A council is on track for its biggest ever parking profit this year.

Figures released by Brighton and Hove City Council reveal that it expects to rake in £5.8 million in the next 12 months - £1 million more than last year.

But while the number of tickets issued is expected to rise slightly this year to 150,000, this remains 10,000 below the level achieved in the year ending April 2006.

The drop is being credited to the three-month shift from eight small zones in central Brighton to two, during which very few tickets were handed out.

It is also predicted that the number of parking fines will not rise again to previous levels because of growing bus use and the new £22 million contract with NCP which targets correctly issued tickets.

One of the biggest boosts to the parking account comes from the creation of the new central Brighton parking zone where free and voucher parking bays have been replaced by pay and display machines charging up to £6 for two hours.

The council is expecting £1 million from pay and display bays in the two new central areas alone - double last year's income.

NCP, which has been awarded a six-year contract to run on-street parking for the authority, is also charging the council £1 million less a year.

This brings the total revenue from on-street parking to almost £14 million for the year ending April 2008.

The council has come under fire in recent weeks for handing out hundreds of tickets on bank holidays.

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, the newly appointed chairman of the environment committee, said he had no immediate plans to change the restrictions governing bank holidays, adding that the number of incorrectly issued tickets was low compared to other councils.

He said: "Parking fines are a huge issue for debate for residents, tourists and others but we need time before making decisions, should there be any changes.

The issue needs careful consideration.

"Money is ring-fenced. It goes to specific items and we will make sure that funds that are levied are used to the benefits of the city.

"We want to make things clear so that tourists and others do not feel that money is being taken away from them unreasonably but I am not going to be rushed into making decisions."

Steve Percy, chairman of the People's Parking Protest, said: "It is good that the number of parking tickets has fallen but given that they are making an extra £1 million they should reduce the cost of on-street parking.

"People tell me that they are going shopping in Crawley now because it is easier to park and cheaper.

"I would like to see more underground car parks and that will free up more parking spaces on the road for residents."

The council is planning to use the £5.8 million parking income for a range of transport and road-related improvements, although much of the money is ploughed into concessionary bus fares.