THE former boroughs of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch clocked up a huge £13.7 million in profits from parking charges last year, latest figures show.

Data released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that in 2018-19 Bournemouth Borough Council raised £7.9 million in profit, while Christchurch Borough Council netted a £2.1 million profit.

These were the highest profits those two councils made from parking since comparable records began in 2008-09 and came in the final year of the local authorities’ existence.

Borough of Poole also cashed in from parking, collecting a £3.7 million in profit in the last full financial year. However, this was four per cent less than the previous year.

Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch car parks together netted a profit of £13.7 million.

Off-street parking in Bournemouth and Poole secured the lion’s share of the revenue, standing at £6.7million and £3.6million respectively.

Yesterday a BCP Council spokesperson told the Daily Echo: “In line with legislation, the surplus received through parking charges is used to improve car parking facilities and facilitate passenger transport, as well as making improvements to the council’s road network.”

All money from parking in Christchurch came from off-street parking fees, with the former Dorset Council collecting the cash for on-street charges.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: “When it comes to parking charges, many councils see drivers as wallets on wheels.

“At a time when budgets are stretched, raking in parking fees seems to be a tool used to try and fill the councils’ coffers.

“Some of the incomes are eyewatering, so drivers want to see that cash reinvested in local roads to eliminate potholes and poor road markings.”

Transport research charity the RAC Foundation said profits could be overstated in some areas, as costs such as interest payments are not included.

But Steve Gooding, the foundation’s director, said: “What will surprise drivers is that even as parking income soars, the amount of money being spent on routine road maintenance by councils has been in reverse.”

The rise in sums made from parking in Bournemouth and Christchurch reflects the trend across England, where profits hit a record high of £936million.

This was an increase of £63million from the previous year.

David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said councils were on the side of motorists and shoppers, and that parking policies aim to make sure there are spaces available for residents, high streets are kept vibrant and traffic is kept moving.

He added: “Any income raised through on-street parking charges and fines is spent on running parking services, and any surplus is only spent on essential transport projects, such as filling potholes, supporting concessionary bus fares to help reduce congestion and other local transport projects that benefit high streets and local economies.”

Parking services in the legacy authorities of East Dorset (£338,000) and Dorset County Council (£464,000) also bagged profits for the civic budgets.