Profits generated from council-operated car parks in West Norfolk are higher now than at any point in the last five years, new figures show.
Data released by the RAC Foundation showed the borough council made a surplus of nearly £3 million during the last financial year, up nearly £500,000 on the previous year.
But officials have defended the authority’s record and accused the motoring organisation of “comparing apples with oranges.”
The foundation says its data is drawn from the returns councils submit to the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The study showed West Norfolk Council had a surplus of £2.902 million from parking in the 2016-17 financial year, up around £500,000 on the previous year.
The figures, which only relate to off-street parking, coincide with the implemention of increased charges in April 2016 and rank the borough 71st out of more than 350 local authorities in England.
The borough also recorded a higher surplus than Norwich City Council, whose total fell slightly.
But a borough council spokesman said: “They are comparing apples with oranges. The Borough of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk is the 12th largest district in the country, covering an area of 550 square miles. It is no surprise that we appear higher up the table than smaller rural districts.
“Two years ago we appeared at 72 in the table and we are now at 71 in the table so not much has changed in that time.
“Money collected from council-owned car parks is used to help keep council tax low for residents, to support vital and much-needed local services and to provide a varied events programme to encourage people to visit the town to support the local economy.
“Privately-owned pay-and-display car parks are predominantly more expensive, and the profits are not ploughed back into services for the area. This is not reflected in the figures provided by the RAC.”
But Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The upward path in profits is in part a reflection of the record number of cars and volume of traffic.
“We urge motorists to take the time to read their own local authority’s parking report so they can see both the rationale for charges in their area and how the surplus is being spent.”
Charges paid for on-street parking areas go to Norfolk County Council.