Council planning increase in charges to cover shortfall
Fall in parking fine issuance may come as a surprise to some
February 3, 2023
Wandsworth Council is predicting an overspend of almost £2 million on its transport budget after handing out fewer parking fines than expected and residents using their cars less. Wandsworth Council said the expected shortfall in parking income was mainly driven by Covid, the cost of living crisis and delays in installing enforcement cameras to catch drivers breaking the rules.
The council is also planning to hike parking charges by up to 7per cent from June after the changes were approved on Wednesday, 1 February.
A fresh council report says the net budget for the transport committee is £8.79m but the forecast outturn is expected to be £6.75m for the 2022/23 financial year – leading to an expected overspend of £1.98m.
The report says the remaining Covid contingency budget of £434,000 will be allocated to the committee to reduce the overspend to £1.5m, while ongoing pressures will be considered further in the report setting council tax.
The expected overspend is mainly from income shortfalls in parking services along with overspends in development management and policy and design, according to the report. It says the forecast parking income for 2022/23 is expected to be below budget by more than £1m – £707,000 of this shortfall from on-street income and £940,000 from penalty charge notices.
It says, “For penalty charge notices this is a consequence of a reduction in the volumes of parking and traffic activity, delays associated with the rollout of new Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras for the enforcement of moving traffic offences, as well as the direct impact from strike activity associated with the council’s parking enforcement contractor NSL.” The report says income loss from the strikes is estimated to be around £300,000.
It adds that “existing trends for reduced car usage and remote working” were accelerated by Covid while “rapid increases in petrol cost particularly alongside significant economic pressures upon household resources has, and will continue to, drive a reduction in overall car usage as residents and visitors seek to manage expenditure”.
Alex Moylan, head of finance, told the transport committee on Wednesday an update will be brought to the next committee on actions the authority has taken to bring the budget “back into alignment”.
Labour councillor Annamarie Critchard said, “Overall as one of our aims is to reduce car usage, we are happy that the car usage is reducing, and obviously there’s an issue because we were expecting more income.” She said the authority needs to “keep a very close eye on the budget this year”.
The committee also backed increasing parking charges by up to 7pc at the meeting. The executive will make the final decision on 13 February.
Mr Moylan said the council is facing “significant cost pressures” and that concession charges would be frozen.
Conservative councillor John Locker raised concerns about hiking charges while locals are “coming to terms” with plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
Labour councillor Clare Fraser said the move is “not an easy decision” but the hike is below current inflation rates. Councillor Critchard said up to 50pc of households in the borough have a car, according to the latest census data, and that with the planned increase “it’s still not a huge charge”.
Parking and enforcement income is ringfenced, meaning any profits are invested back into parking services, roads and transport initiatives.
Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter