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Politics and regulation

English council parking profits set to top a billion pounds

English councils are predicting that, collectively, they will make a £913 million surplus – or profit – from their parking activities in the current financial year, 2019-20.

This is 4% more than the £877 million surplus councils budgeted for 2018-19, the actual outturn figures for which will be published later this year.

However, historically councils have underestimated the money they will make from on- and off-street parking activities – by between 9% and 10% over the past three financial years for which there is outturn data – suggesting the final profit for 2019-20 could actually top a billion pounds for the first time.

The numbers are calculated by taking all parking income – charges, residents’ permits, penalties – and then subtracting the day-to-day running costs of providing parking.

The RAC Foundation’s analysis, carried out by transport consultant David Leibling, is based on the budget figures provided by 343 English councils to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Of the 343 councils, 278 reported that they expected to make a profit whilst 65 predicted they would break even, incur a loss or their parking is managed by another authority.

Table: English councils parking operations surplus

£m 2015-16 budget 2015-16 actual

(% above budget) 

2016-17 budget 2016-17 actual

(% above budget)

2017-18 budget 2017-18 actual

(% above budget)

2018-19 budget 2019-20 budget % rise in budget 2019-20 on 2018-19
London 303 332


340 379


350 406


413 446 8%
Rest of England 377 413


403 440


436 461


464 468 1%
England total 680 744


743 819


786 867


877 913 4%


Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“It would be no surprise at all if English councils soon breached the one billion-pound mark for the amount they make annually from parking, which is quite a windfall from a service that is intended to be all about managing traffic.

“Not every authority makes big money, some even run at loss, but where authorities are making money drivers might reasonably hope that some finds its way specifically into tackling road repairs not just on transport more generally.”

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