Councils have come under fire after it emerged they are on course to profit by £14m from parking charges across the North East.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles released figures, collected from local authorities showing how much they expect to gain from parking fees.
The figures show the surplus that councils expect to keep after the costs of administering parking schemes.
But civic leaders said they were keeping parking costs down, and pointed out that the money they raised went back into improving the road network.
Newcastle City Council expects to make a surplus of £7.3m in this financial year of 2013-14.
Northumberland County Council expects to make £1.6m, North Tyneside expects to make £952,000 while Gateshead forecasts a surplus of £174,000.
In total, North East councils expect to make just over £14 million.
Mr Pickles said the figures showed why town hall parking rules need to change – and warned that high meter and car park charges may be undermining local high streets and shops.
He said: “This £635m municipal parking profit shows why we need to review and rein in unfair town hall parking rules.
“This Government has scrapped the last administration’s Whitehall rules which told councils to hike up parking charges and adopt aggressive parking enforcement.
“But councils aren’t listening, and local shops and hard-working families are suffering as a result.
“The law makes it clear that parking is not a tax or cash cow for town hall officers.”
A Newcastle City Council spokesman said: “We have made a number of improvements to our parking services across the city over the last few years.
“This has enabled us to reduce our running costs, ease congestion, support the local economy and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Our new pay-by-phone initiative has been a huge success and now has 70,000 subscribers.
“We have saved more than £1m through a range of initiatives such as installing energy efficient lighting in our car parks and closing some cars parks late at night which were not being used.” He added: “In accordance with the law we reinvest any surplus money into our parking services and other highway-related projects to make further improvements for the benefit of residents, visitors and businesses.”
A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “The charge that Northumberland makes for residents parking permits only covers the cost of administering the scheme and there is no surplus.
“All other council parking permits represent good value for money and offer significant savings as an alternative to pay and display.
“The council is working with town and parish councils in Northumberland with the aim of introducing free parking to stimulate economic benefits.
“We are urging local councils to produce parking plans and come up with innovative solutions that see parking charges used only where there is a traffic management need for managing high demand.”
HOW MUCH THEY RAISE (PROJECTED SURPLUSES FOR 2013-14)
Darlington Borough Council: £1.3m
Durham County Council: £554,000
Gateshead Council: £174,000
Hartlepool Borough Council: £575,000
Middlesbrough Council: £858,000
Newcastle City Council: £7.3m
North Tyneside Council: £952,000
Northumberland County Council: £1.6m
Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council: £0 (no surplus)
South Tyneside Council: £913,000
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council: £117,000
Sunderland City Council: -£289,000 (the council will spend more administering parking than it collects)