‘Discriminatory’ car parking woes in Amersham
In response to complaints about the parking machines in Amersham-on-the-Hill, Liberal Democrat Amersham Town Councillors, Rachel Dineley, Dominic Pinkney and Mark Roberts carried out a survey in the Sycamore Road car park on Saturday 23rd July and met with an avalanche of disgruntled, frustrated and angry car park users.
There are four ticket machines and for months at least two of the machines have been out of action at any one time, often three, and sometimes there have been no working machines at all.
One car park user said that it '"shouldn't be an ordeal and stress just parking to go to local shops". Councillor Dominic Pinkney added, "paying for parking should be a quick and straight-forward process but for months people have found it a hassle, time consuming and an anxiety-inducing experience. That this situation has gone on for so long is unacceptable."
In the survey, 56% of car park users reported being inconvenienced and disrupted by machines not working. Two thirds ended up paying with coins after finding and queuing at the one working machine. When machines are not taking coins, the only alternative offered is RingGo but only 15% were happy paying with RingGo app or via phone, typically complaining about being forced to pay more to use the service and the difficulties of getting it to work. 60% wanted to pay with coins and over 90% of people think card payments should be offered as a means of payment instead of only coins and RingGo. Some people left to find somewhere else to park in nearby residential streets and some parked anyway without paying and risked a fine.
Many car park users said they thought the Council was deliberately not fixing the ticket machines to force people to use the RingGo service in order to save maintenance costs and increase revenue through the higher charges of using the app. Local resident Raf Saidi was vociferous in his criticism, "despite increases in council tax Buckinghamshire Council are failing to deliver the service we have paid for. Forcing everyone to use RingGo is a disingenuous way of increasing parking prices via the back door. Why can't the machines be converted to accept debit cards?". Another car park user said this was a "discriminatory process".
Councillor Rachel Dineley is particularly concerned about people being disadvantaged. "On Saturday 50% of car park users were over 60 and 80% of the over 60s wanted to pay with coins, mainly due to not having a smartphone or finding phone apps confusing, difficult and time consuming. This also applied to people of all ages who did not have sufficient manual dexterity or other conditions which made using a smartphone difficult."
"Buckinghamshire Council has been aware of the ticket machine problems for a long time and failed to fix them. We are concerned that this is indirectly discriminatory and the Council is failing in its duty as a service provider under the Equalities Act 2010."
The Liberal Democrat town councillors have sent their findings to Buckinghamshire Council Leader, Martin Tett, and are awaiting his response.