MOTORISTS have condemned the high cost of parking in Oxford and the county after the city council made a £4.56m surplus in 12 months.
New figures reveal the county’s local authorities raised a total of £7.52m in the 2012-13 financial year from fines and parking charges, after running costs are taken into consideration.
During the last financial year, Oxford City Council brought in 15 per cent more than in 2010-11.
And it is now ranked 32nd out of 353 in a list of the councils making the highest surplus, according to data calculated by the RAC Foundation through annual returns submitted to the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Parking in city council car parks costs almost £25 a day.
Oxfordshire County Council had a £1.49m surplus in 2012-13 – the second highest-rated authority in the county. The others ranked much lower, with West Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils recording a deficit.
Motorists are not impressed – especially after new park-and-ride charges to get the bus into the city from Water Eaton and Thornhill.
Karen Rossiter, of Harcourt Hill, Oxford, said: “Oxford is one of the most expensive places to park and it really annoys me.”
Graham Jones, of traders’ group ROX, said of the city: “If the council reduced the charges and got the Westgate full, they would bring more people, which would help the local economy and they could still make the same surplus.
“The council has a duty to look after the local economy and you don’t do that by deterring people from coming here and spending their money.”
Bob Price, the leader of the city council, defended the cost of parking as part of a deliberate strategy to discourage people from driving into Oxford.
Mr Price said: “Our parking charges reflect the long-term strategy to try to reduce the amount of car traffic in the centre.
“We have developed park-and-ride facilities to try to encourage people to come in by other methods.
“And the money we collect from charges is ploughed back into other services to give a degree of protection against the cuts in Government grants.”
West Oxfordshire District Council is one of only two in Oxfordshire which made a deficit from its parking in the last full financial year – and is the only one which regularly loses money.
District councillor David Harvey, cabinet member for the environment, said the policy of providing free parking was important for the economy of the area.
He said: “We remain committed to providing free parking as this supports residents and retailers as well as being a huge attraction for shoppers and visitors to our towns.”
The figures have been calculated by the RAC by adding income from charges and penalty notices for both on-street and off-street parking, then deducting running costs.
Some district councils, such as Oxford, South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse, are not responsible for on-street parking and have no costs or income relating to it.
Oxfordshire County Council is responsible for enforcing on-street parking in Oxford and West Oxfordshire and Thames Valley Police is responsible for the rest of the county’s on-street parking.
County council spokesman Martin Crabtree said: “Legislation requires that surpluses derived from enforcement are reinvested into environmental or traffic schemes or operations.
“The vast majority of the income that the county council derives from enforcement has been utilised to operate and improve the park-and-ride sites that it operates.”
South Oxfordshire and Vale of the White Horse, which share many of their services, said they took a broader view than simply looking at running and staffing costs.
A spokesman for the two councils said: “South Oxfordshire already has one-hour free parking in most of its car parks and in 2012 introduced free parking on Saturday afternoons and also half-price season tickets in order to help boost trade in towns across the district.
“The council sets the fees and charges each year so the income at least covers the expenditure.”
A spokesman for Cherwell District Council disputed the figures.
A spokesman for Cherwell District Council said it was incorrect to say the authority’s surplus wa nil.
He said: “The RAC report didn’t take account of the change in accounting procedure. That’s why it shows up as nil.
“For previous returns the figures were under another heading (external trading accounts).
“The figures for 2011-12 were £1.534m, £1.381m for 2010-11 and £1.592m for 2009-10.”
“Parking is ridiculously expensive and I’ve got no confidence the councils will use that money sensibly.”
Lesley Thatcher, of Fairlie Road, Cowley
“I’ve been to London where you can pay £9 for 24 hours. Compared to that, Oxford is dreadful. I think parking should be free, then people would support the shops more.”
Liam Carroll, of Templay Road, Cutteslowe
“It is expensive for just a short period of time. If you want to use the park-and-ride you get stung twice, once to park and then to get the bus.”
Tim Stead, of Church Road, Radley
“I tend to get the bus in from the park-and- ride, but they charge to park there as well. You go to other places and there is free parking or it’s just £1.20. In Oxford it’s ridiculous.”
Karen Rossiter, of Harcourt Hill, Oxford