Author Topic: Brighton - Laughter greets advice on paying for parking when phone signal fails  (Read 911 times)

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Laughter greets council advice on paying for parking when phone signal fails

Pressure continues to replace card and cash payment machines

By Sarah Booker-Lewis - local democracy reporter  Friday 6 Oct, 2023 at 7:47PM

The council’s advice for people unable to get a phone signal when trying to pay for parking is to move around until they find one.

The advice was given in response to a question at a council meeting and prompted laughter from the public gallery.

The question followed a number of complaints by people who have struggled to pay to park since Brighton and Hove City Council scrapped its hundreds of parking machines.

The machines, which relied on 3G mobile phone technology, were decommissioned in May because the council said it would be too expensive to upgrade them to 4G or 5G.

At the town hall meeting, Hove resident Carol Wilson asked councillors to bring back parking machines and provide a better alternative to the current system of online or phone payments.

She addressed the council’s Transport and Sustainability Committee on Tuesday (3 October) after being given a parking fine in May.

She asked what steps the council had taken to ensure residents and visitors could easily access shops with PayPoint machines to pay for parking when phone signals failed or batteries ran out.

Her suggestions included putting stickers on signs to show people where they could find the nearest PayPoint outlet while the council’s suggestions – such as texts or online maps – required a working smartphone.

Labour councillor Trevor Muten, who chairs the committee, said that anyone struggling for a phone signal should move to another location, prompting laughter from the public gallery.

Councillor Muten also said that if the council’s pay-by-phone system was out of action, then drivers would not be able to pay using PayPoint either – and parking enforcement would be suspended.

Ms Wilson said: “Residents or visitors have the opportunity to appeal – so is this policy approach effectively trapping people into receiving a PCN (penalty charge notice) and forcing people to be at the mercy of a subjective decision from the parking department?

“Is this fair? Is it equitable? And is it acceptable? This same situation happened to me. I had valid grounds and (my appeal) was rejected – and the charge went up to £70. It is happening to a lot of people.”

Outside the meeting, Ms Wilson said that she wrote to her ward councillor Jilly Stevens and the fine was eventually withdrawn.

Councillor Muten said: “We do want to address this to make sure we have a system that works and then people have good communication. We are keen to communicate where the PayPoints outlets are.

“We’re working with other agencies such as Visit Brighton and other support charities to try to enable better publicity of those PayPoint outlets.”

Since cash payments ended, several people have reported not being able to pay for parking because they did not have a smartphone.

In other cases, PayPoint machines in shops were not working or staff were unable to get the system to work.

Brighton and Hove Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh told the meeting that Rottingdean had no PayPoint outlets for those visitors who were unable to use the pay-by-phone smartphone app.

Councillor Bridget Fishleigh

It was the third time this year that she has formally raised the issue during a council or committee meeting.

She said that the problems were compounded by the reduced mobile phone coverage in Rottingdean after a mast was removed from the roof of the White Horse pub for refurbishment work.

The committee also received a petition signed by 200 people, calling for the council to bring back parking machines and a return to cash and card payments.

Yesterday (Thursday 6 October) a report to the council’s Strategy, Finance and City Regeneration Committee forecast a shortfall of £941,000 in revenues from “parking tariff and permit fees increases”.

This was up from an £830,000 projected shortfall three months earlier when council leader Bella Sankey criticised the some of the proposed increases – more than 300 per cent in places.

Councillor Sankey said: “So flawed was the approach to parking by the last administration, we are not convinced that the projected income from these increased parking charges would be realised.”

Bella Sankey

Councillors agreed to more modest parking charge increases – closer to the rate of inflation – but a senior council official said yesterday that the rising cost of living appeared to be driving changes in behaviour.

Fewer people were renewing permits for second and third cars, for instance.

Visitor numbers had not yet fully recovered from the loss of business resulting from the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Referring to parking and other revenue budget forecasts, the report said: “Targets will only be achieved if demand returns fully to pre-covid levels including paid parking, tourism and venues incomes.”


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