Richmond has hit back over claims that the council is using extra cash from parking charges to make up for Government cuts.

The borough has been ranked among the 20 costliest areas to park in the country by the Labour party, which claimed Richmond drivers fork out an average of £97.75 per year for parking.

Labour said Westminster Council raised the most from parking charges with households paying an annual average of £637, compared with £109.60 for the average London household.

Labour claimed that Conservative-controlled councils on average charged higher parking fees, despite Communities Secretary Eric Pickles vowing to expose the “cash-cow cover-up”.

Research released by the Institute of Advanced Motorists showed Richmond Council pocketed more than £3.5m from parking profits in the past year, and more than £4m the year before.

The Forum of Private Business accused councils across the country of hammering motorists visiting town centres, after increase in revenue from parking fines and charges.

Richmond was known as the council that hated cars when it was Liberal Democrat controlled.

It has since extended free parking, removed yellow lines, scrapped spy cars and repaid some fines levied, but changes brought in from June 2011 saw overall parking charges increase by 15 per cent.

A council spokesman said the authority was sceptical about Labour’s data, as the most expensive CPZ parking permit in the borough was £90.

The spokesman said: “Since Richmond introduced its fair parking policy, it has seen a dramatic drop in formal complaints against the parking service.

“We feel that Richmond remains a good borough for parking.”

Parking campaigner Nigel Wise said: “My view is that Richmond Council is one of the fairest councils now in the country in relation to parking enforcement.

“There is a lot of leeway given before a ticket is issued.

“Lord True introduced sometime ago what he called then 'humane parking'. Their revenue for penalty charge notices is right down as a result of that.

“Overall the revenue for parking is probably, if it is the case that parking charges are high, fairly counterbalanced by the fair enforcement.”