St Helens Council clocked up hundreds of thousands of pounds in profit from parking charges last year, figures reveal.
The AA says many local authorities see drivers as a “wallet on wheels”, and has accused some of using parking fees to plug budget gaps.
Parking services in St Helens raised £411,000 in profit in 2018-19, according to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data.
This was 3% less than the previous year, when it made £425,000.
All the profit made by the council last year came from off-street parking, such as local authority-run car parks.But on-street parking cost it £108,000.
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 drop in profits made from parking in St Helens bucks the trend across England, where profits hit a record high of £936 million.
This was an increase of £63 million 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.”
The council with the highest profit last year was Westminster, which made £69 million from parking charges.
But in Buckinghamshire, parking services cost the council £2.9 million – the biggest loss for any council.