PARKING operations run by BCP Council in 2019/20 were the 13th most profitable of anywhere in England, according to new figures.

The department made a £13.9 million surplus across the 12 month period, about £200,000 more than the individual Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole councils made a year earlier.

The figure gives the council the 13th largest surplus of anywhere in England, based on research carried out by the RAC Foundation.

BCP Council, and its predecessors, have traditionally made a significant profit on their car parking operations, particularly in the summer months.

In 2019/20 – prior to the start of the coronavirus pandemic – the council made £13.9 million, just £1 million less than Birmingham but significantly below Westminster City Council’s £69.6 million profit.

"Parking management is quite a money spinner for some local authorities, and nationally it is a big business with total income of more than £1.7 billion,” RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said.

"The surplus for 2019/20 is down a little on the year before which may in part reflect the impact of the first Covid lockdown which saw traffic levels plummet at the end of last March.”

He said the decrease is expected to be “much deeper” in the current financial year.

This is reflected in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole where the coronavirus response has seen income fall with fewer people visiting the area and with several months of lockdown.

A budget monitoring report, published ahead of the council’s February 1 cabinet meeting, says the loss of income is a “large” part of the estimated £47.5 million cost of the pandemic.

It warns the latest lockdown will cost the council £2.4 million compared to its usual parking services profit.

The government has awarded the council more than £13 million to compensate for the loss of income it has faced.

Local Government Association transport spokesman David Renard said councils’ parking income was needed to cover the costs of managing their road networks.

"Any surplus is spent on essential transport projects, including fixing potholes and tackling congestion,” he said. “But it would take more than a decade and £10 billion to tackle our current roads repair backlog.”