Council in south east London made a combined £37.2 million from parking activities in the last financial year, some making even more than before the pandemic hit, according to new analysis.

In total for the past financial year, English councils made a combined £891 million surplus from parking activities which have been described as a 'money-spinner' for some local authorities.

The figure for 2019/20 represents a 5% decrease compared with the record £934 million total during the previous 12 months, research by the RAC Foundation found.

In south east London, the most profitable borough was Bromley, making a total of £11.4 million in 2019/20.

This is a 12.4% rise compared with 2018/19, bucking the London trend of decline (-0.2%). Bromley also had relatively low costs of £4.9 million, resulting in a surplus of £6.5 million.

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Another borough also saw its parking fine income go up. In Greenwich, the council made £10.6 million, also a 12.4% annual increase from £9.4 million.

The borough spent £6.1 million on parking, up 9.5%, resulting in a small total surplus of £4.5 million.

However, Lewisham saw a step drop off in parking fine profits, falling from £9.9 million to £8.2 million, a decrease of 17.7%.

The borough spent just £2.2 million on parking activities, so had a surplus of £6 million.

Bexley, whose council is currently facing dramatic cuts to bridge a multi-million pound budget gap, profits were at the region's lowest, £7 million, a small 3.4% decline.

The borough spent just £1.9 million on parking though, so had a surplus of £5.1 million.

Whilst well above the national average, south east London ranks lowly amongst the rest of the capital, with all four boroughs among the bottom 11.

Across all of London, councils made a total of £726.7 million from parking activities, helped by the clear leader Westminster, which had a total £74.4 million profits last year.

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The total London surplus was £445.1 million, down 2% from the year before.

Nationwide, local authorities received an income of £1.746 billion from their parking operations in 2019/20.

The amount that councils spent on running their day-to-day parking operations was £854 million, not including interest payments or depreciation of assets such as car parks.

Any money made from parking activities must be spent on local transport projects.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: "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.

"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.

"The dip is likely to be much deeper for the current financial year given the range of restrictions over the past 12 months and the Government's current plea that we should all stay at home if we can.

"Going forward there are likely to be many councils who are actually looking to cut parking charges as a way of encouraging more people to visit their high streets which are fighting for survival."

The study is based on analysis of Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data.

Only 35 of the 338 local authorities who returned figures reported a loss on their parking operations.

The biggest amount outside the capital was reported by Brighton and Hove (£24.8 million).

David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: "Councils have to try and ensure there are spaces available for everyone at all times of the day and we can keep traffic moving, and dangerous obstructions are dealt with.

"With an increase of 10 million cars on the road in the last 20 years, this has become increasingly challenging for councils.

"Income raised through on-street parking charges and parking fines is spent on running parking services.

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

- These are the 20 councils in England with the largest surpluses from parking operations in 2019/20, according to the RAC Foundation:

1. Westminster (£69.6 million)

2. Kensington and Chelsea (£38.8 million)

3. Camden (£29.0 million)

4. Wandsworth (£28.4 million)

5. Islington (£26.6 million)

6. Hammersmith and Fulham (£25.5 million)

7. Brighton and Hove (£24.8 million)

8. Haringey (£19.7 million)

9. Lambeth (£16.7 million)

10. Nottingham (£16.4 million)

11. Hackney (£15.5 million)

12. Birmingham (£14.9 million)

13. Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (£13.9 million)

=14. Brent (£12.5 million)

=14. Croydon (£12.5 million)

16. Tower Hamlets (£12.3 million)

=17. Merton (£12.2 million)

=17. Barnet (£12.2 million)

19. Bristol (£11.5 million)

20. City of London (£10.7 million)