Councils across the country are planning to increase car parking charges, said a new report by the Local Government Information Unit.

The report indicates that as many as half could increase the cost of car parking spaces and residents’ permits by as much as 45 percent. Some of them are even thinking Sunday charges, which would particularly hit churchgoers and shoppers.

Councils argue that the cost of maintaining the roads is increasing, necessitating the hike. Besides, the squeeze on their funds make it difficult for them to support the services they provide.

However, the move is feared to impact local businesses adversely.

Alex Wild from the TaxPayers’ Alliance told ITV News: “Councils might be shooting themselves in the foot here. In the next few years they’re going to be allowed to keep all of the revenue they raise in business rates.

“If it’s becoming so expensive for people to go out use the shops there could be knock on effect there, with business rates falling.”

Tory MP Sir Greg Knight echoed the same sentiment to The Sun: “The high street in many towns and cities is already under threat from internet shopping and higher parking charges could well have the effect of pushing more small town centre shops into liquidation.”

The councils, however, maintain that they are on the side of motorists and businesses, but needed funds for essential transport projects.

Martin Tett of the Local Government Association said: “Local authorities remain on the side of hard-pressed motorists, shoppers and businesses and do not set parking charges to make a profit.

“Car parks cost taxpayers money to maintain and improve and any surplus is spent on essential transport projects, such as tackling the £12 billion roads repair backlog and creating new parking spaces.

“To protect such provision, and in the face of an overall funding gap that will exceed £5 billion by 2020, councils are being forced to make difficult decisions.”

Councils in England made a £819 million surplus from parking fines, fees and permits during 2016-17.