South Tyneside’s motorists have been labelled ‘cash cows’ after new figures showed they forked out £1.7million in fines and parking charges in just one year.
Government data reveals they paid over £1.5million to leave their vehicles in council-run car parks in 2017-18 – up from just over £1million the previous year.
They handed over a further £241,000 in on-street parking charges, such as pay-and-display, residents’ permits and parking tickets.
Almost a third of the income from on-street parking came through penalty charges for illegal parking, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
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.
“Some councils receive millions of pounds worth of parking charges every year and still continue to increase their prices.
“With the continued rise of online shopping, there may come a point where drivers decide to forgo the high street entirely.
“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.”
Last year, the Gazette revealed South Tyneside Council had raked in £1,020,981 from motorists using its car parks – the highest amount in at least four years.
It also made £104,000 from on-street pay-and-display bays, £211,639 from parking bay infringements, and £237,845 from Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) for other roads offences.
South Tyneside Council defended its prices for being among the lowest in Tyne and Wear.
Coun Nancy Maxwell, lead member for area management and community safety, said: “Car parking charges are not set with the aim of making a profit.
“Surplus money from parking revenue is re-invested back into highways and road safety, as well as to improve and secure our car parks.
“With regards to Penalty Charge Notices for parking contraventions, ideally we would not have to issue any fines.”
She added: “Vehicle owners have the right to appeal if they feel the ticket has been wrongly issued and details on how to do so can be found on the reverse of the Penalty Charge Notice.”
The MHCLG’s data reveals South Tyneside Council spent £729,000 on running, policing and maintaining parking services across the year - meaning it made a profit of £977,000.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FBS) said the rising cost of parking has “a major impact on high streets and town centres”.
Chairman Mike Cherry said: “For small businesses to thrive, customers should not be deterred with high car parking charges which put the future of our high streets in jeopardy.”