Parking fines: council £353m cash cows

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BRF7XY parking ticket,penalty charge notice

Drivers paid an incredible £353 million in parking fines last year. That's over 10% more than they forked out two years ago, and almost as much as they paid into parking meters and machines.

Is it fair for rule-breaking motorists to be the council cash cows?

The research

The figures were published by the Department for Communities and Local Government in its annual report on expenditure and income. It highlighted that in the year to 2013, £353 million was made in fines and £369 million in parking charges. In total on-street parking brought in £721 million - and car parks earned councils £586 million.

Car park income has remained relatively static for years, and parking charges have fluctuated. Meanwhile, the cost of fines has (aside from one blip) risen steadily for years.

This is due in part to increasing fines, but also has much to do with the fact that councils are investing more in enforcing parking regulations - in order to raise more from fines.

Recently Churchill Insurance published research into parking fines which found that in 2013 there were 7.8 million parking fines issued - or one every four seconds. London dominated the league table for the most tickets. Westminster issued the most, followed by Newham, Barnet, Haringey, Croydon and Kingston upon Thames. In fact London boroughs took the full top ten. Outside of London the place you were most likely to get a ticket was Cardiff, followed by Cornwall, Oxfordshire, Sefton and Swansea.

Is this fair?

Steve Barrett, head of Churchill Car Insurance, is in support of the idea of fines to enforce parking regulations, but added: "There is a fine line between fair and opportunistic that councils shouldn't be tempted to cross."

The RAC Foundation goes further: it believes that drivers are being unfairly squeezed to fill council coffers. Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "It is a case of déjà vu. Once again English councils have made record amounts from parking. Yet overall spending on local roads has fallen by 9% over the past three years with road safety expenditure down by as much as 20%."

There is an argument, however, that only those who break the rules receive fines, so they are easy to avoid if you stay within the law. When rule breakers inconvenience us personally, we are far more likely to think that fines are a good idea.

Earlier this year research by Confused.com found that 84% of people get angry about bad parking, 40% of people would like to see selfish drivers fined, and 12% want them to be towed.

What can you do

Barrett highlights that regardless of the rights and wrongs of fines, your only defence is to ensure you don't break the rules and face a fine yourself. He says: "In many areas, parking restrictions can be confusing and appear inconsistent, so we'd urge motorists to be vigilant when parking their vehicles to avoid hefty fines."