NESTING earwigs, would-be thieves and parking attendants are taking away thousands of pounds from coastal car parking income every year, it has been revealed.

Calls have been made for a detailed review of East Lothian Council’s parking charges policy at the county’s coastal car parks amid claims by opponents that once the costs had been taken away the entire scheme only made a profit of about £6,000 in its second year.

And council official admitted that while the income from the charges was increasing year on year, it was not expected to come close to the £300,000 included in the administration’s budget for this financial year, with an estimated gross income of £238,000 predicted.

It was also revealed at a meeting of the council’s policy and performance review committee that the council pays the Earl of Wemyss one third of the income from Longniddry Bents car parks No 1, No 2 and No 3, on top of a £10,000 lease, as the car parks are part of the Wemyss and March Estate.

Since the introduction of the charges in 2015, those three car parks have brought in just under £75,000 in income.

In total, the money collected from the 10 coastal car park sites which charge since it was introduced has been £343,212.45.

However, the cost of the scheme was questioned at the meeting.

East Lothian Council introduced a £2-a-day charge for using the three Longniddry Bents car parks and those at Barn Ness, Gullane Bents, John Muir Country Park, Shore Road at Belhaven, Tyninghame Links, Whitesands and Yellowcraig in 2015.

The initial cost of introducing the scheme, which included ticketing machines, signs and introducing double yellow lines at various locations, was about £900,000.

A further £425,000 is earmarked to be invested this year in improving toilet facilities at the Longniddry car parks.

Season passes are available for £40 a year and just under 3,000 are currently being used.

A report on the income from the car parks revealed that in its first year the scheme brought in £98,795 with costs of £4,977.

However, it said in its second year the gross income was just over £169,000 while costs rose substantially to nearly £94,000.

In the last financial year, gross income grew to £188,000 while the costs were at about £83,000.

Among the reasons given for the rise in costs were £55,000 which is paid towards East Lothian’s private parking attendants and the cost of replacing machines which had been vandalised by people trying to break into them, as well as rental fees for the Longniddry car parks and payment to a private company which collects the money from the machines and provides IT access so they can be monitored.

Peter Forsyth, service manager with the council, said the cost of replacing four machines last year had been £25,000 and he revealed there was an unusual bug problem.

He said: “We have been affected by equipment failure due to bugs, earwigs and such, who like to nest in the equipment. They are not covered by our warranty.”

Councillor Paul McLennan, who is part of the SNP Group which has opposed the car park fees from the start, said he estimated that, between costs of the scheme and interest generated from the initial loans, in its second year it would have made just £6,000 profit.

He said: “The business case is not stacking up.”

However, Jim Lamond, the council’s head of finance, said the scheme was never intended to make profits.

He said: “It is not in the budget as an income-generating activity. It is in there for improving the coastal car parks and ultimately that has been done.”

Councillor Jeremy Findlay (Con) said people in his ward in Gullane did not feel they were seeing improvement in facilities at their car park. He said: “It was sold to people as a way to invest in facilities and they are not seeing it.”

However, Councillor John McMillan (Lab), cabinet spokesperson for economic development, said a review would have to take in the bigger picture.

He said: “It needs to look at the impact on economic development and benefits it is bringing into East Lothian as well.”

The committee agreed to ask for a detailed review of the scheme.