£520k profit, so why hike parking fees?

Car parking charges
Car parking charges

A half million pounds profit from running parking services during 2015-2016 is sure to spark questions on whether Central Beds Council needed to controversially hike charges for motorists.

In February, the council upped parking fees around Dunstable – much to the dismay of local traders and shoppers.

The increases introduced across the district, saw the cost for 3o minutes rise to 50p (previously 20p), with up to one hour £1 (previously 50p), two hours £1 (£1 or 50p), three hours £2 (£1.50), 10 hours £6.50 (£6), one week £15 (£12.80) and a lost token £8 (£5.50).

Now, the council’s Annual Parking Report, which goes before its overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday, reveals that CBC made a £522,048 profit from parking services.

It had predicted in its budget that this figure would be £277,722.

The authority brought in income of £1,370,430, slightly above its budgeted £1,312,289. Car park charges brought in £1,049,174, penalty charge notices £250,749, permits £55,122, and on-street fees £15,384.

Their operating costs were £848,382 (although it had budgeted for £1,034,567).

Employee costs were £435,063, buildings costs £88,222, vehicle costs £11,522, contracts and repairs £304,793, refunds £3,206, with supplies and services (Other) £11,988.

CBC say the lower than expected costs were due to staff vacancies, superannuation and an in-year refund of car park site rates following rateable re-evaluations.

It says the additional income was down to the increase in car parking fees, increased car park usage and more Penalty Charge Notices being issued.

The Annual Parking Report however states there are strict guidelines on what the council can spent the half million pounds excess on.

Central Beds Council says the profit from providing parking services will be reinvested in the road network and equipment.

A spokesman said: “The report provides information about both the parking income and expenditure budgets and sets out a number of reasons for the surplus, some of which are in-year budget variances that would not be a regular occurrence.

“The surplus income is reinvested in highway safety to ensure that Central Bedfordshire Council offers a safe and well-maintained roads network, and it is also reinvested in equipment including replacing payment machines across our car parks.

“We have not increased parking charges for a number of years and the increases bring our charges in line with neighbouring areas, allowing us to make investments to improve the service.”