TRAFFIC wardens are boosting Swindon Council’s coffers to the tune of £1.1m.

This is the amount of money the council made from parking fines last year.

Figures obtained by the Adver under the Freedom of Information Act show the local authority has doubled the amount of money it makes from people parking illegally since it took over enforcement in 2003.

The seven-figure sum is just part of the £6m the council collected from parking charges and fines last year.

The huge revenues have been described as “deplorable” by one councillor, while the Taxpayers’ Alliance said parking charges were being used increasingly by councils as a cash cow.

Yet the council says all money raised through parking charges and enforcement is ploughed back into the town’s transport schemes.

Swindon Council took control of parking enforcement from the police five years ago when parking offences were decriminalised.

In 2002, the Adver revealed that Swindon had a solitary traffic warden, who issued fines totalling £43,140 during a five-month period between January and May of that year.

But the following financial year, the council’s 41 wardens, who are described as parking attendants by the council, raised £512,562 in fines – a figure which rose to £1.1m last year.

They patrol the town’s streets between the hours of 6am and 10.20pm from Monday to Saturday, and between 10am and 4pm on Sundays and bank holidays.

The attendants, who are paid between £15,153 and £17,154 a year, are allowed to work overtime.

As well as seeing an increase in the amount of revenue generated by parking fines, the council made £5.1m last year from parking charges – a rise of £650,000 from the previous 12 months.

Coun Derique Montaut, the Labour group’s spokesman for transport, has called for a freeze on parking charges and fines.

He said: “People are being hit in their pocket books right now more than ever and the council are making more and more money from them.

“The situation has reached a point where something needs to be done to stop the excesses.

“First the Conservatives want more money from speed cameras and now this. When are they going to give people a break?”

Mark Wallace, campaign director for the Taxpayers’ Alliance said Swindon Council, like all councils around the UK, was lowering services while raising parking costs and council tax.

He said: “These sort of figures concern us a great deal.

“They have taken things like car parking charges that used to be about traffic calming and they are exploiting them in order to raise more revenue.

“I think they have been running wildly out of control and people have become sick and tired of it.”

Council spokesman Richard Freeman said regulations had to be enforced because if they weren’t some drivers would ignore them.

He said: “If drivers were free to park where and when they wanted, Swindon’s roads would rapidly become congested and dangerous, which is why we have parking regulations, in common with every other town and city in the UK.

“We only fine drivers who park illegally, and there is a well-established and independent appeals process they can use if they wish to challenge why they were booked.

“All money raised from parking fines and car park charges is, by law, ploughed back into transport-related projects in Swindon.

“Some of the money, for instance, is used to subsidise local bus services that would otherwise be uneconomic to run, but which are of clear benefit to local communities.”