Motorists face steep hikes in parking charges to plug holes in council budgets.
Car park spaces and residents’ permits will cost up to 45 per cent more. Some town halls are bringing in fees on Sundays to catch shoppers and churchgoers.
Householders are already facing an above-inflation rise in council tax next month, with bills expected to go up by as much as £100 for the average property.
Some town halls are bringing in fees on Sundays to catch shoppers and churchgoers
A number of local authorities are in extreme financial difficulties with much of the pressure coming from the rising cost of social care.
Campaigners said car owners were seen as ‘easy targets’ to help balance the books.
‘The war on motorists has got to stop,’ said Tory MP Robert Halfon.
‘Whether it is hospital parking charges, or council parking fees, motorists are seen as a cash cow and are being hit by one stealth tax after another.’
As many as half of councils could put up parking charges over the next few months, according to a report by the Local Government Information Unit.
An audit by the Daily Mail found many had quietly announced their plans for increases.
Cheltenham, Reading, Leicester, Bristol City, Dover, Thanet, Flintshire, Bournemouth and Brighton and Hove were among them.
In many cases drivers face paying more for street and off-peak parking. Cheltenham council increased parking charges by up to 45 per cent on March 1.
As many as half of councils could put up parking charges over the next few months, according to a report by the Local Government Information Unit
Dover and Bristol are planning to reintroduce Sunday charges in car parks as well as on streets.
Dover expects the changes to raise £200,000 in the 2018/19 financial year.
Tory MP Sir Greg Knight warned the move could damage high streets and drive shoppers to out-of-town retail centres.
‘The high street in many towns and cities is already under threat from internet shopping and higher parking charges could well have the effect of pushing more small town centre shops into liquidation,’ he said.
In many cases drivers face paying more for street and off-peak parking. Cheltenham council increased parking charges by up to 45 per cent on March 1. File photo
Where motorists will be stung by the charges
Bournemouth: Most tariffs for on-street parking rise by 50p later this month when two hours will cost £2.50. Annual permit to rise by around £10 a month, with the biggest increase in town centre annual permits which will rise from £750 to £890.
Bristol: Reintroducing Sunday parking charges ditched in 2012.
Dover: Plans to raise an extra £200,000 a year from parking, partly by reintroducing Sunday charges in Dover, Deal and Sandwich. Shoppers and churchgoers will pay £1.10 an hour for parking that was free.
Brighton & Hove: Visitor permits up from £3.50 to £4.50. On-street charges rising in some busy streets, from £9 to £10 in Regency Square for four hours, and from £13 to £14 in the Lanes. Charges frozen in most areas.
Cheltenham: Charges at Bath Parade, Rodney Road and St James Street, Cheltenham Walk and St Georges Road increased by 33 per cent on March 1. Six hours now costs £12. Prices at High Street and Sherborne Place up 45 per cent to £8 for over four hours.
Leicester: Households limited to four resident’s permits. New visitor parking permits introduced costing £30.
Thanet: Hopes to raise an extra £390,000 a year from charges in some car parks and streets which are now free.
Reading: Planning to increase rate for pay and display by 10p an hour.
FLINTSHIRE: Two hours will be 50p instead of 20p at Deeside car parks. £4 all day, up from £2, at Flint railway station.
Many councils appear to be ignoring a key recommendation from an independent report commissioned by the Government.
Produced by retail guru Mary Portas in 2011, it called for free parking in town centres.
Howard Cox, founder of the FairFuelUK pressure group, said: ‘Our supporters feel that our towns will become urban deserts with the cost of parking becoming more and more an inhibitory factor to keeping town centres viable.
‘When will councils recognise that growing their income depends on low-cost and accessible parking, not knee-jerk cash grabs from hard-working motorists?’
English councils made a £819million surplus from parking fines, fees and permits during the 2016/17 financial year.
Councils have stressed this money has to be ploughed back into local transport.
Councils have stressed this money has to be ploughed back into local transport. File photo
Martin Tett of the Local Government Association said: ‘Local authorities remain on the side of hard-pressed motorists, shoppers and businesses and do not set parking charges to make a profit.
‘Car parks cost taxpayers money to maintain and improve and any surplus is spent on essential transport projects, such as tackling the £12billion roads repair backlog and creating new parking spaces.
‘To protect such provision, and in the face of an overall funding gap that will exceed £5billion by 2020, councils are being forced to make difficult decisions.’
Bournemouth is increasing the cost of permits by around £10 and raising the charge for two hours of parking from £2 to £2.50.
Town councillor Mike Greene said: ‘Bournemouth’s car parks are changing for the better and delivering an improved new offer for users.
‘With the current financial challenges for all councils, reluctantly we need to introduce this small increase.
‘But even with the additional charge our car parks remain distinctively cheaper than those operated by private providers.’
The Government spending watchdog warns that 10 per cent of the 152 town halls in England responsible for social care are on course to run out of money.
Northamptonshire council last month insisted it had effectively gone bust.
Ninety-five per cent of town halls plan to increase council tax next month. Meanwhile, bin collections, libraries, social care and other services have been slashed.
The number of households enjoying weekly rubbish rounds has plummeted by a third since 2010, the National Audit Office revealed this week.