Elderly residents feel council wishes they ‘didn’t exist’ after removing parking machines

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter

Elderly residents have asked a council if it wished they “didn’t exist” after removing pay and display parking machines in the borough and asking residents to pay using a smartphone app.

Bromley council agreed last November to remove all remaining pay and display parking machines in the borough after the scheme was first introduced in 2019.

Drivers are now being encouraged to pay for their parking using the RingGo app on their smartphones but some pensioners say the move is not inclusive and is eroding their independence.

The topic was discussed at a Bromley council meeting on April 24. Lib Dem Councillor Julie Ireland said at the meeting that she had received several emails from elderly residents living in West Wickham regarding their struggles with paying for parking digitally.

Cllr Ireland said: “They said, ‘do the council wish we didn’t exist?’ They hold onto their independence as long as possible but that does mean that they rely on cars. None of them have mobile phones.

“How are they expected to pay the penalty fines that they will get?”

The topic was brought up after a letter was sent to local council leaders on April 4 by the Secretary of State for Communities, Michael Gove MP.

In the letter, Mr Gove said he was concerned about older people being “digitally excluded” as local authorities move towards cashless payments for parking.

Cllr Bennett said at the meeting that Mr Gove’s letter was his “own opinion” and not the law.

The portfolio holder said other London councils such as Southwark had given residents the option to continue paying for their parking using scratch cards from local shops, but that the service had lost the council money.

He said: “In the highly unlikely event the motorist does not possess a mobile phone, given that 92per cent of the UK population own not just a mobile phone but a smartphone, a car bay may be booked by a landline or an ordinary mobile phone.”

Conservative councillor Simon Fawthrop said at the meeting that residents had alternative choices for parking apart from those offered by the council, such as at supermarkets and train stations.

Cllr Bennett said that the council would make sure drivers would not be given parking fines if they had issues booking a parking space using the RingGo app.

Pictured top: Lib Dem councillor Julie Ireland speaking at a Bromley council meeting (Picture: Bromley council)

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