As a result of the pandemic, income from car parking in Cheshire East fell by more than £3m last year compared to the previous year.
Owing to Covid parking charges were suspended between March 27 and June 15 last year and figures show the total income generated from car park charges across the borough was £1,967,640 in the last financial year (2020/21) compared to the previous financial year, 2019-20, when the figure was £5,064,703.
Crewe councillor Anthony Critchley said: “The figures are quite startling and it’s worrying how it’s going to be recouped, but the fact of the matter still remains that those towns like Crewe, Wilmslow, Macclesfield, Nantwich, Knutsford, Congleton and Alderley Edge are still paying for those that don’t.”
The issue of parking charges has been a thorn in the side of both the previous Conservative administration and the current Labour/Independent led council as some towns pay and some don’t and a car parking review is up for discussion at this month’s highways committee meeting.
In Alsager, Middlewich, Sandbach, Audlem, Bollington, Handforth, Holmes Chapel, Prestbury and Poynton all the council owned car parks are free.
Figures released under a Freedom of Information request show, as in the previous three years, Macclesfield was the biggest cash cow for Cheshire East this year with drivers paying £567,851 to park.
Wilmslow was next at £375,388 and Crewe was third highest at £329,046.
Drivers in Knutsford paid £309,363 to park in the last financial year, Nantwich paid £279,622, Congleton £84,123 and those in Alderley Edge paid £22,247.
Expenditure on car parks totalled £465,160 in Macclesfield – meaning it made a profit of £102,691 from Macclesfield drivers; £238,017 was paid out in Wilmslow, leaving profit of £137,371; £287,014 paid out in Crewe left a profit of £42,032 from Crewe drivers.
The council paid out £158,340 on car parks in Knutsford, leaving a profit of £151,023; £113,967 paid out in Nantwich, left a profit of £165,655; £82,159 paid out on Congleton car parks left a profit of £1,964 and £12,933 paid out in Alderley Edge left a profit of £9,314.
In the last financial year Cheshire East spent £27,671 on the free car parks in Alsager, £21,581 in Middlewich and £17,043 in Sandbach.
Cllr Critchley said: “Where on earth have they spent that money on car parks in all those towns?”
Crewe has the highest charge for the first hour, at 80p; Wilmslow is 70p on most car parks; Nantwich is 70p; Macclesfield varies between 60, 70p and 80p for the first hour.
Most Knutsford car parks are 70p for the first hour, Alderley Edge is 50p and Congleton is 40p.
Most of the towns which pay do provide at least one free council-owned car park, although there are none in Knutsford or Nantwich.
There is one council-owned car park in Knutsford and one in Nantwich where parking is free after 3pm.