Councils leaving drivers who struggle with technology unable to pay

Cashless parking ‘is forcing elderly out of our towns’: Councils are accused of leaving drivers who struggle with technology unable to pay as almost half use card or phone app machines

  • Thirteen councils across England and Wales have become totally cashless
  • In the past 15 months, those that are cashless have collected £257 million in fines
  • In areas where all car parking machines take cash, £158 million was raised

Campaigners have accused councils of forcing the elderly and disabled out of town centres after an investigation by The Mail on Sunday found almost half now use parking machines that do not take coins but instead require drivers to pay by phone app or bank card.

Thirteen councils in England and Wales have become totally cashless, meaning motorists who struggle with technology or do not use a mobile phone are unable to pay.

In the past 15 months, councils that are cashless or have limited availability of cash-accepting machines collected £257 million in fines. 

By comparison, £158 million was raised in areas where all car parking machines take cash.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘Cash is the go-to payment method for many older people, including when they park their car. 

Thirteen councils in England and Wales have become totally cashless, meaning motorists who struggle with technology or do not use a mobile phone are unable to pay (stock image)

‘While no one particularly enjoys shoving coins into a meter, if you don’t have a smartphone or credit card, machines that don’t take cash are no use at all, making it even harder to find somewhere to park than it already is.’

She added: ‘More and more services are declining cash and threatening to disenfranchise millions of older people as a result. We urge every public-facing body to continue to cater for people who use cash, so they are not excluded.’

The analysis of parking machines followed a request under Freedom of Information rules to more than 330 councils in England and Wales. Almost 200 responded.

Craig Mackinlay, a Tory MP and chairman of the Fair Fuel UK Motorists and Hauliers all-party parliamentary group, said: ‘Many people cannot access labyrinthine parking systems often accessible only via smartphones and this is certainly true of the most vulnerable. 

‘Why should they be forced online for the convenience of councils who should be there to serve residents, not fleece them?’ 

Latest figures from the communications regulator Ofcom show 59 per cent of people aged over 65 use a smartphone, compared with more than 90 per cent aged 16-54.

In the past 15 months, councils that are cashless or have limited availability of cash-accepting machines collected £257 million in fines (stock image)

Tory MP Greg Smith said: ‘A majority of us have smartphones and are able to use cashless parking apps, but that doesn’t mean everyone can. It is vital the ability to pay for parking in cash continues. To take it away is taking away the ability for many, especially the elderly and vulnerable, to go out.’ 

Concerns have also been raised that parking apps cost motorists more as a result of an additional fee of up to 30p per time. 

Service charges are often set by councils and private operators in co-operation with pay-by-phone firms. In most cases councils do not receive a cut of the additional fees.

Craig Mackinlay (above), a Tory MP and chairman of the Fair Fuel UK Motorists and Hauliers all-party parliamentary group, said: ‘Many people cannot access labyrinthine parking systems often accessible only via smartphones and this is certainly true of the most vulnerable’

Responding to the criticism, some cashless councils said drivers could use cash by finding designated PayPoints, located in nearby shops.

Councillor David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: ‘Councils are on the side of hard-pressed motorists, shoppers and businesses and look to offer a range of payment methods.

‘Like so many organisations, councils have found the public welcome the convenience of online technology. But they also pay close attention to the needs of those for whom online payment isn’t attractive.’

He added: ‘Many councils make a loss on parking services but where they do make surpluses they are required to spend it on improving parking and transport facilities.’

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