Councils set to lose million in parking fees

The AA has warned that councils are set to lose millions in parking fees and charges as a result of lockdown.

Local authorities were anticipating to bank more than £885 million in parking fees alone for 2020/21, according to figures from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government. However, the AA is warning that lockdown and the suspension of parking charges throughout the coronavirus crisis period will see councils lose out.

The data suggests that councils are currently facing an estimated £200 million blackhole from lost parking income in the four months of lockdown already experienced.

Some authorities have been tempted to reapply charges as quickly as possible to recoup some of the losses, but, with high street shops now open for business again, independent retailers are urging councils to keep parking free so they have a better chance of recovery and for the economy to recover from lockdown.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: “If councils weren’t already under significant pressure, they’ll be bracing themselves even more as they see a huge chunk of their income for the year lost. For being so dependent on this income stream, councils are now stuck at a crossroad; waive the fees entirely and absorb the financial hit, or reapply them and risk hurting, or worse, losing businesses that bring in business rates and jobs in their towns. This loss of revenue should also act as a wakeup call to towns and cities intent on banning drivers from their centres. If they ban cars completely, they need to be prepared to lose a huge chunk of a major income source.”

David Renard, LGA transport spokesman, said: “Councils continue to work all day and night to support communities through the Covid-19 crisis but have faced extra cost pressures and significant income losses as a result, as this survey highlights. The government’s commitment to fund a portion of councils’ lost income from fees and charges is a step in the right direction. We reiterate our call to the government to meet all extra cost pressures and income losses from fees and charges and other sources, including commercial activity, if councils are to avoid having to make tough decisions on in-year cuts to services to meet their legal duty to set a balanced budget this year.

“With high streets and town centres reopening, demand for parking spaces will be returning back to normal levels in many places. As before the pandemic, councils will set charges to reflect local circumstances, including supporting high streets and town centre businesses.”