Council’s parking income driven down as people change shopping habits in Milton Keynes

Parking income is draining away at the rate of around £200,000 each year, a Milton Keynes Council committee has been told.

Councillors are concerned that, even though the more than 20,000 spaces in Milton Keynes currently generate an income of £14million, it could rapidly drain away.

Parking in Central MK

Parking in Central MK

Tuesday’s meeting of the Budget and Resources Scrutiny Committee was told that car park income has declined steadily since 2016-17 as fewer people visit Central Milton Keynes, and as working patterns change. A shift to online shopping, and free parking at MK1, are also believed to be some of the background causes.

MK Council is obliged to keep the profits ring-fenced and used to help pay for transport-related items. However, council officers say the budget does not have any wriggle room, and any losses have to be subsidised by taking money from other services.

Councillors at Tuesday’s meeting are set to urge the political leadership to look at the Milton Keynes parking strategy. They are scratching their heads as to what can be done about it.

Committee chairman Cllr Robin Bradburn (Lib Dem, Bradwell) said the council had looked at parking in some depth only to find that Milton Keynes is “one of the cheapest places in the region.”

He added that the pay and display system, where people have to guess how long they will spend in the city centre, was not the best.

“The best form of parking is payment after use. That’s possibly the way to go,” he said.

Cllr Paul Williams (Lab, Central MK) said that the council may need to look at the issue differently. He said: “It’s about the council’s reliance on the income. If people are not using cars as much, if we are relying on this income and it’s going to drop, we need to assess this as a council.”

And Cllr Dan Gilbert (Cons, Loughton & Shenley) said it is all about the changing nature of consumer behaviour. “It is a much bigger question,” he said.

Cllr Bradburn concluded: “Perhaps it’s now time for the administration to look at their strategy.”

The committee was told, in background papers, that work has been commissioned to develop a new Strategy for Parking in Milton Keynes.

This will look at how spaces are used and the “implications of changes to tariffs.”