Council chiefs have claimed figures saying they are the ‘second worst’ performing authority in the country for parking should be flipped around.
Data from the RAC Foundation reveals that Northumberland County Council made a loss of £667,000 in 2014/15, placing it 352nd in the country – just beating Surrey County Council.
The figures showed a dramatic turn for the authority as it made a profit in each of the last four years – more than £1million in 2013/14 with a ‘best’ of £1.8million in 2011/12.
However, senior officials at Northumberland say the turn in fortune is due to the introduction of free parking across the county, which they say is more beneficial to residents and businesses.
Coun Ian Swithenbank, cabinet member for local services at Northumberland County Council, said the authority and the vast majority of residents will view the figures as demonstrating that the county is the ‘second best’ in the country for taking away charges from its parking facilities in market towns.
He added: “The reason for the change in revenue is our decision to implement free parking across council-owned car parks and on-street parking places in April 2014.
“We asked local town and parish councils to decide what was best for their own locality and they established their own parking initiatives after consultation with the local community.
“The introduction has been very successful and beneficial to residents, visitors and businesses where it has been introduced, with increased footfall in these places.”
The figures from the RAC Foundation had been calculated by taking income from parking charges and penalty notices, then deducting running costs.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The legal position is that parking charges are to be used as a tool for managing traffic.
“But with local government budgets under ever-greater pressure, the temptation to see them as a fund-raiser must be intense.”