Income from parking penalties in Sheffield has reached record levels of £1.7 million – after a six-fold increase last year, writes Richard Marsden.
The fines resulted in a £1.6 million profit for Sheffield Council’s parking services department – which the authority intends to more than double to £3.3m this financial year.
However, business leaders have branded the huge increase ‘worrying’ and said they have a ‘major concern about the message it sends about doing business in the city centre’.
Meanwhile, a member of Sheffield Motorists’ Forum accused wardens of ‘lying in wait’ around parking permit zones, ready to start issuing penalty notices as soon as restrictions come into force each morning.
According to Government statistics, Sheffield received £300,000 a year from penalty charge notices issued by wardens on streets in 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12.
But in 2012/13, income from the fines soared to £1.7 million - more than six times higher than the previous year and the biggest increase of any council outside London.
Richard Wright, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce executive director, said: “The size of increase worries us – and the message it sends out about doing business in Sheffield city centre has got to be a major concern. This rise is massive.”
The scale of increase happened before Sunday and evening parking charges were introduced in April.
Mr Wright said he feared changes could also mean even more motorists are caught out in the current 2013/14 year.
Company director Rob Prior, a Sheffield Motorists’ Forum member from Broomhill, said there was an ‘onus’ on motorists to ensure they parked where they should and paid for a ticket.
However, he said: “They are also probably preying on motorists in some areas.
“Around the area I live, you see them lying in wait on the streets waiting for the clock to strike 8am so they can start issuing tickets.”
Despite the increase, Sheffield’s income from penalty charge notices remains lower than many other councils, including Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Nottingham.
Mr Prior said: “Sheffield was probably being more lenient than elsewhere in previous years.”
Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, council opposition Liberal Democrat group leader, said: “It’s concerning the amount of money motorists are paying out on parking fines and bus gate penalties has increased by such a huge amount in just a year.
“The council shouldn’t be unfairly targeting motorists and using them as a cash cow. That would only see new business and visitors driven away from our city centre at a time when we need them most.”
The council says the increase in penalty charge income is due to a large-scale expansion of parking permit zones – adding the RAC figures are ‘misleading’ because they make no mention of the change.
A council spokesman said: “We believe these figures do not reflect the true picture of how penalty charge notices, or parking fines, are handled by the council.
“The true picture shows the number of controlled on-street parking spaces in Sheffield has risen 18 per cent between 2009 and 2013.
“The increase in revenue is mainly down to the Highfield permit parking scheme, which is almost all on-street.
“Although we are the fourth largest city in England, there are more than 50 other authorities in and out of London who generate more income from parking fines and fees than Sheffield.”
* Penalty charge notices now make up 31 per cent of the income of Sheffield Council’s parking services department.
Sheffield Council spent £5.4m in 2012/13 on running costs for its parking services department, excluding capital costs such as replacing vehicles and equipment in 2012/13.
Meanwhile, total income from fines, permit fees and pay and display tickets was £7m - leaving a £1.6 million surplus.
Total income in Sheffield increased from £6.9m in 2011/12.
Meanwhile, expenditure rose from £4.4m in 2011/12 - meaning the council’s surplus fell in 2012/13 from £2.5m.
Highways bosses insist the money leftover is not ‘profit’, but goes on funding road safety schemes and further enforcement activities.
Without income from penalty charge notices in 2012/13, the parking services department would have made a £100,000 loss.
The council is intent on raising even more money from parking – and has told the Government it has budgeted for a surplus of £3.3m in 2013/14.
Of the other councils in South Yorkshire, Doncaster’s 2012/13 surplus was £296,000, down from £470,000 the previous year, while Barnsley’s was £687,000, up from £552,000 in 2011/12.
Rotherham’s surplus also rose to £438,000 in 2012/13 from £352,000 in 2011/12, while Chesterfield’s fell to £1.03m in 2012/13 from £1.2m in 2011/12.