Council bosses defended the authority against the charge that they see drivers as ‘wallets on wheels’.

The accusation was made as it emerged that Swindon Borough Council made £3.1m from parking fees in 2018-19. The majority, at £2.2m came from council-run car parks, and the rest from on-street parking fees and fines.

This was roughly in line with the figure for the previous year.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: “When it comes to parking charges, many councils see drivers as wallets on wheels.

“Some of the incomes are eyewatering, so drivers want to see that cash reinvested in local roads to eliminate potholes and poor road markings.”

Council leader David Renard said parking policies aim to make sure there are spaces available for residents, high streets remain vibrant and traffic is kept moving.

He added: “Any income raised through on-street parking charges and fines is spent on running parking services, and any surplus is only spent on essential transport projects, such as filling potholes, supporting concessionary bus fares to help reduce congestion and other local transport projects that benefit high streets and local economies.”

A council spokesman added: “This isn’t the first time that a motoring organisation has used parking revenue statistics for their own headline-grabbing purposes and we’re sure it won’t be the last.

“As we have repeatedly stated for many years, any revenue raised by Parking Services is ploughed back into transport-related projects in Swindon.

“Not all of the money will be spent on road improvements as some is spent on public passenger transport services.

“Parking enforcement and parking charges are not used as a money-making exercise, which the AA is well aware of, as there is clear guidance from central government to local authorities that they should not be used as such.”

Swindon’s net income from parking last year did not grow significantly over that from the year before – while across the country as a whole local authority ‘profits’ from parking charges increased by £63m to nearly £1bn. Wiltshire Council made £4.5m from parking in the same year and Westminster City Council realised a whopping £69m.

Motorists in Swindon had a mixed reaction to the cost of parking in the town centre, where the council makes most of its money.

Carmen Tatlow, 45, was returning to her car in the Princes Street car park. She said: “It does cost a lot, and it does put me off driving into town a bit. If it was free on both Sundays and Saturdays, I’d really like that.”

Owen Reynolds 53, was more relaxed about it and – in a way – said he’d like to pay more.

He said: “I don’t mind paying really. Cars cost a lot, petrol costs a lot, it’s just the price you have to pay.

“What does slightly annoy me is the amount you have to pay, the odd amounts. I’ve paid for four hours, which is £5.60. I try and keep change in the car but I didn’t have 10p, so for me it was either £5.50 or £6.

“If it had been £6 then I’d have just paid it, but I had to pay that for a £5.60 ticket because it doesn’t give change, and that feels like I’ve lost out on 40p.

“It doesn’t matter really, but it’s annoying, so in a way I’d have preferred to have had to pay £6 because that was the cost, not because the machines don’t give change.”

Although it’s possible to pay by phone, Mr Reynolds said: “I’m not a fan of sending my credit card number by phone in public.”

Sandra Teck, 30, said: “I prefer my money goes to the council than a private company, if I have to pay.”