WEST LONDON councils' staggering £96million parking charges profits could be branded illegal.
Eight of the biggest 10 surpluses came from London councils with Westminster leading the way with a £41.6m profit, Kensington and Chelsea came second with £28.1m, Hammersmith and Fulham fourth with £19.5m and Hounslow tenth with £7.9m.
Westminster City Council disputed many of the figures but said it would work with motorists to reduce fines.
Kensington and CHelsea council made no apology for the rise in parking fines and the £28.1m profit by saying that the borough has the highest demand for parking in the country and the surplus money will be spent at the council's discretion.
Hammersmith and Fulham’s parking income has soared by 39% in just two years. As a result, the council along with others faces its parking income being declared illegal following a landmark court case rules against another London council.
Last month, Barnet Council’s much smaller surplus was declared illegal by a High Court Judge. Legislation dictates that parking fees and fines should only be used to pay for parking schemes. Councils like H&F and Barnet, though, are operating parking fees instead as a stealth tax.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “It is enshrined in law – as underlined by the Barnet case last week – that profits gained from on street charges and penalties must be ploughed back into a very limited number of things including maintaining the roads.”
Labour Opposition Leader Councillor Stephen Cowan said “These figures are more evidence of how the Conservative administration’s traffic plan is focussed on deliberately entrapping innocent residents in a variety of creative scams.
"In addition to likely being illegal, these fines and fees are the worst type of stealth taxes demonstrating once again that Hammersmith and Fulham is a high tax borough. The Conservative’s approach is dishonest, is bad for local retailers and terrible for innocent motorists who have been wrongly fined.”
Cllr Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler, H&F Council cabinet member for transport and technical services, said: "Any surplus on the parking account goes back into funding such things as free travel for older and disabled residents, and into maintaining our roads."
A Kensington and Chelsea council spokesman said: “There is a greater demand for parking spaces in Kensington and Chelsea than practically anywhere else in the country. The Council has discretion on how to spend any surplus that may arise, within the allowable purposes provided for by Section 55 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.
“Under current legislation the application of any surplus is limited to meeting the cost of providing and maintaining parking facilities, highways improvement schemes, highway maintenance, public passenger transport services and certain other categories of expenditure.”