UK Court rules against council using residential parking to finance borough’s deficit

| July 31, 2013

Residential parking permits usually carry a small fee to cover administrative costs. Some cities also use the net revenue for improvements to parks, schools etc. However, in the UK, one area was recently judged as having gone too far.

UK judge rules against parking to raise revenue

Barnet Council in north London was pulled up by Mrs. Justice Lang for jacking up costs of residential parking permits and visitor vouchers to cover a financial deficit. The High Court decision could set precedent for other councils who have increased residential permits’ costs.

One in ten Barnet residents live in Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs). These zones were created in 2001 to stop subway commuters from parking in Barnet’s streets. In 2011, the council raised the cost of residential parking permits by 150% – from £40 to £100 and quadrupled the cost of visitor vouchers from £1 to £4.

Barnet residents win case against council

This led to Barnet residents taking legal action against the council. David Attfield, a solicitor and a Barnet CPZ resident, spearheaded the campaign. “The increase to £100 was steep enough, but what really enraged people was the £4 flat charge for visitors. It meant it was more expensive for a friend to drop in on you at your home in outer London than to park outside Harrods,” Attfield says.

Barnet residents fight against illegal price hike

Barnet residents deliver papers to High Court in 2011. Image by David Attfield

The cash from these payments by CPZ residents was used to run other transport services like concessionary bus passes and road repairs. “Barnet Council has been caught picking the pockets of CPZ residents. Despite making up less than 10 per cent of the borough, they were being made to contribute disproportionately to a range of services such as road repairs and the provision of bus passes across the borough,” Attfield said after the judgment.

“While local authorities are allowed to use any surplus they happen to make from parking to boost their transport budgets, the court ruled they cannot deliberately set the cost of permits to make a profit,” reports.

Barnet Council could lose over £750,000 in revenue as a result of the ruling. Although Barnet Council leader Richard Cornelius agrees that the hike in charges had been implemented “too abruptly and rather charmlessly”, he says the council will appeal the decision.

In contrast, residential parking permits in the U.S. are priced considerably lower. While Philadelphia charges $35, San Francisco asks for $109. California law prohibits cities from charging more for permits than what it costs to run the program.

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Category: Parking

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A graduate in English Literature from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, India, Nupur also has an MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University. Nupur is currently trying to be as savvy a cook as she is with a book. She likes watching plays and sunsets. Nupur first lived in Kolkata and then for a decade in Delhi, still her favorite city.
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