English councils made a combined total of more than £890 million from parking during the 2019/20 financial year, according to new research. Analysis of financial returns by the RAC Foundation revealed an £891 million profit from parking operations despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Thanks to the lockdown that struck towards the end of March 2020, profits were down slightly compared with the previous year. However, the pandemic only made a relatively small impact, cutting the £934 million profit seen during the 2018/19 financial year by 4.6 percent.

Between 338 local authorities in England, the total revenue from on- and off-street parking operations amounted to £1.746 billion in 2019-20, the same amount as in 2018-19. However, the amount spent running parking operations rose by £42 million, hitting £854 million in 2019/20.

Woman using pay and display parking ticket machine

On average, each council made £2.6 million from parking in the last financial year, although the actual figures paint a marginally less striking picture. Although some councils made considerably more from their parking operations, others turned far smaller profits. Of the 338 authorities that submitted figures, just 35 made a loss.

The largest profits were mostly made in London, with the Borough of Westminster making a massive £69.6 million from parking operations. Westminster topped the profit table in England, with Kensington and Chelsea (£38.8 million) and Camden (£29 million) rounding out the top three. Brighton and Hove made the largest profit of any council outside London, earning £24.8 million from its parking operations.

Steve Gooding, the director of the RAC Foundation, said the drop in profit was down to reduced traffic in late March and early April, but councils may look to cut parking charges as the coronavirus-related restrictions are lifted.

“Parking management is quite a money-spinner for some local authorities, and nationally it is a big business with total income of more than £1.7bn,” he said. “The surplus for 2019-20 is down a little on the year before which may in part reflect the impact of the first Covid lockdown which saw traffic levels plummet at the end of last March.

“The dip is likely to be much deeper for the current financial year given the range of restrictions over the past 12 months and the government’s current plea that we should all stay at home if we can. Going forward, there are likely to be many councils who are actually looking to cut parking charges as a way of encouraging more people to visit their High Streets which are fighting for survival.”