Inside Britain's rip-off parking hotspots where 'cash cow' drivers
Inside Britain’s rip-off parking hotspots: How extortionate council charges are killing High Streets as local authorities fleece drivers with £6-an-hour tickets and rake in £1bn a year
- Councils banked £1.95billion from parking fees, permits, fines and car park rent
- With operating costs stripped out, £962million of this 2022/23 total was profit
Britons have hit out at councils raking in millions of pounds from parking charges as they accused them of cynically using motorists as ‘cash cows’ to boost their coffers.
Local authorities in England banked a staggering £1.95billion from parking fees, permits, fines and car park rent in 2022-23 – of which £962million was profit.
Both totals were an all-time high as takings surged above pre-pandemic levels, and drivers accused councils of ripping them off with charges of up to £6 an hour.
The totals do not include the money raked in from clean air zones and low-traffic neighbourhoods, which growing numbers of councils have been rolling out.
MailOnline visited some of the rip-off hotspots – including Brighton, Bournemouth and Kensington and Chelsea in London – to speak to drivers about their concerns.
One said they drove around for hours just trying to find a space on their own road, while another said high prices were to blame for so many people parking illegally.
Construction manager Chris Taylor, who was in Bournemouth with his partner Abbie and their young daughter, said the high prices are the reason why so many people park illegally
Pauline Smith, of Brighton, believes drivers are being forced off the roads by ever increasing charges. She said: ‘They are making it more and more difficult for us to have a car at all’
The most expensive council car parks in Bournemouth cost £3.30 an hour for motorists
In the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the council has taken £53.7million and enjoyed a profit of £41million from parking charges over the past year.
Councils in England raking in the most from parking charges
TOP 3 IN LONDON
TOP 3 OUTSIDE LONDON
But motorists have been left infuriated by the amount of money being generated from parking tickets and claimed they could not see where the funds were going.
Locals said there was a major divide in council-run services across exclusive parts of West London and believe local authorities have been ignoring certain areas which are ‘filled with litter’.
It has led some to question why Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster are so expensive to park in, with some tradesman saying how they had to leave work to top up hourly parking payments.
The highest price for council parking in Kensington and Chelsea is £6 per hour. In Westminster, it is £5.80.
Charlie Neil, who lives in Earl’s Court, said the prices were now forcing him to take public transport.
The 54-year-old, who works in property, said the split in the amount of council money going into an area means he has dissuaded clients from buying properties in Kensington and Chelsea.
‘When I park, 100 per cent the price has gone up’, he said. ‘I live on the West Cromwell Road and I think it’s £5 an hour (the actual figure is £4.70).
‘Yesterday after work I went to just past Marble Arch and somebody said, Charlie, why don’t you drive? And I was like, well I couldn’t drive because one, there’s congestion charge, and then you’ve got Ulez, and the trying to find parking.
‘If you pay the residential permit it actually works out very, very cheap, you might pay 75 or 80p a day. But if somebody comes outside or you don’t have a permit, and you want to park for two hours, then it’s £10, £12. You realise you’re just spending hundreds.
Parking charge takings have now surged above pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels for the first time
Company director Nathan Ross, 52, said the ‘horrendous’ prices for parking were killing local shops by putting people off from visiting the town centre in Bournemouth
‘The prices have just gone to another level since Covid. It doesn’t surprise me that everything is suffering at the moment, it’s just suicidal, businesses, theatres everything in the evening.’
READ MORE: How much is YOUR local council raking in from parking costs? Figures revealed as local authorities earn profits of nearly £1billion in a year
He also commented on the differences in Westminster City Council which took in £103million from parking charges last year – £282,191 a day or £196 a minute. Of this, £71.6million was profit.
Mr Neil said: ‘I was in Edgware Road going down to Marble Arch, the streets are dirty and then you reach Marble Arch and it’s like another world, this is nice because all the tourists are here.’
Cheryl Yeow, a property professional who lives in Marble Arch, said parking costs were going up and the profits have not been divided equally.
‘I think the parking on the meters is going too expensive, you’re not in central London so to then charge £5 an hour is too much’, she said.
‘Kensington and Chelsea is a high percent residential area. You see rubbish in the streets, as local residents we have a problem with rubbish collection, the roads are similar, but the roads still need repairing. We don’t see any policing. I think the streets are dirtier.’
She said there was a major split in how much funding goes into areas within the borough, and claimed Earl’s Court in Kensington and Chelsea appears far less well-kempt than wealthier areas of the borough and Westminster.
Ms Yeow said: ‘All you need to do is look at here and Earl’s Court, even South Kensington is prime and pristine, it’s nicer in South Kensington.’
And a resident of Kensington and Chelsea, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the higher prices also affect tradesmen.
Outside London , Brighton & Hove City Council raked in the most in charges at £45.2million
Mags Eras, 50, who lives in Ferndown, near Bournemouth, said: ‘These are not acceptable prices for locals to pay and you should not be paying peak summer prices in October’
‘I’ve an electrician here and this is his fourth day and he keeps having to stop work to go and re park, it’s included in his price to us – it’s the tax that we pay’, she said. ‘Visitors, yes it does affect us, but tradesmen very much so.’
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Parking charges are also causing issues in other cities. Outside London , Brighton & Hove City Council raked in the most at £45.2million, with £30.1million profit.
The most expensive yearly residents’ parking permit in Brighton will set motorists back £412.45 for ‘high emission’ vehicles.
But despite the high charges, there is a waiting list for permits.
The city council has increased hourly rates in the centre of Brighton to discourage people from driving, with the highest cost being £5.10 per hour.
