Wigan Council collected Â£2.3m from parking charges but reinvested Â£2m
Wigan Council earned millions of pounds over the past year in parking charges, shock new figures have shown.
Government data suggests the local authority racked up £2.3m revenue through parking services in 2017-18.
The majority of it, a total of £1.8m, came from council-run car parks.
Drivers also forked out £470,000 in on-street parking charges, such as pay-and-display sites, residents’ permits and parking tickets.
However, statistics also reveal the surplus made by Wigan Council from parking has plummeted in the past few years.
Total profit from parking – calculated once all the costs associated with maintaining car parks are deducted - fell to just £326,000 in 2017-18 compared to the highest mark of £1,392,000 in 2014-15.
The local authority had to pick up a bill for £2m over the year for running and policing its parking places.
That meant that last year Wigan was a lowly 251st among local authorities for how much money it was left with to spend from parking after deducting expenses.
Wigan Council said it is committed to a fair deal for the motorist, offering as evidence recent decisions to allow people to leave their vehicles without charge.
That is expected to slash further the amount the town hall rakes in from car parks in 2018-19.
Paul Barton, director for environment at Wigan Council, said: “We’re committed to providing value for money parking on our council owned car parks to the many visitors and shoppers who visit our town centres.
“A good parking offer contributes to our ongoing economic development and ensures we fully support our town centres and local businesses.
“Although over recent years we have seen a decrease in revenue from our car parks, this is partly due to the rise in number of privately operated car parks and partly due to a drop in parking fines issued.
“Our recent decision to offer free parking in all council car parks until January 31, 2019 and our annual free after 3pm offer demonstrates our ongoing commitment to help grow the local economy and support our town centres.
“We have already seen a big rise in the number of vehicles parking on our car parks following this announcement so we’re confident this will have a long-term positive impact on the local economy.
“Any income raised through parking charges is spent on managing and maintaining our parking services and any surplus is reinvested on essential transport projects.”
The data collected from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government showed that on average Wiganers pay around £7 per year in parking charges.
The amount coming in from motorists is also dropping, with Wigan Council taking £2.8m in revenue in 2016-17.
Figures released by the RAC Foundation showed the surplus for the town hall was £1,078,000 in 2013-14 and remained above £1m until 2016-17, when it dropped to £829,000.
Profits then plunged by another £500,000 over the following financial year.
Despite that, the AA said more needed to be done to make motoring cheaper.
Jack Cousens, AA head of roads policy, said: “At a time of squeezed local authority budgets, drivers are not surprised to see that they are the cash cow council bosses turn to.
“The cost of parking should cover the cost of providing the service, not become a stealth tax paid by a few thousand who regularly visit the town.”
However, the Local Government Association said councils were “on the side of motorists and shoppers”.