Pressure to scrap parking fees as councils lose money
LOCAL authorities are coming under intense pressure to dump costly parking fees.
They are losing millions of euro every year on their car parking service, with one-in-three spending more than they take in.
And there are concerns they are driving shoppers to out-of-town centres.
Rural counties have emulated big cities by introducing on-street parking charges in many provincial towns, but it is costing them more to enforce than they collect.
Motorists paid more than €100m last year in parking charges and fines, but despite the massive spend, 18 county and town councils are losing money.
They include counties with lucrative tourist industries such as Kerry, Cork, Galway and Donegal, as well as a host of towns including Carrickmacross, Letterkenny and Ballinasloe which are desperately trying to attract shoppers.
The costs of the service include employing traffic wardens, replacing and maintaining pay and display machines, and the costs of collecting cash from the machines. In some cases, private companies are empl- oyed to provide the service.
The figures, obtained from budget reports from all local authorities, showed the cost of enforcing traffic by-laws is costing well in excess of the revenue generated in many areas.
The budget reports show:
• Ten local authorities spent a total of €3.9m in 2011 on parking enforcement, but generated just €2.5m in fees.
• Of these, the highest spend versus income was in Kerry, which spent €620,149, but only collected €79,000.
• Another eight town councils also ran loss-making parking services, spending more than €1.2m but only receiving €712,000 in fees.
• Among the high-spenders include Ballinasloe in Galway, which spent almost €325,000 but only collected €252,000.
• But urban areas are more lucrative -- all the city and borough councils make money, with Dublin City collecting almost €29m last year.
• Cork City made €9.5m, and Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown in Dublin another €4.4m.
Councils yesterday defended the spend, saying it was linked to easing congestion as well as raising revenue.
A spokesman for Kerry County Council said that councillors were reluctant to introduce car parking charges in many areas, even where the council was paying for enforcement. He also said that money was only made in urban centres.
"In rural areas you have towns where you have parking enforcement in place, for example in Castleisland where there's a two-hour limit on parking but no charges.
"The wardens are to ensure that cars aren't being abandoned and that car parking spaces are being freed up. The main aim is to ensure there's a circulation of parking spaces and that there isn't cars parked in dangerous areas and blocking traffic."
Many councils have not increased parking charges this year.
Chambers Ireland said that more consideration should be given to parking charges.
"It's not helping get punters into town to do their shopping. There needs to be more commercial acumen applied to parking generally. It should be used as a means to ensure a supply of car parking spaces," said deputy chief executive Sean Murphy.
"There are any number of models that would work. Free parking can really get people into town centres, but there isn't a generic one-size-fits-all approach."