DRIVERS who have failed to pay a controversial new night-time parking charge have helped Southampton council bosses rake in £28,000 – in just three months, the Daily Echo can reveal.
A staggering £27,988.80 has rolled in through penalty tickets slapped on cars of those who have failed to pay the new £2 fee since it was introduced in January this year.
A total of 1,853 people have been caught out since the system was brought in amid confusion and anger from motorists who claimed ticket machines didn’t work and there was a distinct lack of signs about the changes.
The revelations have added fuel to the fire for opposition councillors who previously described the debacle as “a farce from start to finish”.
As previously reported, the new parking fee also sparked fury among business leaders in the city who feared it would deter people from visiting at night because they wouldn’t want to pay to park.
However, those concerns appear to have been allayed according to the bank balance sheets which revealed that more than £85,000 – payments of more than 42,000 drivers – has been collected from parking machines across the city in just January and February.
The staggering windfall was revealed during a full meeting of Southampton City Council yesterday afternoon.
And it sparked calls from opposition leaders for council chiefs to scrap the levy on residents living in parts of the city who are now being forced to pay to park outside their own homes.
That scheme was introduced in November last year and meant that drivers have to stump up an annual charge of £30 for first residents’ permits in 13 existing permit zones across the city – despite them previously being free.
The plans still went ahead amid more than 800 objections from residents.
The calls to scrap them were made by Tory leader, Cllr Royston Smith, who demanded a commitment from city transport boss Cllr Jacqui Rayment to axe the parking bills.
He said: “When you introduced the residents’ parking scheme, you said it’s because the council is stumped for cash but now you have a windfall.
“Would it not be a good thing that we could use that to do away with residents’ parking charges schemes?”
In response, she vowed to consider it but said it was not a decision she could make ”on the hop”.
Cllr Smith then asked where most of the “windfall” would be spent – and was told it would be pumped back into repairing Southampton’s damaged roads.
She said: “We all know that our networks are not in a good state across the board. There are 360 miles of road in this city and we will be investing the money into the network.
“We will have to be mindful of what we can spend the parking money on.”
Cllr Jeremy Moulton, deputy leader of the Tory group, asked if the figures were regarded as a success or failure – to which Cllr Rayment said she was “disappointed” and said the charges we not “vigorously” enforced.
Cllr Rayment later told the Daily Echo she was unable to confirm what repairs will be made using the money until a full review is carried out.
The amount raised by the council through the night-time parking charge has left a bitter taste in the mouth of some businesses which claim they have been hit by the scheme.
Ian Silsbury, from tapas restaurant La Esquina in Oxford Street, said: “If it’s not a money-making exercise why do they need to put the parking charges up? Are they giving traffic wardens a pay rise?
“To make that much in a short space of time, the money is obviously going somewhere.”