Profits from Parking Continue to Rise in London

The news blog MyLondon have reported on the continued rise in the profits made by London Councils from car parking. They report that in 2018/19 the profits were £454.4 million. That compares with about £300 million that we reported in 2010 (see https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Profiting-from-Parking.pdf ). 

Councils are legally not supposed to make profits from on-street parking but that law is widely ignored. However they can from off-street parking –this is one reason why Westminster is the top earning borough in London with profits of £58 million as they own or operate a number of off-street car parks. But other high earning inner London boroughs have no such excuse.

With council budgets under pressure, increasing parking revenue is seen as an easy way to generate more income. Hence the increases in charges being made by such means as introducing emission-based parking charges and extending CPZs (Controlled Parking Zones). For example, Lewisham has the stated intention to have the whole borough covered by CPZs. This is what Councillor Sophie McGeevor said recently on twitter: “Any surplus from parking revenue is completely absorbed by concessionary fares for public transport. This year we’ve committed to roll our borough wide CPZs. Increased income should mean we can reinvest in cycle hangers & public realm. Totally get that cheap safe storage is key”. Clearly she thinks that permit parking charges are a source of income when legally they are only supposed to cover administration and enforcement costs.

Any surplus from parking charges is supposed to be spent on transport provision but it is typically currently used mainly to subsidise the Freedom Pass and other Concessionary Fare Charges that TfL passes onto local boroughs. But why should vehicle owners be paying for public transport fares rather than the general population?

Want to find out how much your local borough is making from parking charges? Use this template letter to do so:  https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Parking-Letter-Information-Template.pdf

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Lewisham Parking Charges to Increase

The London Borough of Lewisham is proposing to revise it permit parking charges and make other changes to its parking policies. It includes emission-based charges that means owners of diesel vehicles or with larger engines will pay much higher charges.

They are doing this because they claim “air pollution is causing a public health crisis in London…” but that is simply not true. Londoners are living longer than ever. They also claim that introducing such charges will improve air quality when that is not true either – the vast majority of air pollution comes from buses, HGVs and other commercial vehicles, from home heating, offices, industry and other sources – such as blown in from outside the borough.

Charging car owners more will have negligible impact on air pollution in Lewisham but will cause some residents to incur substantial extra costs in paying higher permit charges or the cost of changing their vehicles.

But it will also have no impact on residents who park off-road or on visitors who drive through Lewisham so it’s basically an attack on a small minority of residents in the name of fixing a non-existent health crisis. It’s also probably about raising income from parking but the Council seems unable to disclose the financial impact.

The Council is running a public consultation on the proposals which you can access here: https://lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/parking/permits/parking-policy-consultation . Don’t forget to answer all the personal information questions such as sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and sources of income so that Lewisham Council can keep all your personal information on file for anyone to hack! I’m joking in that regard of course. Don’t answer them.

Roger Lawson

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Greens Lose Brighton

A casualty of the recent elections was the loss of control of Brighton council by the Green Party. Brighton and Hove City Council was the only council in the country controlled by the Greens and their unpopular policies included the introduction of a wide-area 20 mph speed limit and raised parking charges (other councils please note!). The Council is now run by a minority Labour group who have also pledged to review some very expensive proposals to revise the A23 road which runs through the town to the sea front (the Valley Gardens project).

The New Statesman simply noted that the public had lost patience with the chaotic Green government, and reported that one Green councillor joined street protests to save a city centre tree, just weeks after she herself voted to fell it to make way for a cycle lane.

Roger Lawson

London Boroughs to Target Diesel Cars and Political Awareness

Not only will diesel car drivers be targeted by the planned Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London, they will also find they are paying more to park on their local streets. The boroughs of Islington and Hackney are proposing higher permit parking charges for diesel vehicles – an extra £50 in Hackney and an extra £96 in Islington where they already have an emission based scale of charges. Islington is of course notoriously anti-car in all of its policies and this will impact 9,000 users of diesel vehicles in the borough.

Those who are unhappy should perhaps bear in mind that the Labour Party is currently in control of the Council but that has not always been so, with a long period of no overall control or other parties being dominant. Indeed Islington Council have a very useful web page that tells you how you can stand for election which is usually a good way to get the attention of existing councillors – it is here: http://www.islington.gov.uk/involved/involvedvoting/electionhow/Pages/default.aspx

Those who live in other boroughs should perhaps start to examine the stance of their local councillors on such matters so you know how to vote at election time. Democracy does have an impact if you take the time to use it.

Roger Lawson

Increased Parking Charges in Bromley

Bromley Council are proposing to increase parking charges across the borough from April this year. Many other London councils are taking the same approach to solve their budget crises and help pay for the Freedom Passes of residents and other transport programmes. The price increases in Bromley will be very substantial. The average increase for both on-street and off-street car parking (in Borough owned car parks) will be over 20%.  For example, in Chislehurst on-street charges will rise from 70p to 80p per hour and off-street car parks will rise from 40p to 50p per hour.

The justification for these increases given in a report to councillors included the need to compensate for inflation since the last increase in April 2012 and that the impact of charges on demand for parking would be minimal.

On the first point, inflation measured by the C.P.I. index is less than 5% between April 2012 to the current date and inflation is continuing to fall – indeed it might actually be zero in the next few months. So an increase of 20% in car parking charges is totally unjustifiable on that basis.

The argument that increasing charges will have minimal impact on demand is very questionable, is not justified by experience elsewhere and  is contrary to the academic reports on this subject.

In reality, this proposal is about raising money to fund other council budgets. Any surplus from parking (on-street or off-street) can be applied to other council programmes and now that the council is under severe financial pressure because of reductions in central Government funding, they are looking for parking charges to fill the gap.

But raising money from on-street parking deliberately to raise revenue is illegal, and increasing charges might actually reduce council revenue rather than increase it.

Increases in parking charges will affect retailers and other businesses that rely on attracting customers to the Chislehurst shopping centres. It is also unreasonable to increase charges by over 20% in a period of low inflation and when many people have not seen increases in their income anywhere near that in recent years.

This latest step by Bromley Council continues a past policy of increasing parking charges at higher than inflation to create budget surpluses.  We urge Bromley residents to oppose these increases by contacting your local councillor or writing to Councillor Stephen Carr, Council Leader and to Councillor Colin Smith, Environment Portfolio Holder, London Borough of Bromley, Stockwell Close, Bromley BR1 3UH. The contact details for your local councillor can be obtained from this web page: http://cds.bromley.gov.uk/mgFindMember.aspx

Roger Lawson