Cash-strapped council bosses in South Tyneside have been told they need to rethink their car parking policy after profits fell for the third year in a row.
New RAC Foundation figures found the authority made £155,000 from parking charges in the last financial year - down from £231,000 in 2013/14 and that figure is just a quarter of the £618,000 the council pocketed in 2010/11.
In stark contrast to the borough’s figures, Newcastle City Council made more than £6.6million, North Tyneside Council made £1.3million and Hartlepool £476,000 in the past year.
Boutique owner and reality TV star Sophie Kasaei says the council needs to completely revamp its parking policy - and tempt more drivers into the town centre.
She said: “I’m not surprised by the drop in car parking revenue. Parking is a nightmare and adding to the death of South Shields town centre.
“Nobody wants to pay to park their car when there’s not many places to shop and its a pain having to explain to the customers we do get where they can park nearby.
Council chiefs argued that charges are not set with the aim of making a profit.
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “The borough’s parking charges are based on a number of factors including supporting the local economy, protecting the environment and to reducing congestion.
“Any surplus money is reinvested back into road safety and highways as well as to maintain, improve and secure our car parks, 21 of which have Safer Parking Award status from the British Parking Association.
“Over recent years we have made a number of changes to our parking provision, such as more investment into car parks and free parking initiatives to help attract more visitors to our town centres.
“The council has built new car parks and have introduced electric charging points at a number of sites. We have also removed charges and created over 300 new free spaces across car parks at the back of Ocean Road, St Hilda’s at Crossgate and at the Customs House, a short walk to the town centre.
“We continue to do all we can to draw more shoppers to the area.”
She added: “We believe our parking charges are fair and reasonable and continue to offer good value for money compared to our neighbouring towns.
“We have some of the lowest fees in Tyne and Wear with a penny-a-minute rate for the first hour in the majority of our car parks.”
The picture nationally is very different to South Tyneside, with profits generated by all authorities reaching £693million from day-to-day, on and off-street parking.
This is a 4% increase on the 2013/14 amount of £667 million.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The financial sums involved in local authority parking are huge and the overall profits eye-watering. Once again the year-on-year direction is upwards.
“It is unsurprising that London leads the way in making money. Its roads are most congested and the pressure on road space immense.
“The legal position is that parking charges are to be used as a tool for managing traffic b ut with local government budgets under ever-greater pressure the temptation to see them as a fund-raiser must be intense.”
The car park situation is killing South Shields says a reality TV star.
Sophie Kasaei opened her clothing boutique Off The Rails, at th Denmark Centre, in South Shields, last year.
The former MTV Geordie Shore star says she’s not surprised by the drop in car parking revenue and says that even being “on the telly” hasn’t helped her to boost trade.
Sophie said: “The car parking is a nightmare. It’s adding to the death of South Shields town centre.
“Nobody wants to pay to park their car when there’s not many places to shop
“I’m also currently contesting six parking tickets for pulling up outside the back of my shop to unload stock. It’s also a pain trying to explain to customers where they can park nearby.
“I am really worried about the future of my shop. People are still not wanting to come to Shields to shop, and there’s something wrong with that.”