A north-east council has been slammed for reintroducing pay and display car parking charges while lockdown continues as new figures reveal the drop in money taken in during the pandemic.
Statistics show the impact the coronavirus crisis had on the number of motorists using council car parking facilities last year.
Aberdeenshire Council took in £52,416 in January, £52,083 in February then £27,227 in March.
Council bosses scrapped charges in March with no money taken in April 2020.
According to official figures obtained by the Evening Express through Freedom of Information legislation, £112 was taken in May, £62 in June, £383 in July and £321 in August.
Aberdeenshire Council reintroduced parking charges on January 4 this year to cover their £48,000 operating costs.
In total, the pay and display car parks in Banchory, Banff, Ellon, Fraserburgh, Huntly, Inverurie, Peterhead and Stonehaven took in a total of £132,604. 20 in 2020.
That is compared to £508.570.50 in 2019 and £393,570.50 in 2018 respectively.
Aberdeen City Council took in £90, 891.77 for on-street parking and £72,004.95 for off-street parking in 2019/20. The total for off-street parking in 2018/19 was £96,071.28 and £46,004.46 for off-street parking in 2017/18.
Fraserburgh and district council Brian Topping believes charges should not have been reintroduced by Aberdeenshire Council during the latest coronavirus lockdown.
He said: “I don’t think the council should have started charging again in the first place as there are not as many folks are parking downtown as most businesses are closed.
“But for the few premises that are open, we want to encourage folk to use the local businesses that are open and not end up using the large supermarkets on the edge of town. It doesn’t help with regeneration either.”
Peterhead South and Cruden councillor Stephen Calder said it is “beyond belief” that the local authority reintroduced car parking charges during the latest lockdown.
He said: “Peterhead town centre, an area of multiple deprivation, has the least proportion of free parking of any town in Aberdeenshire. The most disadvantaged area is being hardest hit.
“It’s beyond belief the council went ahead with re-imposing full car parking charges in our town centre in January, in the middle of a pandemic and a lockdown, when most town centre shops and businesses are closed anyway.
“Their actions are severely detrimental to our already struggling town centre.”
Aberdeenshire Council introduced tariffs to its pay and display car parks in September 2019 with motorists charged 50p for the first hour of their stay, which used to be free.
Peter Argyle, chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure committee, said bringing the charges back at the start of the year was to pay for associated costs like staffing.
He said: “We haven’t made a lot of money from this certainly not as much as we need.
“Up until the pandemic struck we were well on track to having some more money to have the car parks better maintained and the people who look after the car parks still need to be paid.
“We saw over Christmas that a lot of the car parks in town centres were full because some people were leaving their cars all day.”
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said: “We ceased charging at our pay and display system back in March last year in response to the Covid pandemic and the challenges facing the public.
“Tariffs were reinstated in January this year as they play a vital role in the management of parking in our town centres. While the loss of revenue has indeed been considerable, we currently have no plans to increase charges.”