PARKING profits made by Wiltshire Council have shrunk over the past five years due to a fall in trade in many of its cities and towns, new figures have revealed.

Last year the council made just under £3.6m profit from parking fees – the 55th highest sum out of the 353 local authorities in England which responded.

Figures from the RAC Foundation reveal the county’s profits have fallen each year since 2012/13, when the council made almost £4.7m in profits.

During the same period, the figures show that New Forest District Council’s profits fell from just over £1.2m to £1.1m.

A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said: “It is important to point out that any surplus from our car parks is invested back into vital services.

“There are many reasons parking surplus has reduced over the last few years.

“These include a general downturn in the economy, the free parking days we awarded to town and parish councils, the fact charges have been frozen for a number of years, and an increase in the costs of running the service.”

The figures came as the authority decided on Wednesday to increase parking charges in the county by 12 per cent to raise an extra £780,000 a year.

Also on the cards are plans to raise the cost of residents’ permits in Salisbury by up to 550 per cent, to raise around £200,000 a year.

The council says it needs money to protect subsidies for under-used rural bus services and to improve its car parks.

Labour councillor John Walsh said: “It all went wrong 10 years ago when Wiltshire Council put up their charges higher than Salisbury City Council did.

“Salisbury already pays enough compared to the rest of the county and our economy and traders rely on people coming into the centre.”