Wardens in the city say they can write up to 16 parking tickets per day in the summer.
Brighton resident Paul Cheston said: ‘Drivers are an easy target. We get ripped off year after year.
‘It has got worse every year but it has been worst in the last few years. We are just being scammed. Drivers are seen as a cash cow. It’s an absolute scandal.’
Pauline Smith, a retired woman who lives in Brighton, believes drivers are being forced off the roads by ever increasing charges.
‘They are making it more and more difficult for us to have a car at all’, she said. ‘Things like car clubs are taking all the spaces.
‘I have to drive around for hours trying to find a place to park on my own street. The council are squeezing us out by making life more difficult for the residents who drive’.
David Wright said he knew car parking charges would be pricey when he moved to Brighton
Residents have been left infuriated over rising car parking prices in Bournemouth
But David Wright said he knew the car parking charges would be expensive when he moved to Brighton.
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‘It’s an expense of living here’, he said. ‘We knew what we were doing before we moved, we knew it was going to be expensive to have a car so we didn’t have one to begin with. When we realised we really needed one, we knew parking would be pricey’.
Along the south coast in Dorset, residents in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council area said they were fed up of being treated like ‘cash cows’ after their local authority raked in £23.1million from parking charges last year and enjoyed a £13.4million profit.
One council-run car park near the pier in Bournemouth charges £13.20 to park for four hours, or £19.80 for a six-hour stay.
The most expensive cost £3.30 an hour – and parking charges run higher during the peak season, from April 1 to October 31.
Company director Nathan Ross, 52, said the ‘horrendous’ prices were killing local shops by putting people off from visiting the town centre.
‘They are treating people like cash cows, and it is driving people out of the town centre as no one wants to pay these charges’, he said.
‘I think they need to reconsider their pricing if they want to bring people back to the town centre, and stop all the shops closing down. The parking situation is the same as all the speed cameras – cash cows. It is horrendous’.
The most expensive yearly residents’ parking permit in Brighton will cost motorists £412.45
A Jaguar car parked in Kensington, West London with a parking ticket on it in a residents’ bay
Duncan James-Bell, who was visiting Bournemouth for the day, said he was ‘shocked’ by the prices and wondered where the money was going ‘given all the potholes’ in the area.
‘It was a shock when I saw the prices’, he said. ‘I had thought parking here would cost £5 or £10.
‘I enjoy cycling so I tend to give myself a safety margin so I don’t have to rush back to the car, but that makes things even more expensive. I do wonder where all the money is going because there are so many potholes.’
Mags Eras, 50, who lives in nearby Ferndown, added: ‘These are not acceptable prices for locals to pay and you should not be paying peak summer prices in October.
‘We are paying £6.60 for two hours, which is ridiculous. The problem is there are not enough parking spaces in Bournemouth so people don’t have a choice but to pay these prices.
‘I don’t know what the council is spending the money on but it is certainly not road improvements where I live.’
And construction manager Chris Taylor, who was in Bournemouth with his partner Abbie and their young daughter, said the high prices are the reason why so many people park illegally.
‘There is not enough parking in Bournemouth, and it is a major problem’, the 50-year-old said. ‘Especially in the summer months, it is no wonder that so many people choose to park illegally.
‘Let’s face it, you may get a parking ticket but the cost is not going to be that much different to this’.
The figures on council parking revenue were released by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and highlighted by The AA last week.
The data led critics to point out that it was no wonder high streets across the country are ‘on their knees’ as rising charges often drive shoppers online.
It comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed to end the ‘war on motorists’ at the Conservative Party Conference earlier this month with a raft of measures aimed at curbing ‘over-zealous’ councils and private operators from unfairly clobbering motorists.
His ‘Plan for Drivers’ included warning town halls that they face being locked out of the DVLA database, which allows them to issue fines, if they fail to follow the rules.
Conservative MP Greg Smith, who sits on the Commons transport committee, said: ‘There are some councils that are categorically taking the mickey. Some of the rates being charged are criminal.
‘Local authorities need to find ways of raising revenue, but it’s the lazy option to always draw a circle round motorists and empty them out for all they’ve got.
‘This is not least because, when you make parking prohibitively expensive, it’s the whole place that will suffer as people stop going into high streets and spending their money there altogether.
‘Councils are there to make people’s lives easier and better, not hammering them down and stopping places from thriving.’
Howard Cox, founder of the pro-motorist campaign group FairFuelUK, said: ‘These are dumbfounding local authority parking incomes and prove that even under this Tory Government, drivers remain the easiest of cash cows which continue to be fleeced relentlessly.
‘Rishi Sunak’s recent love for the motorist in a political epiphany is blown to pieces by greedy clueless town halls right across the UK.
‘It’s time the milking of drivers was halted and these punitive parking costs massively reduced to urge people to go back into the growing number of deserted high streets which are on their knees and instead spend their hard-earned cash there.’
The AA’s roads policy chief, Jack Cousens, said: ‘Once again, official statistics show that councils have turned parking into a huge cash cow, not just a service to stimulate local trade and support workers and visitors.
‘Hikes in parking charges by councils have contributed and helped to drive more shoppers online. In effect, many local authorities are killing the goose that lays the golden egg.’
Responding on behalf of all councils, a spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents local authorities, said: ‘Income raised through parking charges is spent on running parking services.
‘Any surplus is spent on essential transport projects, including fixing the £14 billion road repairs backlog, reducing congestion, tackling poor air quality and supporting local bus services.
‘Motorists can avoid fines by ensuring they observe parking and traffic rules that are only there to help all drivers get around and find parking safely, smoothly and fairly.’
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