THE council has hit back at claims drivers are seen as "wallets on wheels", as Reading reportedly raked in record parking charge profits last year.

The response from Reading Borough Council (RBC) comes after the AA said many local authorities see drivers as a "wallet on wheels", and has accused some councils of using parking fees to plug budget gaps.

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RBC responded to claims by calling it "highly misleading".

The AA reports that parking services in Reading raised £4.6 million in profit in 2018-19, according to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data - a record high.

This was the highest profit the council has made from parking since comparable records began in 2008-09.

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Off-street parking, such as council-run car parks, made the most profit last year, at £2.7 million.

The rest came from on-street parking.

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.”

Tony Page, Reading’s lead councillor for strategic environment, planning and transport, said: “The AA know full well - because it is written in law - that local councils can only spend parking revenue on operating parking services or on local transport projects.

"It cannot be used to supplement council budgets and any suggestion that it is used for that purpose is not only irresponsible, but highly misleading."

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The council said parking revenue in Reading last year - surplus of £3.5million - paid for concessionary fares for elderly and disabled residents, the Readibus ‘dial a ride’ service for disabled residents, in-house transport for the vulnerable residents who rely on adult social care services, road, pothole and bridge repairs, the installation of new street lighting and CCTV and road safety schemes.

Mr Page said: "The fact is parking restrictions and enforcement are essential in a busy and successful town like Reading - where there is a need to balance a steady turnover of parking spaces for visitors, with demands for commuter parking and fully understandable need for local residents to park near to their homes.

"More often than not it is local residents themselves who lobby the council for the introduction of new parking permit areas and additionally demand that enforcement is increased in existing resident permit zones, which is part of the reason for this increase in parking surplus.”