SWINDON Council’s cabinet member for transport, councillor Keith Williams, has defended a £3m parking fine surplus as the Government suggested cutting the level of fines.

He was speaking after the Government said yesterdayit was looking at ways of cutting parking fines to stop councils using them as ‘cash cows’.

This includes reducing the minimum amount of a fixed penalty charge, which currently stands at £40 and allowing five minutes extra if someone overuns the allocated time.

The Commons Transport Committee said it was hard to justify parking fines that are bigger than fines for more serious offences like speeding.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has frozen the maximum parking fines councils can impose.

Coun Williams said although Swindon had made a surplus of almost £3 million on parking levies last year the main problem is in big cities where some councils raise £10 million from parking penalties.

Over the past three years there has been an drop in the number of tickets given out in Swindon. In 2010/11 28,840 tickets were handed out but this fell to 24,645 in 2012/13.

Cash from parking fees goes to road improvement projects.

Coun Williams (Con, Shaw) said: “I think these proposals are mainly aimed at the big cities, which raise huge amounts and use parking fines as a way of balancing the budget.

“We do have a surplus but that is used on road projects and not elsewhere in the council.

“It is important that common sense is applied where necessary and we don’t become too heavy handed with drivers.

“For example, if an elderly lady was dropping off items at a charity shop and she over-ran by a few minutes then the parking attendant should use his discretion.

“I hope people see this is the approach we take.”

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Coun Keith Williams

Coun Williams says this approach is the best way of dealing with parking issues without creating problems for others.

He said: “The important thing is about finding a balance between helping business and making sure residents who live in the town centre are able to park close to their homes.

“We want to encourage people to come into the town but without creating a free-for-all. With the opening of the new car park Swindon has very good parking provision.”