Shoppers will be tempted into Lynn by reduced parking charges this New Year, while motoring groups say council chiefs are making even more money from the payments.
But, ahead of the launch, council leaders have been forced to defend their policies after research by the RAC Foundation claimed the authority made more money from parking last year, and is set to make even more this year.
Figures released by the foundation, which claims they come from figures submitted by the authorities themselves to the government, said the council had made a surplus of £2.785 million in parking charges during the financial year 2012-13, an increase of more than £250,000 on the previous year.
The total, which ranks the authority 52nd out of 353 councils in England listed in the survey, is also higher than those for both the Norwich and Peterborough city councils.
However, the council points out that it has frozen its parking charges since 2010 and run a series of promotions, most recently under the Just the Ticket banner, in order to encourage people into the towns.
Council leader Nick Daubney said: “In a period where our Government subsidy has been cut by £2.5m since 2010, we have managed not only to keep council tax down but have also frozen parking charges, offered parking promotions and continued to a provide a wide range of services to local residents and businesses.
“We have made substantial savings through joint working, joint procurement and thinking innovatively about the way that services are provided.”
He added: “If we were to stop charging for car parking, then many of these services would cease and King’s Lynn would be a less pleasant place to live, work and visit.”
But the Foundation’s director, Professor Stephen Glaister, said: “There’s no disputing the figures we have looked at. They are the numbers the councils themselves submit to central government.
“What’s more, council budgets show that the surplus for the current year is set to be higher still.”
The foundation says some of the additional surplus made by councils could be accounted for through the reduced costs of parking services and argues that authorities should have to produce an annual report detailing where the money they make from car parking is spent.
The debate over parking profits came as borough council officials unveiled their latest parking initiative, which will allow drivers to use council-operated sites in Lynn for £1 after 3pm on Wednesdays between January 1 and March 26.
Elizabeth Nockolds, the authority’s cabinet member with responsibility for car parks, said: “We are hoping to encourage more people to come into the town on Wednesday afternoons when it is characteristically quiet, helping to support the town centre shops and businesses.”