Council funds taking a hit due to free parking policy

Coun Peter Wilson
Coun Peter Wilson

The amount of money generated by car parking in Chorley has fallen again – due to the amount of free parking.

Figures published by the RAC Foundation show Chorley Council made £444,000 from its car parks in 2013-14.

This was a reduction on the £494,000 raised in the previous year and £601,000 in 2011-12.

The figures were calculated by adding up income from parking charges and penalty notices, then deducting running costs.

Coun Peter Wilson, deputy council leader, said: “Our income from car park charges has been decreasing over the last couple of years and that’s because we introduced the free 30-minute on-street parking in Market Street and part of Fleet Street car park, and free parking after 1pm every Saturday.

“We did this first as a trial after listening to traders and it proved such a huge success in increasing visitor numbers to the town, we’ve now made it permanent.

“We also had free parking for many months, on a derelict site off Fleet Street which will also have impacted on our income.”

He said the money raised was being put towards regenerating the town centre, such as the £400,000 spent on resurfacing and improving car parks and £200,000 towards the cost of surface improvements on Market Street.

The RAC Foundations’s study says Lancashire County Council lost £90,000 in 2013-14 from its parking operations.

But the deficit was much smaller than in previous years - it had losses of £334,000 in 2012-13, £269,000 in 2011-12 and £253,000 in 2010-11.

County Coun John Fillis, the cabinet member responsible for highways and transport for Lancashire County Council, said: “Our parking enforcement officers are out on the streets. If they increase the number of fines they put out, it reduces our costs.

“We could say they are not fining enough people or we could say the drivers are parking sensibly and not overstepping their times.”

He also called for changes to cut the cost of car parking operations across Lancashire.

He said: “It would be better if there was a unified structure across Lancashire.

“It’s something we have discussed with the various authorities and I hope to take these discussions further.

“I think it would save us all a lot of money.”

Nationally, in 2013-14, councils in England generated a combined profit of £667m from parking operations – a 12 per cent rise on the 2012-13 amount of £594m.