Carmarthenshire county council has moved to counter official figures showing it generated almost half a million pounds profit from car parking charges last year.
The authority refused to accept that the £487,000 highlighted by the RAC Foundation’s analysis of returns submitted to the Welsh Government was profit and instead labelled the cash “a surplus”.
The Foundation’s transport consultant David Leibling examined the official accounts all Welsh councils are legally-bound to submit to Cardiff Bay each year, which showed Carmarthenshire was ranked sixth in Wales in terms of parking charges “profit” – a figure calculated as the difference between the income from charges and penalties and the cost of providing parking facilities.
Following publication of the report, Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The beauty of these numbers is that they are official. None of the councils can dispute the calculations because this is the data they themselves submit to the Welsh Government.”
However, a spokesman for the council stated that the authority does “not make a profit from car parking” and that “all surplus monies” are used to improve and maintain the current transport infrastructure.
He said that parking charges were imposed to “regulate demand” and to “keep the supporting infrastructure in a serviceable condition”.
County council executive board member for transport services, Councillor Colin Evans said: “Any surplus from car parking is not profit as it is invested in a wide range of transport and highways related services.”
He added that the authority used money raised through car parking charges to “benefit the wider community” as well as “facilitate parking provision and management”.
In addition to car park maintenance, surplus funds were used to “promote more sustainable travel choices”.
“As an example, the council spends more than £1 million per annum to support local bus services that carry over a million passenger journeys a year,” said Cllr Evans.
“It is about balance and getting that balance right. Car parks are provided for the benefit of all”