Councils in England are generating huge profits from issuing parking tickets, a report by the RAC Foundation has revealed.

In 2011/12, councils had a total current account surplus of £565 million from their on and off street parking operations.

This figure is a £54 million increase on the £511 million surplus seen in 2010-11.

The data, studied for the RAC Foundation by David Leibling, comes from the annual returns that councils make to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The authority with the biggest income is Westminster Council in London which made a surplus of £41.6 million in 2011-12.

Only Brighton and Hove, and Cornwall councils break into a top ten dominated by London authorities.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “For many local authorities, parking
charges are a nice little earner, especially in the Capital.

“Not all authorities make big sums. Several run a current account deficit and indeed of those with surpluses many will see the money vanish when capital expenditure is taken into account.

“But the bottom line is that hundreds of millions of pounds are being contributed annually to council coffers through parking charges and the drivers who are paying them have a reasonable expectation to see the cash spent on improving the roads.

“In fact it is enshrined in law that profits gained from on street charges and penalties must be ploughed back into a very limited number of things including maintaining the roads.”

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said: “This profit shows why we need to review and rein in unfair town hall parking rules.

“Councils aren’t listening, and local shops and hard-working families are suffering as a result. The law is clear that parking is not a tax or cash cow for town hall officers.”