SHEFFIELD’S controversial parking permit scheme netted the council at least half a million pounds of profit last year – even before the charges were doubled, The Star can reveal today.
Town Hall bosses have doubled residential and business parking charges, and quadrupled the price charged for visitors’ permits.
Fees went up this month from £10 to £20 annually for the first car per household, and from £20 to £40 for businesses’ first vehicle permits.
Council bosses said they needed to increase the charges to deal with the Government funding squeeze and to pay for services elsewhere.
But The Star has discovered the permit scheme was already hugely profitable – making a surplus profit of at least £448,200 in 2010/11. The scheme made £212,150 profit in Broomhill, £152,344 in Sharrow, £56,559 in Highfield and £27,147 in Broomhall.
The actual profit would have been higher, because the total figure does not include sums netted in Crookesmoor, Netherthorpe and the city centre.
And the profit is likely to have risen since, even without the price hike, because in February the scheme was extended to Hillsborough.
Coun Leigh Bramall, Labour cabinet member for transport, said: “If it wasn’t for the cuts we are facing this would not be happening.
“Fees are going up across the council. If we weren’t doing this we would have to be making cuts elsewhere.
“This scheme is still substantially cheaper than when it was first introduced, when it was £36 for a first residential vehicle.
“And it is far cheaper than elsewhere in the country - in York it costs £110 for the first residential parking permit.
“Given the challenges we are facing, we think this is one of the more palatable choices, even though it is one we do not want to make.”
The scheme was introduced originally to stop commuters parking in residential areas and walking to work - but opponents say it has harmed district shopping areas in Sharrow Vale, Hillsborough and Broomhill.
John Gilbert, owner of Gilbert and Sons furniture shop at Sharrow Vale, said: “The parking permit scheme was just for congestion at first. Now it’s just greed. It’s putting customers off.”
Resident Shelley Cockayne, 41, of Gordon Road, Sharrow Vale, said: “I find the whole thing ridiculous - we don’t even need a parking scheme. Councillors don’t have to pay to park outside their homes in Ecclesall or Dore.”
And Julie Sheldon, of Violet’s clothes and bags in Hillsborough Arcade, said: “I don’t think it’s fair - parking should be free to encourage shoppers to come.”
Lib Dem Coun Paul Scriven, whose Broomhill ward made the council the most profit, accused the Labour administration of taxing motorists to pay for other council projects.
He said: “The council is fleecing residents to pay for other things - and that is actually illegal.
“This scheme, by national law, should not be used to subsidise other operations. Coun Bramall is suggesting they use motorists and visitors to subsidise the council budget.”
Coun Scriven said the rise was unnecessary because council accounts already show a £6.5m surplus for last year.