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Melksham’s anger at parking profit – Controversial parking policy puts £5m into council’s pocket, while independent shops close

WILTSHIRE Council has been accused of ‘ripping people off’ after it was announced they make nearly £5million a year profit from parking charges.

Only ten councils throughout the country outside of London make more money from parking, and the news – revealed by the RAC last week – has angered local residents.

This places rural Wiltshire above large city councils including Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol and Sheffield.

The council says, though, that the money has been ploughed back into improved local bus services.

Figures released by the RAC Foundation for last year show Wiltshire Council making a £4.9million profit from car parking out of a total income from parking of £7.6million, nearly £21,000 for every day of the year. Outside of London this made the county the 11th most profitable authority in the country.

The Wiltshire figures do not include Swindon Council.

This latest announcement of the money made from parking charges has angered many locals who feel the high parking charges are forcing shoppers out of town centres and causing many independent retailers to shut.

This year alone in Melksham nine independent retailers have closed and many are pointing the finger at the high cost of parking charges in the town.

Local traders were highly critical of Wiltshire Council when the free one-hour parking was scrapped in 2011.

Annica Bowen from Lovejoy’s fruit and vegetable shop, which is closing next month said, “Unfortunately we have decided not to carry on running Lovejoys with closure planned for the end of September. Fruit and vegetables are more expensive than normal and this combined with the car parking charges have lowered our footfall.”

Melksham Without Councillor, Terry Chivers has also joined in the debate urging Wiltshire Council to review their parking charges. He said, “It’s vital that Wiltshire Council consider one hour’s free parking again – this isn’t helping our local retailers when shoppers can park at the local supermarket free of charge. This, coupled with sky-high business rates, is the final nail in the coffin for many small retailers.”

A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said, “The amount of money we have received through car parking has remained at about the same level over this period, however we have worked hard to ensure the service is run as efficiently as possible and this is reflected in the figures.

“Any excess money made from parking charges is used to subsidise local buses. Lots of people in Wiltshire rely on buses to get to and from towns to do their shopping or get to work, either because they do not have cars, or only have one per household. Putting the money back into this vital service will not only help these families, but also local businesses.”

The RAC Foundation figures, produced for them by transport consultant David Leibling, are from the annual returns councils are required to provide to the Department for Communities and Local Government. They are based on three factors – on-street parking charges, off-street parking charges and parking penalties.

Running costs of parking operations are deducted from this total to produce the surplus or deficit figure.