series of parking price hikes by West Berkshire Council.
The total income from the authority’s parking operations was £3,513,421, and after subtracting running costs, the council ended the year with a £2million profit – again the highest surplus ever recorded by West Berkshire Council.
However, by law, the council has to reinvest all this money back into traffic services.
The figures include funds generated from all parking activities, including off-street and on-street ticket sales, penalty charge notices (PCNs) and permits.
The total amount paid to the local authority by motorists increased from £3,049,776 in 2015/16, while the council’s parking operations surplus increased by more than £500,000, up from £1,497,830 in 2015/16.
Despite the rise in income, the amount paid in fines has reduced year on year, with a total of 7,996 PCNs issued in 2016/17 – 955 fewer than the previous year.
Seventy seven per cent of outstanding fines in 2016/17 were paid, bringing in a total of £225,440 for the council.
Not surprisingly, the vast majority of PCNs issued to drivers in West Berkshire were for parking or traffic offences in Newbury (6,391).
In October, West Berkshire Council said it would not be reducing car parking charges in Newbury, despite widespread concerns that rising costs are driving people away from the town.
The cost of a one-hour stay in the council-owned car parks has increased by 50 per cent in the past two years – from £1 an hour in 2015 to £1.50 an hour in 2017.
Sunday parking charges, previously a flat rate of £1 per day, were also scrapped last year and replaced with the higher weekday tariff.
The knock-on affect has seen tariff increases at other car parks in the town, including Parkway.
West Berkshire executive member for highways and transport, Jeanette Clifford, said the income raised through the council’s parking operations funds “vital services” across the district.
She said: “Setting car parking charges means balancing different requirements of, for example, drivers, businesses, council tax payers – and all residents and visitors.
“We work hard to get the balance right.
“People continue to find our towns and villages attractive places in which to shop, work and have fun; our car parks are well used and well run; the charges are fair; most people have choices about where they park; and the income raised funds vital spending on traffic services across the whole district.
“Every year, we invest in the well-managed, safe and accessible parking residents and visitors expect to see.
“We also finance a wide range of facilities such as pedestrian crossings, traffic management schemes, parking enforcement and projects such as improving the Kennet centre and Northbrook multi-storey car parks – all designed to keep traffic moving safely and efficiently.
“Although we spend every penny carefully, there can be no doubt that this is an expensive programme.
“The income we receive from car parking charges, and also from penalties for contraventions, such as illegally occupying a disabled parking space, is all invested – and must be by law – in traffic services.
“The income doesn’t cover everything we spend – far from it – but it represents a big benefit to the people of West Berkshire, on whose behalf we act.”