It’s that time of year when the RAC Foundation release their annual report showing that local authorities make a *profit* from parking operations after income was deducted from overheads – in 2015-16 this surplus was £756m.
Councils across Devon made over £22m from parking charges and fines in the last year – and there has been a big jump in surpluses over the past 5 years.
Devon County Council – as the Local Highways Authority – is responsible for all on-street parking and Residents’ Parking Zones across the county.
Any profit generated by unitary and upper-tier councils from on-street parking must by law [Section 55 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984] be spent on transport-related activities.
In Devon, money generated by the parking service is typically spent on enforcing parking restrictions, maintaining equipment such as pay and display machines, public transport and improving parking areas. The way money is spent is agreed annually by the Cabinet and is published in the annual County Road Highway Maintenance Revenue Budget and On-street Parking Account.
Following lobbying from members sitting on the Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee [HATOC] and others, DCC has set up the HATOC Waiting Restriction Project – a managed process to deliver an annual programme of works to deal with the requests for waiting restrictions to be introduced or amended that the County Council regularly receives.a Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee. Just this week, DCC advertised a new TRO, 5555 Devon County Council (Various Roads, Exeter) (Control of Waiting & Loading) Amendment Order.
For the current year, DCC achieved a surplus of £2.6m from parking activities – up from £594k 5 years ago.
When parking was decriminalised in 2008, and DCC took over parking enforcement from Devon & Cornwall Police’s Traffic Wardens, on-street enforcement [by Civil Enforcement Officers] and back office administration was provided by the district councils and Exeter City Council working under agency agreements. It was originally anticipated that the enforcement element of the on-street service would operate at or around a zero (‘net nil’) budget with the cost of enforcement being offset by the income from Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) after a period of ‘bedding in’. In reality the cost of enforcement significantly exceeded the income from PCNs, resulting in an annual deficit of £795,160 in 2011/12.
Following a decision by DCC’s Cabinet in December 2013, since April 2014 Devon County Council has provided the on-street service in-house, and it is possible to download how the service has performed during the first two years of operation here:
- Devon County Council Civil Parking Enforcement Service Annual Report 2015/2016
- Devon County Council Civil Parking Enforcement Service Annual Report 2014/2015
District councils are responsible for their own local car parks – Exeter City Council has some 29 car parks across the city.
The RAC Foundation report shows that ECC’s surplus for the year 2015/16 was £4.6m [and ranked 39 of the 353 local authorities in England] , up from £3.4m in 2912/13.
Since ECChas not made any wholesale changes to parking tariffs since January 2012, this rise in surplus can be due only to increased usage of the city’s car parks.
The City Council has a net budget of £15m – made up of Council Tax, Government Revenue Support Grant and income from car parking and property.
On a Band D Council Tax bill of £1,600.49, Exeter City Council receives £140.05 [of the balance, DCC= £1,184.39; Adult Social Care = £23.23; Devon & Cornwall Police = £172.84; and Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service = £79.98]. A 1% rise in Council Tax would bring into ECC an additional £90,000 and so to replace the income from car parking would require car parking charges rise by 51%, or £71 per year.
ECC launched a Parking Strategy in March 2016, and followed this with a revised tariff structure that will come into operation from 2017.
The proposed tariff structure should provide a more gradual rise in price with a clearer ‘per hour’ rationale.
The new structure also tried to strike a careful balance between supporting the local economy and making sure that people are not encouraged to favour car use over other more forms of sustainable transport – walking, cycling and public transport.
DCC Cabinet: County Road Highway Maintenance Revenue Budget and On-street Parking Account 2016/17 [13 April 2016]
Exeter HATOC: Proposals for the delivery of an annual local Waiting Restrictions Programme [19 April 2016]
ECC Place Scrutiny Committee: Delivering the Parking Strategy: Tariffs, Designations and Permits [08 September 2016]