Parking income hit by Wigan Council’s shop incentives

Efforts to lure more shoppers into Wigan came at a price to  the council, latest figures show.
Shoppers have not had to pay to park in Wigan as often as they used toShoppers have not had to pay to park in Wigan as often as they used to
Shoppers have not had to pay to park in Wigan as often as they used to

Analysis by the RAC Foundation shows the local authority made £31,000 in profit from parking services in 2019-20.

But that was down 80 per cent from £158,000 the previous year, and a 97 per cent decrease from £1.13m in 2015-16.

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And the pre-pandemic drop in income can be put down to the local authority’s measures to attract more visitors to Wigan town centre by extending its free parking arrangements.

It felt moved to do so as figures showed a decrease in footfall and a reduction in the number of shops to visit as retailers either went bust or pulled out.

Council environment director Paul Barton said: “We know that parking provision and an efficient road network are important to our residents after speaking with them as part of our Big Listening Project.

“Like all councils, we must strike a balance when setting parking policy to ensure adequate, accessible, good quality car parking is available, that high streets are kept vibrant and traffic is kept moving.

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“We have always tried to encourage residents into our town centres to support local businesses through our free to use council owned car parks at weekends and our Free after 3pm initiative in the build-up to Christmas.

“Providing free parking demonstrates our commitment to businesses and residents and recognises the importance of our town centres on the back of the changing landscape of high streets across the country. Any surplus revenue generated via our car parking is reinvested into improving our local environment.”

Across England, councils made a combined profit of £891m from parking activities in 2019-20 – down five per cent from £934m a year earlier.

They received an income of £1.7bn from their parking operations and spent £854m running them, the figures show, although interest payments or depreciation of assets such as car parks are not included.

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“Parking management is quite a money-spinner for some local authorities, and nationally it is a big business,” said RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding. “The surplus for 2019-20 is down a little on the year before which may in part reflect the impact of the first Covid lockdown which saw traffic levels plummet at the end of last March.

“The dip is likely to be much deeper for the current financial year given the range of restrictions over the past 12 months and the Government’s current plea that we all stay at home if we can. There are likely to be many councils who are actually looking to cut parking charges as a way of encouraging more people to visit their high streets which are fighting for survival.”

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