More cash was made last year from drivers parking in East Devon than in almost any other district council area in the South West, according to government figures.

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But East Devon District Council (EDDC ) claim the figures don’t say that the authority has lower overheads and has more parking spaces.

The figures were calculated by the Institute of Advanced Motorists from Department for Communities and Local Government Revenue figures for 2011/12.

It shows the total car parking income after staff and administration costs have been deducted.

The figures show that, in 2011/2012, £2.3million was made by EDDC - more than any other of Devon’s six other district councils.

East Devon is ranked 58th out of 358 local authorities, putting it behind only most of the London Borough’s and in the South West behind only Exeter and Taunton Deane.

This has led the Forum of Private Business to say the figures are ‘damning proof local authorities are hammering motorists visiting town centres.

But Councillor Iain Chubb, EDDC cabinet member for environment, said: “As so often with out of context statistics, these only tell half the story and not very well at that. Parking charges did not go up during this time in East Devon car parks.

“Not only were charges frozen, but in fact we even absorbed the increase in VAT so as not to pass costs on to motorists. “

He said that they appeared to raise more money because they were ‘more efficient’ and employed two less seasonal enforcement officers over the summer.

He added that they also shared managers with other departments following the retirement of their parking services manager.

“Our ‘ranking’ is affected by the simple fact that we are the biggest district with the most parking spaces.

“Parking does of course provide an important income, and without it we would not be able to run many essential services that people rely on. The question is whether people would rather see parking charges or everyone’s council tax or business rates going up in order to replace lost funds and subsidise free car parks.”

He said if income was lost EDDC would have to raise council tax by £3.88 a month per average household,

He said: “To save this sum we would have to stop street cleaning, close all public conveniences and the majority of parks and gardens. As with all issues this is about providing a good, fair balance, and not simply reacting to kneejerk politics, single-issue pressure groups or other lobbying groups without thinking carefully about the big picture.”

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